In postwar London, childhood friends Tommy Beresford and Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley are having a grand old time—except for the fact that they can barely afford a pot of tea between them. With no jobs to be had and no rich relations to bankroll them, they decide to form a joint venture: Young Adventurers, Ltd. They’re willing to go anywhere and do anything so long as the pay as right. Maybe, suggests Tuppence, a clergyman’s daughter, they’ll even get to steal a diamond necklace.
Before Tommy can place their first advertisement, Tuppence gets a job offer. Mr. Whittington wants to send her to Paris for three months, all expenses paid. The catch is that she has to pretend to be someone else—an American—and she can’t talk to anyone she knows while she’s there. It sounds too good to be true, and when Tuppence tries to protect herself with a pseudonym—“Jane Finn,” an odd name that Tommy recently overheard—Whittington’s reaction is equal parts anger and admiration. Accusing Tuppence of blackmail, he gives her fifty pounds and disappears.
Of course, the Young Adventurers refuse to leave it at that. Setting out to find the mysterious Jane Finn, they stumble into a deadly conspiracy that stretches all the way back to the sinking of the Lusitania and now threatens to undo everything England won in the Great War.
By transforming two of London’s bright young things into fearless detectives, Agatha Christie’s second novel revolutionized the mystery genre.
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About the Author
Date of Birth:September 15, 1890
Date of Death:January 12, 1976
Place of Birth:Torquay, Devon, England
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The Secret Adversary
By Agatha Christie
Start Publishing LLCCopyright © 2013 Start Publishing LLC
All rights reserved.
THE YOUNG ADVENTURERS, LTD.
"TOMMY, old thing!"
"Tuppence, old bean!"
The two young people greeted each other affectionately, and momentarily blocked the Dover Street Tube exit in doing so. The adjective "old" was misleading. Their united ages would certainly not have totalled forty-five.
"Not seen you for simply centuries," continued the young man. "Where are you off to? Come and chew a bun with me. We're getting a bit unpopular here--blocking the gangway as it were. Let's get out of it."
The girl assenting, they started walking down Dover Street towards Piccadilly.
"Now then," said Tommy, "where shall we go?"
The very faint anxiety which underlay his tone did not escape the astute ears of Miss Prudence Cowley, known to her intimate friends for some mysterious reason as "Tuppence." She pounced at once.
"Tommy, you're stony!"
"Not a bit of it," declared Tommy unconvincingly. "Rolling in cash."
"You always were a shocking liar," said Tuppence severely, "though you did once persuade Sister Greenbank that the doctor had ordered you beer as a tonic, but forgotten to write it on the chart. Do you remember?"
"I should think I did! Wasn't the old cat in a rage when she found out? Not that she was a bad sort really, old Mother Greenbank! Good old hospital--demobbed like everything else, I suppose?"
"Yes. You too?"
"Two months ago."
"Gratuity?" hinted Tuppence.
"No, old thing, not in riotous dissipation. No such luck! The cost of living--ordinary plain, or garden living nowadays is, I assure you, if you do not know----"
"My dear child," interrupted Tuppence, "there is nothing I do NOT know about the cost of living. Here we are at Lyons', and we will each of us pay for our own. That's it!" And Tuppence led the way upstairs.
The place was full, and they wandered about looking for a table, catching odds and ends of conversation as they did so.
"And--do you know, she sat down and CRIED when I told her she couldn't have the flat after all." "It was simply a BARGAIN, my dear! Just like the one Mabel Lewis brought from Paris----"
"Funny scraps one does overhear," murmured Tommy. "I passed two Johnnies in the street to-day talking about some one called Jane Finn. Did you ever hear such a name?"
But at that moment two elderly ladies rose and collected parcels, and Tuppence deftly ensconced herself in one of the vacant seats.
Tommy ordered tea and buns. Tuppence ordered tea and buttered toast.
"And mind the tea comes in separate teapots," she added severely.
Tommy sat down opposite her. His bared head revealed a shock of exquisitely slicked-back red hair. His face was pleasantly ugly--nondescript, yet unmistakably the face of a gentleman and a sportsman. His brown suit was well cut, but perilously near the end of its tether.
