The Story’s The Thing: The Secret Adversary
We all know and love the power of story, and there’s nothing better than finding new ones to lose yourself in. Check back on the blog every Wednesday for an eclectic smattering of the blogger’s favorite stories of all kinds. We hope you’ll discover new worlds, friends, and adventures–and maybe get re-acquainted with some old ones! Tell us what you think, and leave your own story suggestions in the comments.
Well, we’ve had a good run of books that take us to other fantastical worlds, but now it’s my turn. Full disclosure, I didn’t grow up with fantasy. I’ve only taken to it in the past few years, and never as fully as many people here. What did I grow up with? Mystery.
And that’s where my story lies, in The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. For the uninitiated, the link is to Project Gutenberg, an online e-book site for books which are out of copyright. The first link is to the html page of the book itself. If you’d like to read it on Kindle or other e-reader, there are free downloads on the site. It is a wonderful site where you can read many older books without having to leave your couch!
Anyway, getting on with things, Agatha Christie is rightly called the Grande Dame of mystery writing. She wasn’t the first to write mystery (Arguably, that was Poe, in The Purloined Letter) but she was one of the first to bring it to everyone. She was the Michael Connelly or P.D. James of the 1920s. The Secret Adversary was one of her first books, and I still believe one of the best.
Set just after the first world war, the story centers around two young people, Thomas (called Tommy) Beresford, and Prudence (called Tuppence) Cowley. Tommy is your typical, stoic, seemingly uninteresting British gentleman… except when he’s around Tuppence. She is a firebrand, a former army nurse who has done everything from wiping soldier’s brows to driving a General. The story starts when the two meet up in a café, broke and, in Tuppence’s case, bored as all get out. They decide to put a notice in the local paper:
Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused. ~The Secret Adversary, Agatha Christie
And from there, they get dragged into a world of spies, intrigue, the sinking of the Lusitania, millionaires, romance, and the ever-elusive Jane Finn.
I really don’t want to get into too much of it, because this is one of the (very few, actually) books that I really believe you should experience for yourself. I will, however, say three things. First, Tuppence is my hero. I first read this book when I was in Middle School, and I wanted to be her when I grew up. She is amazing, multi-faceted, hilarious, strong, vulnerable, and everything that I still wish I could be. Second, somewhere in the book is the most odd, backwards proposal that I’ve ever come across. It is almost the most amazing thing ever, and really characterizes in many ways what love should be. Look for it! Finally, Christie’s ability to string a plot along, and keep people guessing is amazing. I absolutely never caught the twist on this one until the end. I promise it’s really worth the fairly short read.
I could go on, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Let me know if you’ve read Secret Adversary or any of Christie’s other works. They’re all amazing, but this one is just my favourite!