The Man in the Brown Suit (1924) – Agatha Christie

This week’s Agatha Christie entry to the book shelf is another delightful adventure thriller. Sure there’s a murder and suspects, but it’s definitely more akin to an adventure story, with a wonderful female heroine in the form of Anne Beddingfield.

Anne finds herself caught up in an adventure that would give the cinema serials she enjoys at the theatre a run for her money as she finds herself grabbing excitement by the reins and holding on for dear life that sweeps her out of England on a steamship to South Africa where she is caught up in a mystery of missing diamonds, spies (possibly in the person of Colonel Race), and a devious criminal mastermind referred to as ‘the Colonel.’

Fast-paced with a dash of romance, this thriller is often very funny and demonstrates Christie’s sharp wit. Anne’s first person narrative is occasionally interrupted with a journal entry from another character that got caught up in the action, Mr. Eustace Pedler, and a lot of the laughs come from his narrative as he comments on the events taking place around him as Anne gallivants across the decks of the passenger liner, the plains of Africa, and the suburbs of England.

Once again, Christie delivered a completely engrossing story, that, by its end, has all the narrative strings tied up without a thread dangling anywhere. And it’s a rousing tale, there are gunfights, chases, misdirection, and betrayals, and they all just keep coming.

Set in the twenties, after the Great War, Christie’s tale feels like it pays homage to the adventure serials, while also telling her own style of mystery. And while there is a murder, and a few deaths, it doesn’t read like a murder mystery – this is an out and out adventure, and it was a joy to read. I quite like how everything paid off, and how things work out for Anne.

This is definitely a book I wouldn’t have appreciated had it ended up in my hands when I was a ten or eleven year old, which is when I was first introduced to Christie, but now, I find it just a very entertaining ride, and I take great pleasure in knowing I’ve only read four of her books so far, and there are so many to come.

And as much as I like the Poirot tales to date, I also like that not everything she’s written is Poirot or Marple, and who knows, perhaps the mysterious ‘Colonel’ will resurface again…

Next time out, I’m introduced to another of her creations, a Superintendent Battle as I investigate The Secret of the Chimneys. Do you have a favourite Christie character or novel? Which one should I most be looking forward to?


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