Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Man in the Brown Suit: Agatha Christie

The  Man in the Brown Suit is one of Agatha Christie's early thrillers. It is also a stand alone book, not starring one of her regular protagonists, Poirot or Miss Marple or Tommy and Tuppence. First published in serialized form in 1923 and 1924 under the title Anne the Adventurous, it was then published as a hardback in 1924.

So far, most of the Agatha Christie novels I have read are told in first person narrative. This one is a bit different because it has two narrators. Most of the story is told by Anne Beddingfield, a young adventuress. The journals of Sir Eustace Pedler cover some areas of the tale which Anne cannot tell. The use of two narrators allows for different tones and varied looks at secondary characters.

Anne is the daughter of an archaeologist who has died and left her with very little money. She has always dreamed of being an adventuress. The opportunity arises when she witnesses the accidental death of a man who falls under a train. She is convinced that there is a story behind his death and follows up on a clue on a piece of paper that she has stumbled upon. She uses all her funds to buy a ticket on a ship bound for South Africa, and the excitement begins. After she gets over being very, very seasick.

Some readers and reviewers rate Christie's books in the adventure or spy thriller vein lower than her puzzle mysteries, but I have found them very entertaining. This one is told in a light-hearted manner and not to be taken seriously, but I enjoyed that element of the story too.

Margaret's review at BooksPlease goes into more detail about the background of the novel.

Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings reviews an audio version of this book.


I  read this book for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, hosted by  Mysteries In Paradise. If you are interested in joining in, here are instructions on how to do that. Links to other reviews for this month will be found here.

19 comments:

  1. Tracy, I might try and find a copy of this - not that I need anymore to add to the pile!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Col, I do hope you try it and I will be interested to see what you think of any of Christie's books, once you have tried some.

      Delete
  2. Tracy, this was the last Christie I read and I liked it in spite of the absence of Poirot and Marple. I'm not a big fan of Tommy and Tuppence or Christie's so-called spy thrillers, though this one was more convincing than THE SECRET ADVERSARY. I didn't know the story was first serialised as "Anne the Adventurous." I found the narration of Sir Eustace Pedler a tad annoying and would have preferred to read only Anne Beddingfield's leg of the adventure. What I like about Christie's writing is the romantic element and this one has a fair share of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prashant, It is true that the spy thrillers of Christie are unconvincing (or at least the ones I have read recently), but I just find them fun. So I must like the characters and maybe the setting.

      Delete
  3. Tracy - I think you're exactly right. If you think of this is as a lighthearted kind of adventure story, it really is entertaining. I think that's the way Christie thought of it too. I really like some of the characters Anne meets, too, especially her friend Suzanne Blair.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margot, I like all those characters too. There is a TV movie based on the book, and Suzanne is played by Rue McClanahan. It sounds like it would be fun.

      Delete
  4. This was one of the first Christies I read, and so I didn't realize then how atypical it was: but I loved it. As a starry-eyed teenager, I thought it was the most romantic, exciting and funny plot imaginable. And although I am now older and much more cynical, I still love it and think it's one of her best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moira, although I read a lot of Christie when I was younger, I know very little about her and am constantly learning more about her writing career. I want to find the biography that you suggested. Robert Barnard, who was a big Christie fan, just dismisses this book as "usual stuff of her thrillers".

      Delete
  5. Pan Books published this when I was a teenager, and of course I liked a heroine with the same name as me. It's great fun, and so is the movie, which I saw on TV once, even with an American actress as Anne. Stefanie Zimbalist, I think. Edward Woodward was Sir Eustace Pedler.
    Do you know the books Christie wrote under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott? Unfinished Portrait is particularly interesting in view of the speculation about Christie's mysterious disappearance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anne, I had read about the movie and plan to watch it sometime soon. I always liked Stefanie Zimbalist and there are some other actors in it that I like (Rue McClanahan, Tony Randall, I think).

      I was aware of the books written as Westmacott, but never was interested in reading them. When I read this one, I actually did think maybe they are worth a try.

      Delete
  6. I'm not that fond of Christie's spy stories to be honest but it's been years since I read this one. I must dig out a copy sometime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah, I did not expect to like this one but I did. I have been consistently surprised with how much I am enjoying each Christie I read.

      Several places I have read that Christie's characters described as "cardboard", and I just don't see that.

      Delete
  7. I actually really enjoy these Agatha Christie books, better than her straight up mysteries, I think. Of course that has a lot to do with the fact that the narration of this that I listened to is read by Emilia Fox and she does a marvelous job with it. I listened to this a couple of years back and really enjoyed it. I would recommend The 7 Dials Mystery as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carl, I definitely enjoy them more than the Poirot mysteries, or at least the ones I have read so far. Maybe in a tie with the Miss Marple series. I will go check and see if I have a copy of Seven Dials Mystery or if I will have to find a copy. Thanks for the recommendation.

      Delete
  8. I don't know if I'd like reading the Poirot or Marple mysteries, but I love listening to audio versions of both. They are fantastic books, especially when Hugh Fraser or David Suchet do the readings. Love the BBC series as well.

    Another one I like that is non-series is Why Didn't They Ask Evans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did not think I would like Christie adapted, and especially Poirot, but when I saw that Suchet had finished filming all of the series recently, I reconsidered and thought I should try some of them. We have so much on our plate to watch though. I will fit them in some day.

      Delete
  9. The longer film length ones are the best, but the hour long episodes are enjoyable. I'm also a big fan of the Marple series with Geraldine McEwan and now Julia McKenzie.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This book is in my top five of favorite Agatha Christie books. Probably in my top three. Anne is so much fun, and her beau is way charming. I even like the villain of the piece, and you can tell she really enjoyed having him as a huge part of the book. She uses the device in various ways, the villain either helping with the investigation or telling part of the story, in several books later on down the road.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am going to have to start a list of favorite Agatha Christie novels. This one has similarities to Murder at Hazelmoor, except for the narration.

      Delete