They were an essentially modern-looking couple as they sat there. Tuppence had no claim to beauty, but there was character and charm in the elfin lines of her little face, with its determined chin and large, wide-apart grey eyes that looked mistily out from under straight, black brows. She wore a small bright green toque over her black bobbed hair, and her extremely short and rather shabby skirt revealed a pair of uncommonly dainty ankles. Her appearance presented a valiant attempt at smartness.
The tea came at last, and Tuppence, rousing herself from a fit of meditation, poured it out.
"Now then," said Tommy, taking a large bite of bun, "let's get up-to-date. Remember, I haven't seen you since that time in hospital in 1916."
"Very well." Tuppence helped herself liberally to buttered toast. "Abridged biography of Miss Prudence Cowley, fifth daughter of Archdeacon Cowley of Little Missendell, Suffolk. Miss Cowley left the delights (and drudgeries) of her home life early in the war and came up to London, where she entered an officers' hospital. First month: Washed up six hundred and forty-eight plates every day. Second month: Promoted to drying aforesaid plates. Third month: Promoted to peeling potatoes. Fourth month: Promoted to cutting bread and butter. Fifth month: Promoted one floor up to duties of wardmaid with mop and pail. Sixth month: Promoted to waiting at table. Seventh month: Pleasing appearance and nice manners so striking that am promoted to waiting on the Sisters! Eighth month: Slight check in career. Sister Bond ate Sister Westhaven's egg! Grand row! Wardmaid clearly to blame! Inattention in such important matters cannot be too highly censured. Mop and pail again! How are the mighty fallen! Ninth month: Promoted to sweeping out wards, where I found a friend of my childhood in Lieutenant Thomas Beresford (bow, Tommy!), whom I had not seen for five long years. The meeting was affecting! Tenth month: Reproved by matron for visiting the pictures in company with one of the patients, namely: the aforementioned Lieutenant Thomas Beresford. Eleventh and twelfth months: Parlourmaid duties resumed with entire success. At the end of the year left hospital in a blaze of glory. After that, the talented Miss Cowley drove successively a trade delivery van, a motor-lorry and a general!" The last was the pleasantest. He was quite a young general!"
"What brighter was that?" inquired Tommy. "Perfectly sickening the way those brass hats drove from the War Office to the Savoy, and from the Savoy to the War Office!"
"I've forgotten his name now," confessed Tuppence. "To resume, that was in a way the apex of my career. I next entered a Government office. We had several very enjoyable tea parties. I had intended to become a land girl, a postwoman, and a bus conductress by way of rounding off my career--but the Armistice intervened! I clung to the office with the true limpet touch for many long months, but, alas, I was combed out at last. Since then I've been looking for a job. Now then--your turn."
"There's not so much promotion in mine," said Tommy regretfully, "and a great deal less variety. I went out to France again, as you know. Then they sent me to Mesopotamia, and I got wounded for the second time, and went into hospital out there. Then I got stuck in Egypt till the Armistice happened, kicked my heels there some time longer, and, as I told you, finally got demobbed. And, for ten long, weary months I've been job hunting! There aren't any jobs! And, if there were, they wouldn't give 'em to me. What good am I? What do I know about business? Nothing."
Tuppence nodded gloomily.
"What about the colonies?" she suggested.
Tommy shook his head.
"I shouldn't like the colonies--and I'm perfectly certain they wouldn't like me!"
Again Tommy shook his head.
"Oh, Tommy, not even a great-aunt?"
"I've got an old uncle who's more or less rolling, but he's no good."
"Wanted to adopt me once. I refused."
"I think I remember hearing about it," said Tuppence slowly. "You refused because of your mother----"
"Yes, it would have been a bit rough on the mater. As you know, I was all she had. Old boy hated her--wanted to get me away from her. Just a bit of spite."
"Your mother's dead, isn't she?" said Tuppence gently.
Tuppence's large grey eyes looked misty.
