The Secret of Chimneys (1925) – Agatha Christie

Christie’s fifth novel is a bit of a romp filled with double identities, a murder, political issues, an empty throne, a renowned criminal, a love story, a missing diamond, and a week away at a manor known as Chimneys. We are introduced to Anthony Cade when he is working as a travel guide in Africa, and agrees to do a favour for a friend and carry a mysterious memoir and package of love letters back to England.

It seems the memoirs are lined up to be published but may stir up some trouble on the global stage, and the letters have been the source of blackmail for someone, and that is going to come to an end.

There are a number of coincidences at play in the book, but they all come off enjoyably, and while there are some things that jar the reader, the book reads brilliantly, and shows that Christie has a truly wicked and delightful sense of humour, something I never would have cottoned to as a kid.

Cade pairs up with the beguiling widow, Mrs. Virginia Revel when there is a murder at Chimneys, and both Scotland Yard and the Surete arrive to investigate. Add in the fact that Cade is recently from Canada, and the political story being about the Balkans, there’s quite the global stage being set.

There’s some great character bits throughout, including the lord of the manor growing very tired and put out by the entire investigation, and just wanting a bit of rest.

The story rockets along, and Christie does a fine job at hinting at clues, using misdirection, spicing things up with lots of humour, and weaving a blossoming love story into the narrative.

Cade is a great character and the way he interacts with the world around him, and the way he talks to himself is so much fun. There are lots of ‘exit and ‘enter the’ so so character, and the layers of banter he’s able to create between Cade, Virginia, her friend, and the lord’s daughter, referred to as Bundle.

There is a vast cast of characters in this story, each involved in the plot(s) in different ways, and even with so much going on, everything still gets tied up before story’s end – the last few pages play out with a happy ending and a number of chuckles.

I am now quite enchanted with Christie’s writing style, and while the Tommy and Tupence novel, The Secret Adversary may be my favourite of the few I’ve read so far, The Secret of Chimneys is just a damned enjoyable romp.

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