The Secret Adversary

Today is the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI or Armistice Centurion. For this special day I felt the need to review a WWI type mystery, and chose:

The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence Mystery #1) by Agatha Christie

This is one of my favorite mysteries and the second of her mystery novels to be published. It has a fantastic mystery duo team-Tommy and Tuppence.

The mystery begins with the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915. As they are moving people to the lifeboats, a man approaches Jane Finn and asks her to carry some secret papers. She questions him, but he tells her that she is a woman and American, much more likely to get on a lifeboat and out than him.

Five years pass and we pick up with old friends Lt. Thomas “Tommy” Beresford and Miss Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley who run into each other in London. It has been three years since the have last seen each other and they catch up. She worked as a nurse during WWI, then at a government office job, but was let go and on the search for a new job.

Tommy was in France, then Mesopotamia, and then in Egypt until Armistice. For ten months he too has been job searching. But they don’t just talk shop, they also just talk about all kinds of things, Tommy mentioning how he overheard two men mention a name “Jane Finn”, he remembers the name as he finds it very odd.

Tuppence wants money and adventure and comes up with the idea that the two could start their own business- The Young Adventures, Ltd.-and run this advertisement.

Two young adventurers for hire.

Willing to do anything, go anywhere.

Pay must be good.

No reasonable offer refused.

They part ways, but then Tuppence is approached by a man with a job offer. They meet the next day and he offers £100 to travel to Paris, speak in an American accent, and pretend to be Edward Whittington’s ward. Tuppence questions him some more but he deflects and compliments her.

When Tuppence brings up Tommy, Mr. Whittington doesn’t want him. But the real surprise comes when Mr. Whittington asks for Tuppence’s name. She gives him the name “Jane Finn”, and everything changes. Mr. Whittington is angry, accuses her of trying to play him, and questions who could have squealed-Rita? Tuppence “blackmails” £50 out of him, hears him talk to a “Mr. Brown” and agrees to meet him the next day. But Mr. Whittington disappears.

Tuppence won’t let this go and gets Tommy to put in a new advertisement:

WANTED:

Any information respecting Jane Finn

Apply Young Adventurers, Ltd.

They receive two replies. The first is Mr. Carter who Tommy recognizes as a member of the OSS, that he met in France. “Mr. Carter”, not his real name, relates to them how they had an operative on the Lusitania with the draft of a secret agreement, by various representatives of different countries. When the boat was sinking the operative passed the documents to a young girl-Jane Finn-and did not survive, his body washing ashore. But no one knows what happened to the girl and the documents.

The girl was listed on the survivors, was an orphan, and was headed to Paris to work in a hospital. They have tried everything but she has completely disappeared. They need the documents as if they were to be public today it would be disastrous. Agreements made in war do not always do well in times of peace. The head of unrest and Bolshevist movements is the elusive “Mr. Brown”.

Tuppence puts that together with what happened in Mr. Whittington’s office-they wanted her to be Jane Finn, that is until it seemed she knew all about their plan. The call from “Mr. Brown” was probably one of warning and that is why he disappeared.

Hmm…

He hires them and the two start investigating. They begin by meeting the second person who answered their advertisement: Julius P. Hersheimmer is Jane’s cousin and a millionaire. He’s searching for her, and came to get Scotland Yard to find her. He brought a picture to give, but it turns out “Mr. Brown” played him and took it.

The three team up together as this case takes ups and downs and twists and turns. Kidnapping, imprisonment, mistaken idea, red herrings, Bolshevisks, amnesia, spy games, etc.

Thoughts After Reading:

I LOOOOOOOVEEE this mystery!!!!! I could read it over and over a thousand times.

The characters are amazing, the mystery marvelous, I just LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVEEEEEEEEEE It!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For more Agatha Christie, go to The Mysterious Affair at Styles

For more World War I, go to A Duty to the Dead

For more mysteries involving a disapperance, go to Death Wears a Beauty Mask

For more mysteries with amnesia, go to C is for Corpse

For more mysteries with kidnapping, go to Gates of Thread and Stone

For more spy stories, go to The Princess Plot

Happy Veteran’s Day! Thank you all who have served and are currently serving. Thank you for giving the ultimate sacrifice.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Happy Birthday Agatha Christie!

Today is 128th birthday of Agatha Christie and in her honor we have:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie

I love Agatha Christie’s books. I’ve read almost every single one, but I have never done it in order. I have always wanted to-and will be and be posting on here after I have read them.

My love for Agatha Christie’s book all began when my nana found out I loved mysteries. She gave me a book that held three of her novels in one binding-The Seven Dials Mystery, Crooked House, and Ordeal by Innocence. After that I was hooked and bought/devoured any of her books I could find in thrift stores-taking home as many as I was able to.

Anyways, The Mysterious Affair at Styles was the first of Agatha Christie’s books published under her own name and the first of her mysteries. And it all started with a harmless “bet” between her sister Madge. Madge said that Agatha wouldn’t be able to write a good but she showed her.

Boom

It is the middle of WWII-rationing, moving from city to country, refugees, etc. Colonel Hastings, our narrator and Hercule Poirot’s best friend, starts off the novel in the flavor of Mr. Watson-a recount of the event, the murder, and the “mysterious affair” at Styles.

It all started when he ran into his good friend, John Cavendish. John invites him to join him and the family at Styles. At Styles, is John and his wife Mary-the country squire and wife, the younger brother Lawrence-studied to be a doctor but instead pursued literary ambitions with no success; and Cynthia-a young girl from poor family who is taken in by charity and works as a nurse.

