Agatha Christie: Partners in Crime

Partners_in_CrimePartners in Crime
Agatha Christie
First published in the UK by Collins, 1929
This edition HarperCollins, 2010
ISBN: 9780007111503
Pages: 352
Source: ebook edition

In preparation for the BBC’s new version of Partners in Crime (due to be aired this autumn), I am trying to read a few of the Tommy and Tuppence novels.

The series opens with The Secret Adversary, where the two bright young things tackle a fiendish plot to destabilise the nation. Partners in Crime finds them a few years older, happily – if boringly – married, and eager for a new challenge. The book takes the form of a sequence of short mysteries. What we’d call a story arc these days is supplied by the set-up. Tommy and Tuppence are asked by Scotland Yard to take over Blunt’s detective agency, which is being used by foreign powers to pass secrets. The real Blunt has been arrested, and conveniently the spies do not know what he looks like, meaning Tommy can assume his role.

As Blunt’s Brilliant Detectives, Tommy and Tuppence tackle a series of standalone mysteries (some life-and-death, some light-hearted) with occasional scrapes with enemy agents. The conceit is that their approach to each mystery is influenced by one of their favourite crime writers (some of whom are unfortunately obscure these days).

‘You see the idea? Half-hours with the Great Masters – that sort of thing. You see, Tuppence, I can’t help feeling that we are more or less amateurs at this business – of course amateurs in one sense we cannot help being, but it would do no harm to acquire the technique, so to speak. These books are detective stories by the leading masters of the art. I intend to try different styles, and compare results.’

At the British Library event this week, Dr John Curran gave a talk about the writers who influenced Agatha Christie, and how those influences emerged in her work. A handy slide on Partners in Crime listed the writers pastiched, saving me some detective work (thanks John!):

  • G. K. Chesterton
  • Baroness Orczy
  • A. E. W. Mason
  • Freeman Wills Crofts
  • Anthony Berkeley
  • H. C. Bailey
  • R. Austin Freeman
  • Edgar Wallace
  • Clinton Stagge
  • Isabel Ostrander
  • and herself

I don’t think he included the obvious one – Arthur Conan Doyle.

Anyway, not knowing exactly whom they are pastiching doesn’t hurt the stories, which are frequently very funny. Here are two Sherlock moments:

He lay back for a minute, half closed his eyes and remarked in a tired tone: ‘You must find travelling in a bus very crowded at this time of day.’
‘I came in a taxi,’ said the girl.
‘Oh!’ said Tommy aggrieved. His eyes rested reproachfully on a blue bus ticket protruding from her glove. The girl’s eyes followed his glance, and she smiled and drew it out.
‘You mean this? I picked it up on the pavement. A little neighbour of ours collects them.’

‘If you must be Sherlock Homes, I’ll get you a nice little syringe and a bottle labelled cocaine, but for God’s sake leave that violin alone.’

David_WalliamsAs with The Secret Adversary, if you fancy some easy-reading adventures, Partners in Crime is a good book to pick up. Bright and breezy.

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
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8 Responses to Agatha Christie: Partners in Crime

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    I do love the Tommy and Tuppence books – they’re light hearted and very readable. Mind you, I’m of the opinion that everything Christie wrote is worth reading.

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  2. realthog says:

    I’ve read and not much enjoyed a couple of the T&T books, but this one sounds as if it might be amusing. I’ll look out for it.

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  3. I do wish I had known more of the detectives that they were spoofing but the mysteries were clever nonetheless.

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  4. tracybham says:

    This was my least favorite Christie so far (and I like the other Tommy and Tuppence novels), but I am still glad I read it.

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  5. I think all the detectives are mentioned within the text of the stories,but not very often are the writers mentioned. Took me years to find a copy of anything by Clinton Stagg who created the blind detective Thornley Colton. I thought that the blind detective parody was of Max Carrados much better known in the 1920s than Stagge’s detective.

    I’m not exactly looking forward to this adaptation. I doubt I’ll watch any of them. I can’t stand Walliams. He always reminds me of the creepy guy at a party trying to hit on all the women but is oblivious of his bad manners and bad breath.

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  6. Pingback: Partners in Crime to air in the UK next month | Past Offences Classic Crime Fiction

  7. Pingback: Partners in Crime – The Secret Adversary episode 1 | Past Offences Classic Crime Fiction

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