Book Review: The Secret Adversary

The Scret Adversary cover

I hope you all are having a good week, even if is just the usual monotony of every day life.

Things have been going fairly well, even though I am still in a tight spot right now, and I am just glad that I can still do something that I can enjoy.

Recently, I looked through Project Gutenberg's catalog and decided to try out a title featuring a pair of detectives that I have not heard of, mainly because their names are not as big as Sherlock and Gosho Aoyama has not mentioned them in any of the 90 or so volumes of Detective Conan in existence, according to page on Detective Conan World's wiki.

Today, I will be reviewing that title, which is called The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie.

The World War has ended and everyone is getting back to their normal lives, though some are having a hard time finding work, and, to deal with the situation two lifelong friends, Thomas Beresford and Prudence Cowley, decide to start a joint venture and run an ad to get some business.

However, when a man comes to Prudence with an offer that seemed too good to be true and refuses, the two friends become entangled is a missing person's case that may hold the fate of England in the balance, as mysterious, yet powerful man is also chasing after this missing person.

As many of you guys are aware, I am fairly familiar with Agatha Christie's work and have been singing praises of her in a lot of my reviews, but I was not too sure that I would want to try something that I never heard of before, since there have been one or two books from her that have disappointed me.

Fortunately, after reading this, I must say that I really enjoyed this book.

From the moment that I opened up this book and started reading, I did not want to put it down for any reason, though I do have to satisfy the same needs everyone else needs to deal with.

Over the course of my time going through Agatha Christie's works, such as And Then There Were None, The A. B. C. Murders, and A Pocket Full of Rye, Agatha Christie has done a great job of pulling me into the world of her characters and has usually been good at delivering what I expect to see from work in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, particularly the whodunnits that is comprised by the bulk of Sherlock and Poirot stories out there, and seeing that she was able to pull this off here was very impressive to me.

Yes, I know that Agatha Christie is known as the Queen of Crime for a reason, and I do think that she deserves the moniker, but, even though she is still fairly well-known, even after her death, this was only the second book that she ever penned in her entire writing career, with the first being The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and this is quite an accomplishment.

It may be normal for people that have been writing for a while to be able to draw in readers rather quickly, but seeing as she was able to pull me into the world of her work in both The Mysterious Affair at Styles, though that book ultimately disappointed me, and this book, it does not surprise me that Agatha Christie is still such a big name today, because she has shown that she has been a very promising writer even back when she got started, and it makes me glad that not all of the famous writers out there are not people that are not actually that great, even if I know that Agatha Christie, like many other writers, got worse over some time.

Fiction, one of the only true parent genres of literature, is supposed to help the consumer escape reality for a short moment, and if a writer cannot do that, regardless of whether the work is science fiction, fantasy, detective fiction, crime fiction, mystery, or any other genre of fiction, they will not be able to create something that truly deserves to be called a classic, even if it meets all the other requirements that so called experts say that classics have.

In the case of this book, Agatha Christie shows that she definitely understands that much, just like Maurice Leblanc and many of the other great writers who have lived and died knew what good story needed, and it makes me want to give her a major round of applause.

I also liked how the pair of detectives started off as complete amateurs.

While both Tommy and Tuppence, the names that Thomas and Prudence are generally called, are just as observant as Sherlock and Poirot, and fairly knowledgeable, they still come off as fairly unique because it is evident that they have not had any real experience with cases, much like many fans of the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, whereas Sherlock supposedly encountered numerous cases before coming into contact with Watson and Hercule Poirot himself seems to have a lot of experience under his belt in The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

According to a page on Project Gutenberg, detectives in crime fiction are supposed to range from amateur sleuths to professional sleuths, yet many of the famous detectives of fiction come closer to the high end of what could be considered an amateur to professional, as they come off a perfect in their capabilities.

Here, however, Tommy and Tuppence do come across as amateurish in the way they do things, especially since they do not even know the basics of gathering intel properly, and, in the case of Tommy, act without any backup plans, and it made me interested in seeing how far these two will progress, even though they are not Agatha Christie's most well-known characters.

