Many Agatha Christie fans are not fond of the Tommy and Tuppence books. Even Robert Barnard had unkind words for Tommy and Tuppence in his appreciation of Agatha Christie, A Talent to Deceive, calling them "everyone's least favorite Christie sleuths." Yet, I remember liking the Tommy and Tuppence series when I was younger. At this point I have read two of the five books in the series and I am divided about the outcome.
I really enjoyed The Secret Adversary, which is an espionage thriller. It was published in 1922 and it was Christie's second novel. The story is not as serious as today's espionage books; the issues are more black and white. I enjoyed it as a lighthearted entertainment and I even liked the love story.
I did not find Partners in Crime nearly as enjoyable. This is a series of linked short stories. I have only recently re-discovered the attraction of short stories but these did not win me over.
The premise is that Tommy and Tuppence have now been married six years, and are still happy but a little bored with life. Apparently they have sufficient funds to support themselves without either having a job. Happily for them, just as they discuss their boredom, they are offered the opportunity to take over a detective agency. They jump at the chance.
There are fifteen stories. Unfortunately I found the stories in general much too silly and frothy. Each story (except for the introductory stories that set up the premise) is a parody of other fictional detectives of the time. I did not enjoy that aspect of it either. There were several of the detectives parodied that I had no familiarity with and even when I did, that did not work for me.
There are are few of the stories that I found interesting and entertaining.
In “Finessing The King,” Tommy and Tuppence dress up for a costume party and accidentally encounter murder. Because I have no familiarity with the author and detectives that are spoofed in the story, I am including Mike Grost's description from Mystery*File:
Isabel Ostrander was a popular American detective writer of the Post World War I era. She was read by John Dickson Carr as a teenager, according to Douglas G. Greene’s biography, was praised by Dorothy L. Sayers in The Omnibus of Crime and The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, and was one of the famous detective writers chosen for parody by Agatha Christie here. Despite this one time fame, her works are almost completely forgotten and unobtainable today. This story spoofs Ostrander’s series detective, ex-cop Tommy McCarty, and his best friend, fireman Dennis Riordan. Tommy dresses up like a fireman at a costume party, a favorite Christie setting, while Tuppence masquerades as McCarty. As does McCarty in Ostrander’s The Clue in the Air, Tommy and Tuppence hear the murder committed, and are the first to find the body. In both stories the victim is a young society woman. They also hear the victim’s dying message, just as in Ostrander’s novel.“The Case of the Missing Lady” is a spoof of Sherlock Holmes. It has a clever twist.
"The Man in the Mist" is a takeoff on G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown. Another clever ending.
I enjoyed "The Crackler" even though I felt the mystery plot was weak. There is a character in that story, Mr. Ryder, who is from Alabama and becomes Tommy's "friend and confidant." That story takes on Edgar Wallace's style. Tommy and Tuppence mix with a group of people suspected to be passing counterfeit bills.
It is important to point out that there are many, many positive reviews of this set of stories. Please don't take my word for it. If you haven't tried Partners in Crime already, you should give it a try.
There are two television adaptations of this series. I have the first one from 1983, Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime, starring Francesca Annis and James Warwick. That set includes a feature length version of The Secret Adversary, which I have watched and enjoyed. I expect to enjoy the adaptations more than I liked the stories.
- Check out the entire article by Michael Grost at Mystery*File.
- Curt at The Passing Tramp is very fond of this book, and provides a lot of background information.
- Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise provides some interesting thoughts on the characters of Tommy and Tuppence in these stories.
Publisher: William Morrow, 2012 (orig. pub. 1929)
Length: 271 pages
Format: Trade paperback
Series: Tommy and Tuppence #1
Source: I purchased my copy.