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Following last week’s post where I said I was stuck in the middle of my story, I finished it in about an hour the next day – drama queen, aren’t I?!

Book 53 – The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie. This was Christie’s second novel, and stars Tommy and Tuppence, two friends who lose touch but are reacquainted a few years after the end of World War I. With little money and few prospects for employment, they join forces as ‘The Young Adventurers’.  The story follows them as they investigate a missing woman who holds incriminating evidence against the governments of the UK and the USA – evidence that the criminal European Socialists and some of the British Labour party are planning to use to instigate a general strike and the fall of the Government.  All the characters in this plot, however, are simply puppets in the control of the secret adversary – one Mr Brown.

Obviously it is of its era – politically, it is vaguely offensive and the language and some of the comments are not what you expect to read nowadays, but it was my first Agatha Christie and the first time I had come across the two characters so it was an educational read, if nothing else.

It seemed clear to me very early on ‘whodunnit’, which was surprising as I rarely work out Poirot’s cases on screen!  However, there were lots of clues and details about who everyone was and how they interacted that I did miss.  That was what I really found most enjoyable – the little details sprinkled throughout that I was able to reflect on when I got to the end of the mystery.

This book wasn’t as sophisticated as I’ve always thought Christie would be but I am not sure if that’s due to the characters or her developing writing skill.

It’s definitely one to read if you’re a fan of her work though, just to see where her writing life began, and it made me keen to read something she wrote a little further down the line…

Book 54 – The Hollow, by Agatha Christie.  This was first released in 1946, 25 years after The Secret Adversary, and there was a very definite change in the writing style. This story follows a group of people whose lives intersect at The Hollow, a country house.  On the day the lady of the house invites Hercule Poirot to lunch, one of her guests is murdered…

The plot followed the twists and turns as evidence appears and is found wanting, and a number of characters seem to have motives and opportunities to commit the murder.  The book shows multiple character viewpoints, giving the opportunity to see how each person reacted to the crime.  This was a great way to assess not just whether someone was possibly guilty of the crime but whether they had every really cared for their ‘friend’ in the first place, and how the death affected them – from emotional trauma to social inconvenience.

The story is a straight ‘whodunnit’, and this time, I didn’t know who it was which was much more satisfying!

The stylistic differences between this and The Secret Adversary were significant, and too many to list, but key ones from my point of view as a reader included:

  • a constant shift of viewpoint – we saw all the main characters away from the setting of the story and each other
  • the very late introduction to the recurring Christie character – Poirot is not the main player in this story, and he arrives about a third of the way into the book
  • the way the characters exist in a recognisable reality – we see a doctor, a sculptor and a shop assistant in their workplaces
  • The language used – this book seemed much less dated than The Secret Adversary which used more slang and colloquialisms (or perhaps the slang in The Hollow was better adopted and became normal English, who knows?!)

This book seemed to be about grown-ups, for grown-ups, whereas The Secret Adversary was more like a young adult book as we describe them now.  I definitely preferred this one.

Just as an addendum – I chose The Hollow as it was the first Christie I saw on the shelf of books I inherited from my grandparents (and am aware it isn’t necessarily reflective of her other work).  It reminded me that their library is sitting unused, when books should be read, so I am going to choose my next few books from there and give it life again.

Some are probably out of print, or out of style, or politically insensitive but that’s the way it goes with books – they are a reflection of a moment in time.  I just hope they bring me a little more insight into the world my grandparents experienced.

Until next time – happy reading,

EJ

🙂

 

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