picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence, #1)The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The Secret Adversary was Agatha Christie's second published novel - appearing in 1922, a year after her debut featuring Hercule Poirot, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The Secret Adversary, however, does not feature Poirot, or Miss Marple for that matter (the other detective immortalised by the end of her long career.) It features instead a pair of young adventurers - Tommy and Tuppence - pitted against a mysterious man, Mr Brown, who wishes to bring down the British government. Tommy and Tuppence would only reappear in a Christie novel twenty years later, in M or N?

Although The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published in 1920, when Christie was 30 years old, it was actually written a few years before, during the First World War, when Christie joined the war effort by attending to wounded soldiers in Torquay. I have a feeling The Secret Adversary was also written during that period, then revised for publication after The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

The Secret Adversary is a weak effort by Christie, an attempt at a light, spy romp with the bounce and flair of "the Roaring Twenties" that doesn't display any of the ingenuity and plot tightness that her later novels would display. Tommy and Tuppence are a pair of unemployed young people in London, trying to figure out what to do with themselves after the end of the war. As a lark, they decide to start "The Young Adventurers Ltd" and get themselves involved in cases that can bring in quick cash. Soon, they are running after baddies who have kidnapped a young American woman with the knowledge to bring down the Tory government and usher in an age of Labour troubles (with the help of Bolshies and Sinn Féin.)

There's something "Famous Five" about the whole thing. There's a Comedy of Manners based on mistaken identities, swapped couples, spies in every corner but, most disappointing of all, the first murder only takes place halfway through the novel (and it's pretty obvious who did it.) Unlike Poirot and Marple, who we never quite know what they are thinking until the denouement, we hear nearly every thought going through Tommy and Tuppence's heads – thoughts that aren't that illuminating, meant only to paint them as slightly silly and out-of-their-depth youngsters.

Anyone reading this at the time couldn’t have guessed that better things were to come.

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picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
From [livejournal.com profile] sushidog:

You have a time machine, in which you can make three (and only three) trips. You may use one trip to change something in your own past, one trip to witness a past event, and one trip to change the world. No cheating, any attempts to game the system will dump you in a primaeval swamp with no way back to the future. What do you do with your three trips?

My first trip would be to São Paulo, 1982, September - the month my youngest brother Nicholas was born.  I'd try to stop my parents from giving him the vaccine for whooping cough - the vaccine that gave him a brain lesion and made him a fully disabled person for the rest of his life.  I've always wondered how Nicholas would have turned out if he'd been "normal".  What kind of person would he have become? What kind of profession would he have followed?  And how would that have affected us as a family?

The second trip would be the hardest for me to choose.  Would I travel to The Smiths' first gig? Margaret Atwood's first public reading in a Toronto poetry evening? The arrival of Europeans in the Americas? (Wouldn't it freak them out if they saw me there, standing on the beach beside the natives?) Or perhaps I'd visit one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. I'd probably just let the time machine decide for me.

For my third trip, I'd try to stop Archduke Franz Ferdinand from getting killed.  In theory, that would stop World War I happening as we know it (though maybe war was inevitable?), and consequently Hitler wouldn't have gained the ground to take power, World War II wouldn't have happened, etc.  But, knowing we humans, something as equally as terrible would have taken place and we'd still be in a mess today...

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