"You're a good sort, Tommy. I always knew it."
"Rot!" said Tommy hastily. "Well, that's my position. I'm just about desperate."
"So am I! I've hung out as long as I could. I've touted round. I've answered advertisements. I've tried every mortal blessed thing. I've screwed and saved and pinched! But it's no good. I shall have to go home!"
"Don't you want to?"
"Of course I don't want to! What's the good of being sentimental? Father's a dear--I'm awfully fond of him--but you've no idea how I worry him! He has that delightful early Victorian view that short skirts and smoking are immoral. You can imagine what a thorn in the flesh I am to him! He just heaved a sigh of relief when the war took me off. You see, there are seven of us at home. It's awful! All housework and mothers' meetings! I have always been the changeling. I don't want to go back, but--oh, Tommy, what else is there to do?"
Tommy shook his head sadly. There was a silence, and then Tuppence burst out:
"Money, money, money! I think about money morning, noon and night! I dare say it's mercenary of me, but there it is!"
"Same here," agreed Tommy with feeling.
"I've thought over every imaginable way of getting it too," continued Tuppence. "There are only three! To be left it, to marry it, or to make it. First is ruled out. I haven't got any rich elderly relatives. Any relatives I have are in homes for decayed gentlewomen! I always help old ladies over crossings, and pick up parcels for old gentlemen, in case they should turn out to be eccentric millionaires. But not one of them has ever asked me my name-and quite a lot never said 'Thank you.'"
There was a pause.
"Of course," resumed Tuppence, "marriage is my best chance. I made up my mind to marry money when I was quite young. Any thinking girl would! I'm not sentimental, you know." She paused. "Come now, you can't say I'm sentimental," she added sharply.
"Certainly not," agreed Tommy hastily. "No one would ever think of sentiment in connection with you."
"That's not very polite," replied Tuppence. "But I dare say you mean it all right. Well, there it is! I'm ready and willing--but I never meet any rich men! All the boys I know are about as hard up as I am."
"What about the general?" inquired Tommy.
"I fancy he keeps a bicycle shop in time of peace," explained Tuppence. "No, there it is! Now you could marry a rich girl."
"I'm like you. I don't know any."
"That doesn't matter. You can always get to know one. Now, if I see a man in a fur coat come out of the Ritz I can't rush up to him and say: 'Look here, you're rich. I'd like to know you.'"
"Do you suggest that I should do that to a similarly garbed female?"
"Don't be silly. You tread on her foot, or pick up her handkerchief, or something like that. If she thinks you want to know her she's flattered, and will manage it for you somehow."
"You overrate my manly charms," murmured Tommy.
"On the other hand," proceeded Tuppence, "my millionaire would probably run for his life! No--marriage is fraught with difficulties. Remains--to MAKE money!"
"We've tried that, and failed," Tommy reminded her.
"We've tried all the orthodox ways, yes. But suppose we try the unorthodox. Tommy, let's be adventurers!"
"Certainly," replied Tommy cheerfully. "How do we begin?"
"That's the difficulty. If we could make ourselves known, people might hire us to commit crimes for them."
"Delightful," commented Tommy. "Especially coming from a clergyman's daughter!"
"The moral guilt," Tuppence pointed out, "would be theirs--not mine. You must admit that there's a difference between stealing a diamond necklace for yourself and being hired to steal it."
"There wouldn't be the least difference if you were caught!"
"Perhaps not. But I shouldn't be caught. I'm so clever."
"Modesty always was your besetting sin," remarked Tommy.
"Don't rag. Look here, Tommy, shall we really? Shall we form a business partnership?"
"Form a company for the stealing of diamond necklaces?"
"That was only an illustration. Let's have a--what do you call it in book-keeping?"
"Don't know. Never did any."
"I have--but I always got mixed up, and used to put credit entries on the debit side, and vice versa--so they fired me out. Oh, I know--a joint venture! It struck me as such a romantic phrase to come across in the middle of musty old figures. It's got an Elizabethan flavour about it--makes one think of galleons and doubloons. A joint venture!"
