DCIB Book Club! Let’s Talk Tommy and Tuppence and Secret Adversary!!!

Yaaaaaay, BOOKS!!!! I hope some of you at least finished this and can join in the conversation with me.

Stuff to talk about!

That was crazy racist/classist, right? I especially like when the stakes are established as “if this gets out, we could have a Labour government (horrors!)”. And of course, the constant descriptions of people as “looking” working class, or Irish, or Polish or whatever, based on jaw line and skull shape. And yet, somehow, I don’t mind it. Maybe because it is so old-fashioned, so ridiculous that no one could possibly be affected by it today? Maybe just because it is British and I am American, so it isn’t my prejudice? Or maybe something else? Did it bother you?

How great is it that Tuppence is established as smarter and braver and better than Tommy and everyone knows it? Would be even greater if she was offered the job at the end and he had to stay home, but it’s still pretty darn good the way it is. No one ever says “come come little woman, don’t interfere with Men’s Business”.

Tommy and Tuppence, a couple for the ages! Or is it just me? He is stolid and reliable and sticks it out. She is bright and a little crazy and always happy. They balance each other, and they also sincerely enjoy what the other brings to the table. They never even have a real fight, and yet I also didn’t find them dull to read about. I just like them.

The actual mystery! I find it delightfully unbelievable that Jane Finn managed to speak French and pretend to have amnesia for FIVE YEARS. On the other hand, I love all the red herrings on the path to the final reveal. Christie had the perfect balance of showing us enough to keep us happy, but hiding enough to keep us reading to the end.

The American. Are we really like that? Super rich and friendly but also a little bit too enthusiastic and go-getter? And with weird ethnic names? Probably, I just think of it as “normal” I guess.

UPDATE: Casting, real quick. Julius and Jane, Abhishek and Aish. Sir James Peel, Amitabh. Tommy and Tuppence, ayushmann and sanya.

20 thoughts on “DCIB Book Club! Let’s Talk Tommy and Tuppence and Secret Adversary!!!

  1. The thing about Mrs Christie’s -isms is, they don’t ever seem to go beyond what people just happened to think at the time. She just repeats stuff that everyone was saying. And as for “looking working class”, I think there was a time in British history when that was possible. I read it in the context of Baden Powell founding the Boy Scouts that he wanted them in uniforms partly to obscure those class differences.

    Tommy and Tuppence are a great couple. Still, there really isn’t that much interaction between them in this book. More of “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. Their fun banter seems to be at its height in the second volume. And I didn’t really buy the way everyone was always saying that Tommy was so steady and unimaginative. He rushed into that hiding house right enough and did have his own flights of fancy.

    I was totally taken in by Mr Brown and his author. His early hint against the American, the latter’s secret find in the safe, the disfigured dead man – they had me pretty convinced. But I think most damning was the fact that when the Young Adventureres had finally “figured it out”, they were still trusting him. That even made me overlook the late chapter from Julius’ point of view where he very obviously had to trick and threaten Mr Brown’s gang into going along with his plans. It left me confused but none the wiser. The fake Miss Finn also misled me, as I thought it would be much easier to fake recognition than to find a good enough look-alike to fool someone who has seen a photo.

    I was more successful identifying Miss Finn herself. She’d been associated with the place in Paris and with Rita with the French first name, so the language was kind of a hint. So was her calling out for “Marguerite” – ironically, as it turns out, since she didn’t even mean Mrs Vandemeyer. And yes, it’s not too believable that just any young woman approached on the Lusitania should have been that good at evading the criminals.

    The American was a caricature, of course. No, he did not come across as a typical specimen to me.

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    • One thing I love about Christie and her class/ethnic profiling is that she uses it to trick the reader like any other kind of flawed assumption. Like you say, she is just repeating the way people saw the world back then. But often, just like she will reveal a flawed assumption in a train schedule alibi or anything like that, she will reveal the flawed assumption in the racism/classism. This book has it, right? Everyone blindly trusts the upperclass dude despite all the evidence against him and assumes the mastermind is some Russian. I don’t think Christie is making a grand statement about the problems of racism, I think she just sees a blind spot that she can take advantage of to trick her readers.

      I noticed that too! I remembered it as having way more interaction between them. But I think in most of their books, they end up separated. I think that’s part of what Christie liked about writing them, she could split up her detective team and follow two plots at once. I love them together though, I never get tired of having the two of them talk. Agree about Tommy!!! Tommy is just fine!!!! Tuppence may take the lead in the adventures, but he is plenty smart and imaginative himself.