Mrs. Cavendish married John and Lawrence’s father after their mother died, raising them as her own. When Mr. Cavendish died she inherited all the money until her death, which it then reverts home to John, the eldest, and money to Lawrence. She enjoyed the role as Mrs. Cavendish-and controlling the boys with how much money she doles out.

“Mrs. Cavendish, however, was a lady who liked to make her own plans, and expected other people to fall in with them, and in this case she certainly had the whip hand, namely: the purse strings.”

Well, there we go. A petri dish of tension just building for murder.

But to Colonel Hastings surprise, Mrs. Cavendish remarried! Her nurse Evelyn “Evie” Howard had a cousin visit-one Evie did not care for, and her helped Mrs. Cavendish with her many projects. The two fell in love and wed, now Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Inglethorpe.

No one likes Alfred Inglethorpe, Mrs. Cavendish-er Inglethorpe’s new husband. They all see him as a gold digger, but she won’t listen to anyone.

Colonel Hasting doesn’t see why anyone would be attracted to Alfred Inglethorpe. He looks more like a caricature rather than a real person.

“I looked with some curiosity at ‘Alfred darling’. He certainly struck an alien note…It was one of the longest and blackest [beards] I have ever seen. He wore gold-rimmed pince-nez, and had a curious impassivity of feature. It struck me that he might look natural on a stage, but was strangely out of place in real life. His voice was rather deep  and unctuous.”

Hmm…

Evie and Mrs Inglethorpe fight when Evie speaks out against Alfred. Mrs. Inglethorpe sends her packing and as she leaves, her last words were that someone was going to kill Mrs Inglethorpe and implores Colonel Hastings to watch out for her.

Then comes the fateful day. Everyone seems a bit off, excitement and tension in the air. They have a great luncheon, where everyone takes part in a tableaux and shows how they are fantastic actors.

They then visit Cynthia at work, have tea with her, and take a look at the dispensary and the poisons.

On the way back they stop at the post office as Colonel Hastings needs stamps and who should be there but Hercule Poirot! Hstings old friend and former leader of the Belgian police. And the greatest detective!

There is a fight that night between Alfred and Mrs Inglethorpe. After dinner, they have coffee or cocoa and then Alfred goes out to see a friend.

Hmm…

That night the tragedy was struck.

That night Colonel Hasting is awaken by Lawrence. John and the maid Dorcas are also awake and trying to get in Mrs Inglehorpr’s room as it is bolted. They can tell something is wrong and are trying to help her.

They go through Alfred’s room, and Hastings notices that there is no sign of him having been there that night-the bed not mussed everything. They get in and try to help her but are unable to. Her last words:

“Alfred-Alfred-“

They believe that she is poisoned. Everyone is a bit shocked and at a loss of what to do, so Colonel Hastings suggests bringing in Poirot.

Hastings tells Poirot all he can remember of what he knows that has happened in the past few days. They then look over Mrs. Inglethorpe’s room and the house.

Poirot finds six interesting things that will lead them to the killer.

  1. A coffee cup that as has been ground into powder.
  2. A despatch case with a key in the lock.
  3. A stain on the floor.
  4. Fragment of some dark green fabric-only a thread or two, but recognizable.
  5. A large splash of candle grease on the floor by the writing table.
  6. And the sixth he keeps to himself.

Poirot also discovers that Mrs. Inglethorpe wrote a new will:

Everything points to Alfred, but when he goes on trial-Poirot brings information that sets him free-free from being formally charged.

How could Poirot do that? And if it isn;t Alfred? Then who is it?

You’ll just have to read to find out.

Thoughts After Reading:

It was amazing as all her work is. Every time I read I am captured into the book and just astounded at how well she crafts a tale.

For more Agatha Christiego to The Murder at the Vicarage

For more gold diggers, go to A Case of Identity

For more death by poisons, go to Death by Darjeeling

For more mysteries that take place during World War I, go to A Duty to the Dead

A Duty to the Dead

So this year marks something very special. It is the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I.

In fact today is the very day it started for us Yankees. In honor of that, I decided to post a World War I mystery (even though it takes place in England and occurs before we jumped on board.

Oh well…

Before we start, I would just like to thank all those who served (whether alive or dead), thank you for serving your country and protecting it.

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A Duty to the Dead (Bess Crawford Mystery #1)

Bess is a nurse in WWI. She has encountered many wounded men, but no loss has affected her like one of her most recent patients. She actually fell in love with him and before he passed, and was given a message to deliver:

“Tell my brother Jonathan that I lied…I did it for Mother’s sake. But it has to be set right.”

After surviving a mined ship, Bess is given some time to recover from the incident and her injured arm. She decides this is the best time to travel and release the words given to her as the young soldier lay dying.

When Bess does deliver the news, none of the family seem to understand. Not Jonathan, his brother, mother, etc. Bess finds this odd, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

It turns out there is another brother, Peregine, one who has been placed in a psychiatric hospital for his insanity and for the murder he committed of a young girl years before.

But when he is sent to the family homestead to be cared for as he has become ill; Bess finds him to be not what she expected. In fact the opposite of the insane, stupid, beast that has been painted for her.

But then Peregine escapes from the asylum and follows Bess home. He holds her hostage in order to prove his innocence of the crime that occurred years ago.

Is he telling the truth?

Is Peregine telling the truth and is a wronged man? Or is Bess forced to follow the whim of a murderer.

I wonder…

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Thoughts After Reading:

Amazing! I couldn’t stop reading as I had to find out what happened next. Which brother did it? Is Peregine innocent or mad?

For more historical fiction mysteries, go to Paper Roses

For more retrograde mysteries, go to C is for Corpse

For more mysteries, go to Murder at Oklahoma