"Trading under the name of the Young Adventurers, Ltd.? Is that your idea, Tuppence?"
"It's all very well to laugh, but I feel there might be something in it."
"How do you propose to get in touch with your would-be employers?"
"Advertisement," replied Tuppence promptly. "Have you got a bit of paper and a pencil? Men usually seem to have. Just like we have hairpins and powder-puffs."
Tommy handed over a rather shabby green notebook, and Tuppence began writing busily.
"Shall we begin: 'Young officer, twice wounded in the war--'"
"Oh, very well, my dear boy. But I can assure you that that sort of thing might touch the heart of an elderly spinster, and she might adopt you, and then there would be no need for you to be a young adventurer at all."
"I don't want to be adopted."
"I forgot you had a prejudice against it. I was only ragging you! The papers are full up to the brim with that type of thing. Now listen--how's this? 'Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good.' (We might as well make that clear from the start.) Then we might add: 'No reasonable offer refused'--like flats and furniture."
"I should think any offer we get in answer to that would be a pretty UNreasonable one!"
"Tommy! You're a genius! That's ever so much more chic. 'No unreasonable offer refused--if pay is good.' How's that?"
"I shouldn't mention pay again. It looks rather eager."
"It couldn't look as eager as I feel! But perhaps you are right. Now I'll read it straight through. 'Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused.' How would that strike you if you read it?"
"It would strike me as either being a hoax, or else written by a lunatic."
"It's not half so insane as a thing I read this morning beginning 'Petunia' and signed 'Best Boy.'" She tore out the leaf and handed it to Tommy. "There you are. Times, I think. Reply to Box so-and-so. I expect it will be about five shillings. Here's half a crown for my share."
Tommy was holding the paper thoughtfully. His faced burned a deeper red.
"Shall we really try it?" he said at last. "Shall we, Tuppence? Just for the fun of the thing?"
"Tommy, you're a sport! I knew you would be! Let's drink to success." She poured some cold dregs of tea into the two cups.
"Here's to our joint venture, and may it prosper!"
"The Young Adventurers, Ltd.!" responded Tommy.
They put down the cups and laughed rather uncertainly. Tuppence rose.
"I must return to my palatial suite at the hostel."
"Perhaps it is time I strolled round to the Ritz," agreed Tommy with a grin. "Where shall we meet? And when?"
"Twelve o'clock to-morrow. Piccadilly Tube station. Will that suit you?"
"My time is my own," replied Mr. Beresford magnificently.
"So long, then."
"Good-bye, old thing."
The two young people went off in opposite directions. Tuppence's hostel was situated in what was charitably called Southern Belgravia. For reasons of economy she did not take a bus.
She was half-way across St. James's Park, when a man's voice behind her made her start.
"Excuse me," it said. "But may I speak to you for a moment?"CHAPTER 2
MR. WHITTINGTON'S OFFER
TUPPENCE turned sharply, but the words hovering on the tip of her tongue remained unspoken, for the man's appearance and manner did not bear out her first and most natural assumption. She hesitated. As if he read her thoughts, the man said quickly:
"I can assure you I mean no disrespect."
Tuppence believed him. Although she disliked and distrusted him instinctively, she was inclined to acquit him of the particular motive which she had at first attributed to him. She looked him up and down. He was a big man, clean shaven, with a heavy jowl. His eyes were small and cunning, and shifted their glance under her direct gaze.
"Well, what is it?" she asked.
The man smiled.
"I happened to overhear part of your conversation with the young gentleman in Lyons'."
"Well--what of it?"
"Nothing--except that I think I may be of some use to you."
Another inference forced itself into Tuppence's mind:
"You followed me here?"
"I took that liberty."
"And in what way do you think you could be of use to me?"
The man took a card from his pocket and handed it to her with a bow.
Tuppence took it and scrutinized it carefully. It bore the inscription, "Mr. Edward Whittington." Below the name were the words "Esthonia Glassware Co.," and the address of a city office. Mr. Whittington spoke again:
"If you will call upon me to-morrow morning at eleven o'clock, I will lay the details of my proposition before you."