      What kills me is, we know from Rita’s death that it has to be one of the two of them, there are a ton of clues about that. But Christie works super hard to keep us looking in the wrong direction, while still giving us all the necessary clues to really identify the right one. I remember the first time I read the book being all upset because it was clear who “Mr. Brown” was, and I liked the character and was depressed that he was going to turn out to be evil. And then the actual ending was such a happy surprise! I had no particular liking for the real “Mr. Brown”.

      Oh good, I am glad to know that is not how Americans really are.

      On Sun, Jan 10, 2021 at 9:13 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Yeah, I also liked Julius and didn’t really want it to be him. It makes so much more sense for Rita to know and recognize the lawyer, we’re even told she hung out with him. I remember having flashes of “well, either one of them could have killed her”. But that’s one smelly red herring Christie dragged across the tracks.

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  3. First of all, I was reading the ending last night and the reveal of Mr. Brown completely scared me and made me almost jump out of my bed!!! However, I was relieved that Mr. Brown wasn’t Julius.

    Honestly, when it came to the assumptions and stereotypes of Americans in this novel it made me laugh more than anything else. They seem slightly more innocent than those that exist today…

    I like Tommy and Tuppence. I was getting Thin Man vibes when I first read your description of this book, but I’m glad that they weren’t super posh and they also weren’t together enough to constantly be trading barbs. Although, the banter we did get was fun!

    I feel like I’m going to have to go back and go through all the red herrings. I think I missed a lot because I was looking in the wrong direction…

    Overall, I had a lot of fun with my first Christie and I can’t wait to read more!

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    • Yaaaaaaay, so glad you liked it!!! And that the ending surprised you. Christie will always surprise you, she is a tricky lady.

      Yes, it’s like the Thin Man, except they are just more cheerful. And all around nicer people. But still a couple who enjoy adventures together.

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      • Yes, they’re def more cheerful than Nick and Nora and less sloshed (which probs helps them be more cheerful).

        Of course, this immediately made me wonder if there was a Tommy and Tuppance equivalent in Indian film… Sakshay?? Off to Youtube for further analysis!

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  4. Downloaded it then got sidetracked by current events. Considering the state of my nerves, i should have just turned off the TV and read it.
    Sorry. I might take a drive to the waterfront, turn on the heat, and read it in the car.

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    • It’s a great escapist book, just old-fashioned enough to take you away from the real world.

      On Sun, Jan 10, 2021 at 12:10 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Weirdly, for the first half of the book I was thinking that I might have read a story just like this before. Up to the point where Tommy hides in that secret meeting place. The feeling was gone after that, so if I’ve read it before, for some reason I must have stopped there.

    I really got roped into this series by one short story from the second volume. They’re running a detective agency in that one and always trying out the “methods” of various fictional detectives. I just love when my media get meta like that.

    I hadn’t expected that from Agatha Christie. I guess I’ve missed out by not really being a fan of detective stories. That way she was always just a fixture of life in the background. Adaptations of her more famous works were always on TV – Peter Ustinov and Margaret Rutherford. I’ve read a few of her stories over the years, but I never knew she could be as *young* as Tommy and Tuppence.

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  6. I love The Man in. the Brown Suit. It’s straight up one of the few Christie books where the romance was just as good as the mystery. So much fun too! I have read it a million times, and I can’t believe there is no film or series based on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. SPOILERS Warning!

    This was my first time reading a Tommy and Tuppence book and while I liked the story line and I wasn’t happy with the romance. Tommy and Tuppence spent most of the time away from each other and I just didn’t seem invested in their romance. I almost felt like I wanted Tuppence to be with Julius and Annette/Jane to be with Tommy. Also, this way, first cousins could avoid being married.

    Annette being Jane was probably the biggest surprise of the novel to me. After Rita’s death, as you said, I expected Mr. Brown to be Julius or James and the way the book was going, it had to be James because we were all very invested in Julius.

    I will try and read more of their novel to see if I can become more invested in their romance. I also now want to read Man in the Brown Suit and Sparkling Cyanide.

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    • The next book, Partners in Crime, is the one where T and T have the most fun together, and it is a series of short stories so it is a fast easy read.

      I’d managed to forget just how closely related Julius and Jane are. And, like, WHY??? It would have been so easy to make them second cousins instead!!! Oh well.

      Yes read Sparkling Cyanide! That is my FAVORITE. Although The Man in the Brown Suit is probably more romantic.

      On Wed, Jan 13, 2021 at 10:26 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I will say, I loved how fiesty and independent Tuppence was. I wanted to be friends with her. She is the hero. Tommy is great but Tuppence gets to do all the cool stuff that is normally reserved for heros in an Hindi movie. I want a Hindi film with this couple!

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