My brother informs me that today is the Agatha Christie Day, this being her birthday. Christie would be 128 today.
“You should do something about her on Karavansara,” he told me. “Christie is very popular.”
The understatement of the century.
Agatha Christie is the undisputed queen of mystery, with a catalog of 66 novels and enough short stories to fill fourteen volumes. She is also in the Guinness Book of Records, with reportedly two billion copies of her books being at large in the world.
So OK, let’s do an Agatha Christie Day post.
Our late aunt was an absolute Christie fan, and she gave me two fat collections of Christie novels one year for Christmas – I was in my early teens.
Two big volumes, one a selection of Miss Marple Novels and one a choice of Poirot novels.
I did not like them.
Today I blame the translation, but issues of language and style apart, I also always found Miss Marple absolutely insufferable, even in her screen outings, and Poirot… well, I like the screen adaptations, both Ustinov (my favorite) and Finney, and Branagh, and David Suchet on the telly (my brother is a Suchet Poirot fan).
I am not an Agatha Christie fan – I read her and I can appreciate her technique and her skills, but Poirot and Marple… uh!
Me, I’m much more a Dorothy L. Sayers sort of guy.
But it is also possible that I started on the wrong foot.
Because while the world at large fondly remembers Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, there is a third series Christie wrote that is much more my cup of tea.
I am talking of course of Tommy & Tuppence.
Once again, a series I discovered first through screen adaptations.
The Secret Adversary was Christie’s second novel, it was published in 1922 and it takes a decidedly pulpier direction than the author’s first effort, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Hercule Poirot’s first outing.
In Adversary, that is set in the early ‘20s, we are introduced to Thomas Beresford, fresh from the trenches of the Great War and penniless, and the equally broke Prudence L. Cowley, aka Tuppence, the daughter of an archdeacon. The two – she witty and mercurial, he solid and no-nonsense – decide to throw their lot together, and become adventurers.
Eat your little Belgian heart out, Hercule Poirot!
Tommy and Tuppence publish an advertisement in a newspaper, an ad that is quite similar to the one published some time before by Bulldog Drummond, that had debuted two years before – one wonders what miss Christie had been reading.
The ad specifies that the Young Adventurers Ltd. are ready for anything, and soon Tommy and Tuppence will go through everything.
There is much witty banter in Tommy and Tuppence stories, and a wild mix of mystery and espionage. Christie wrote only four novels about the duo, plus a handful of short stories, collected in a volume called Partners in Crime that is the collective title that apparently caught the public’s imagination.
The Tommy and Tuppence books and stories punctuated Christie’s career, the characters growing old with their author, so much so that the last T&T novel was the last book Christie wrote.
And, as I said, these are much more my sort of stories.
As a consequence of my sympathy for the characters, on this Agatha Christie Day I think I’ll go and rewatch the 1983 adaptation of The Secret Adversary, featuring the gorgeous Francesca Annis in the role of Tuppence.
I have also here the ill-fated 2015 series Partners in Crime, that includes a three-episode version of Adversary but moves the action to 1952 and sort of changes the characters. The series was beautiful to behold, and the leads (David Williams and Jessica Raine) were certainly excellent, but the BBC did not renew for a second season.
A pity, really.
In case you are interested, The Secret Adversary is available as an ebook for around a buck on Amazon. If you know Christie only through the exploits of Poirot and Marple, Tommy and Tuppence might surprise you.