"At eleven o'clock?" said Tuppence doubtfully.
"At eleven o'clock."
Tuppence made up her mind.
"Very well. I'll be there."
"Thank you. Good evening."
He raised his hat with a flourish, and walked away. Tuppence remained for some minutes gazing after him. Then she gave a curious movement of her shoulders, rather as a terrier shakes himself.
"The adventures have begun," she murmured to herself. "What does he want me to do, I wonder? There's something about you, Mr. Whittington, that I don't like at all. But, on the other hand, I'm not the least bit afraid of you. And as I've said before, and shall doubtless say again, little Tuppence can look after herself, thank you!"
And with a short, sharp nod of her head she walked briskly onward. As a result of further meditations, however, she turned aside from the direct route and entered a post office. There she pondered for some moments, a telegraph form in her hand. The thought of a possible five shillings spent unnecessarily spurred her to action, and she decided to risk the waste of ninepence.
Excerpted from The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. Copyright © 2013 Start Publishing LLC. Excerpted by permission of Start Publishing LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
I The Young Adventurers, Ltd.,
II Mr. Whittington's Offer,
III A Set Back,
IV Who Is Jane Finn?,
V Mr. Julius P. Hersheimmer,
VI A Plan of Campaign,
VII The House in Soho,
VIII The Adventures of Tommy,
IX Tuppence Enters Domestic Service,
X Enter Sir James Peel Edgerton,
XI Julius Tells a Story,
XII A Friend in Need,
XIII The Vigil,
XIV A Consultation,
XV Tuppence Receives a Proposal,
XVI Further Adventures of Tommy,
XVIII The Telegram,
XIX Jane Finn,
XX Too Late,
XXI Tommy Makes a Discovery,
XXII In Downing Street,
XXIII A Race Against Time,
XXIV Julius Takes a Hand,
XXV Jane's Story,
XXVI Mr. Brown,
XXVII A Supper Party at the Savoy,
XXVIII And After,
What People are Saying About This
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is about two young people in postwar (WW 2)London scrabbling about with empty pockets in search of jobs. Casual accqaintences before, they meet by accident and, over a cup of tea, decide to pool their talents and put an ad in newspapers as investigators, The Young Adventurers' and they niavely fall into a crimminal gang's plot to overthrow the British government. I couldn't put it down 'til the last page and is that a surprise.
I finally finished reading the second book of my Agatha Christie self challenge. I picked it up shortly after finishing The Mysterious Affair at Styles but wasn't able to really get into it the way I wanted to, not because of the book though, but because of outside influences. Then when I went to pick it up again, I couldn't find the blasted thing. I looked everywhere for it and not one speck of it's lovely brown cover was to be seen. So I had to go buy the book again and now here I am a few days later giving my short review of it. Here is the synopsis from the back cover: Two bright young characters of the Jazz Age start out looking for adventures and wind us saving England in Agatha Christie's The Secret Adversary. Childhood friends Tommy Beresford and Prudence "Tuppence" Crowley have hit hard times. It's 1920, and the Great War is blessedly over. But the peace has left staid old England in the upheaval and the young veteran and the pretty former nurse flat broke. In the free spirit of the age, the two advertise themselves as "Young Adventurers," hoping for enjoyable as well as profitable employment. Their first client, a British Army Intelligence officer, promises both when he hires them to find a missing woman, and the charming duo are soon involved in a case of international intrigue, mistaken identities, and ultimately romance. I found the book as well as the characters, Tommy and Tuppence, to be both intelligent and at times a little spastic. Now you may think that spastic is a bad thing, normally it is, but here it is a wonderful thing. The pace and the dialogue are snappy, quick, and above all else entertaining. The dialogue is simply breathtaking to read. It's quick and punchy. The report between Tommy and Tuppence is simply amazing. This book really showed how well Agatha Christie could write quick, believable dialogue. It is still the one element that is really sticking in my mind after finishing the book last night. It had been a long time since I had read the book so the fact that this is more of a "espionage" novel rather than a "murder mystery" was not at the top of my mind. I was a little bit dismayed at first because I do enjoy a nice murder. It wasn't long though before I didn't care anymore. The story grabbed me and never let go. I'm really looking forward to the next Tommy & Tuppence novel but there are a "few" books between now and then. They already feel like old friends that you can't get enough of. If you like a great read with secret organizations, master-mind criminals posing as someone else, witty dialogue and characters, torpedoed ships, beautiful girls with amnesia, and rich Americans, this book is for you.
