A bit of adventure and quick cash is all that good-natured drifter Anthony Cade is looking for when he accepts a messenger job from an old friend. It sounds so simple: deliver the provocative memoirs of a recently deceased European count to a London publisher. But the parcel holds more than scandalous royal secrets. It contains a stash of letters that suggest blackmail -- and lead to the murder of a stranger who's been shadowing Anthony's every move. Discovering the dead man's identity means retracing his steps -- to the rambling estate of Chimneys where darker secrets, and deadlier threats, await anyone who dares to enter.In A Talent to Deceive, Robert Barnard says:
If you can take all of the racialist remarks, which are very much of their time, this is a first-class romp, all the better for not being of the "plot to take over the world" variety. It concerns the throne and crown jewels of Herzoslovakia... By far the least awful of the early thrillers.Personally, I have enjoyed all of the Agatha Christie thrillers that I have read so far. And I did enjoy this one, up to a point. I enjoyed the political intrigues and the many twists and turns the plot takes. It required much suspension of disbelief but I did not mind.
I liked many of the characters. This was the first book featuring Superintendent Battle, and I found him appealing. Lord Caterham is the owner of the stately manor that is the center of this mystery. He and his daughter Bundle Brent are very unique and charming characters. Every male falls for Virginia Revel, a young widow. There were very many other characters and I admit to getting confused sometimes, having trouble keeping up with characters and the plot. I even enjoyed the romance in this one. Christie is very good at misdirection. I was never sure where the romance was going and who was really interested in whom.
However, there are the ethnic slurs that were common in books at the time this was written. Close to the end one of the major characters gives a speech, seeming to support authoritarian government for the good of the people. Not only was it offensive, but it also did not seem to fit the character as he was portrayed throughout the book. But maybe I missed the hints.
The cover artist for my paperback edition shown above is William Teason. He was also the cover artist for two other books I have: The 39 Steps by John Buchan and The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie.
Other reviews at Clothes in Books, In So Many Words, Joyfully Retired, and Leaves and Pages.
Publisher: Dell, 1967. Orig. pub. 1925.
Length: 224 pages
Series: Superintendent Battle, #1
Genre: Adventure, spy thriller
Source: Purchased my copy at the Planned Parenthood booksale, 2005.