Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Agathon #11 - Partners in Crime [1929]

Tansy and I started out with a challenge to read every book written by Agatha Christie, in order of publication – we’re blogging as we go along. Sometimes we blog twice in one month! (Sometimes. At least once, anyway...)  

Oh, Tommy and Tuppence. I wasn’t expecting this at all!

I’ve been fairly meh on the Christie short story collections in the past, compared to the novels, but this one is splendid largely because it is a short story collection pretending to be a novel! Or possibly a novel pretending to be a short story collection.

The premise is basically that six years into their marriage (they are now in their early 30’s) Tuppence is bored and Tommy’s government job suddenly throw them a magnificent bit of espionage to play with. It is vital for King and Country that the cute married couple take over a detective agency (after the unfortunate death of its real owner) and play at being detectives until a Vital Piece of Espionage comes their way.

 And play they do. Every chapter represents a new case to solve, and Tommy and Tuppence throw themselves into their roles with great glee, impersonating and parodying every famous detective they know. I only recognised a few of them to my shame, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of Tommy and Tuppence’s indulgences.

Some of the cases are silly and some very serious, but Tommy and Tuppence are never ever serious (well, maybe a little towards the end) and are indulged in their fancies by a remarkably tolerant Detective Inspector, and their rather theatrical new footman Alfred who takes to their life of crime with such joy.

 Buttered muffins! Cheese Cakes at the tea shop! And oh, those little grey cells. How much do I love the fact that Christie parodies Poirot in this book every much as Holmes and the many other detecting gentlemen of the paperback novel set.

 This is one I suspect I shall come back to and read with joy several more times in my life. Possibly while eating buttered muffins.  

KATHRYN Partners in Crime

Ok, this is interesting, because I really didn’t like ‘Partners In Crime’ (and potentially this is the first major difference in opinion that Tansy and I have had!!). Granted, I did not find it as tedious as the first short story collection that we read as part of the Agathon (Poirot Investigates) but I did find the premise of Tommy and Tuppence taking over a detective agency to be a fairly contrived and shallow way to string a series of short stories together. Don’t get me wrong, they are both still charming and I find their interactions still *mostly* delightful (if sometimes a bit forced here), but I am yet to read a Christie short story that I find as satisfying as her longer works. A bit of internet research shows that all the stories in ‘Partners in Crime’ had been published before, though it’s not clear whether Christie intended to publish them all together in the end, or whether it was simply expedient to do so.

The one component I did like of this book was the on-going homage to other famous detectives. Most of these went over my head (because most of the detectives referenced are no longer as famous as they once were) but there were some nice references to Sherlock Holmes in ‘The Missing Lady’ – and Christie’s tongue in cheek references to Poirot’s little grey cells in the final short story did thrill me much more than it should have!

The Mysterious Mr Quinn (1930)
The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)... and finally MISS MARPLE!!

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