I thought that this book was pretty good. It presented a unique problem. I predicted who the criminal was, but I am very good at mysteries and I don't think that it was very obvious (the answer, I mean). You should definitely read this book. I couldn't put it down!
The Secret Adversary may turn out to be my favorite. A younger version of Miss Marple and Poirot, every bit as spellbinding.
Im thirteen i love this book great book to help you strengthrn ur mind abd catch you into a mysterious world thst makes you think.
Not much on the mystery side both wonderfully done...
A short and entertaining read-- entertaining as much for its mystery as for the laughable sensationalism of its topic. It was very timely in 1922, stuffed to the brim with breathless observations about Bolsheviks and revolutions and Labour Party members and secret treaties and the Lusitania, and crowned with a hero and heroine full of jolly upper-class Britishness and levity, if not imagination, in tough spots. Very characteristic of an era. The mystery, though constructed out of sensationalistic and dated elements, has an excellent form. We are told quite frankly in the first few chapters that we will meet and actually come to trust the plotting, conniving, almost legendary Bad Guy before we know that he IS the Bad Guy-- and then we spend the rest of the book trying to figure out which of these friendly and sympathetic characters he is. Also, as in all good Christie, everyone's got their fingers in the pot somehow-- it feels active and alive at every moment. Christie manages to keep each character's critical discoveries secret from us until the end, but even though we're lagging far behind most of the characters we don't quite feel stupid because we, as the readers, have our own theories that we don't necessarily want to be spoiled. A very very short one. Read it in an afternoon for a good laugh.
I imagine that this book would have disappeared from memory had it not been the second Agatha Christie. It would probably have been categorized as a romp, or the equivalent term in the early 1920s, when first published. The story is completely unbelievable and yet it finely captures a moment in time. The men and women who went off to the First World War have returned home, changed, to an England that has also changed. The book captures the dislocation of life at the time and the nervous feeling that England was on the edge of monumental change. There is an overarching sense that the existing class system was under siege and that threats that once lay in foreign countries have now come to the homeland itself. A good read for anyone who wants to understand how much times have changed in the last century but not for some who wants a well-plotted mystery. Indeed the greatest mystery to this reader was the question as to whether Christie thought that any of her readers would be surprised by the various twists and turns of story.
This is the second Agatha Christie book I've ever read. And for being first written in 1922 it felt like a book that could have been written today. This is the first book in her Tommy & Tupence series. Tommy & Tupence are two poor english people that want to make money and fast. So they advertise in a local paper stating they're adventurers for hire. Someone overhears there plan and hires them to find a missing girl, who by the way is in care of some very important documents that could really do some damage if they end up in the wrong hands. It's a fun mystery that has some great characters and good twists to the story. It'll have you wondering whodunit yourself.
2nd Agatha Christy novel. First one featuring Tuppence & Tommy. Much better than _The Mysterious Ffair at Styles_
Interesting premise. On a sinking Lusitania a women is passed government documents for the Allies as women and children were boarding lifeboats first. She disappears in London and Tommy and Tuppence's assignment is to find her and the papers. Tommy and Tuppence's naive reaction to the danger was unrealistic to me.
The ending was just a little bit weaker than the rest of the book but overall it was a good novel with a suspense focus rather than a mystery focus. In fact, it's not hard to read it and imagine a young Alfred Hitchcock doing his movie take on the book (and I think it would have been a great one).
What a great mystery by a great mystery writer. And this is only her second book. I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out who the guilty party was. If you like Kinsey Milhone, you'll love Tupence (pronounced Twopence).