We might have many amateur sleuths in fiction today, such as Jimmy Kudo from Detective Conan, Touma Sou from Q.E.D., Shinra Sakaki from C.M.B., and the Scooby Doo gang, but I do not recall too many amateur sleuths from the time that Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle were alive, though that is because it is impossible for me to read every book ever written and I have not taken the chance to check out Edgar Allan Poe's Dupin yet, not mention that many characters, like A.J. Raffles, became lost in the sea of time and were forgotten by society, and that makes me want to give Agatha Christie some applause for experimenting a bit.

If writers tried to experiment more often today, things would be feeling like less of a rehash or a rip off than they do now, and I would not be as dissatisfied with popular works as I am.

Unfortunately, much like Hollywood and other creative fields, people are too afraid to try and put a spin on things that truly feels unique, even if it is not actually original, so until that time where people realize how important experimentation is, I do not think that fictional works in any medium will actually be able to be called truly great.

Nice job, Agatha.

Another thing that I really liked was how I was misled quite a bit.

While I was not as misled as I was in A Pocket Full of Rye and Cards on the Table, I feel like Agatha Christie really improved herself in this book.

Back when I read The Mysterious Affair at Styles, one of the things that I truly hated about reading was how my first guess turned out to be correct and that really disappointed me, since that is not what I, or any other fan of the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres like to see. Fans of those those genres want to be tricked via red herrings and other methods, as they try to determine what is important and what is not, but when the person's first guess turn out to be correct, that excitement becomes nonexistent and the book becomes fairly disappointing.

Here, however, even though Agatha Christie has not found her place yet, I am starting to see the Agatha Christie I knew from And Then Were None and her other well-known novels.

Throughout the course of the book, I was aware that Mr. Brown was close by, as he knew what Tommy and Tuppence were doing, but there were quite a few things that made me not suspect who Mr. Brown truly was, and only a few small hints towards it being that actual person.

By handling things like this, Agatha Christie was able to confuse me, as I expected to be, right up until. The end.

This is why these kinds of stories are so great, because people who know of all or most of 'the tricks of the genres can still be fooled, and that confusion ends making the story that much better, whereas confusing the reader in other genres is not something to be proud about.

If Gosho Aoyama had the hints of Okiya's true identity be as subtle as this, instead of having all of those blatant hints in volume 60 of Detective Conan, the enjoyment of the whole mystery of whether Akai was alive or not would have been as great as I remembered it to be prior to rereading those chapters, and would have dramatically improved the events of the Bourbon arc.

Unfortunately, Gosho Aoyama did not understand the importance of having only small hints and it ruined the whole mystery, so hopefully Gosho has learned this lesson and will not make again in the Rum and Boss arcs.

Of course, because Agatha Christie understand the importance only having small, unnoticeable hint, I can only applaud her job well done, even more so, considering that this was only second book, and writers planning to enter the field of detective, mystery, and crime fiction should take note of what she has done her.

The thing that I liked the most though was how I got the feelings that I expect to get from only thrillers.

Now, Agatha Christie is not generally known for thrillers,' like John Grisham is known for legal thrillers, as everyone today is familiar with her moniker, but she was able to give me feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation, and anxiety, which had me on the edge seat while reading the book.

Some people may be wondering how this is even possible, since Agatha Christie is known more for her works in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, but according the biographical section of the official website of Agatha Christie, she did quite a bit of experimenting with her work while she was alive, so I am not too surprised about seeing something like this from her, though I was kind of surprised while I read the book, and that experimenting paid off with this book, even if Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple ended up overshadowing Tommy and Tuppence.

I am not too sure about you guys, but I am definitely seeing why the works of Agatha Christie still seem to be selling fairly today, and it makes me happy to see great writers get the attention they deserve, especially after death.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly like, at least any that cannot be added to what I already talked about.

Because my attention was captured quickly and held for the duration of the book, the detective pair actually seemed like amateurs just starting out, and that I was misled more than in her first book, as well as the fact that Agatha Christie gave me feelings that I did not expect, this book was one of the best that I have read.

Although I liked the book, there are some issues.

However, aside from things too minor to talk about, nothing really bothered me too much.

As a result, I will have to say that there is nothing worth mentioning.

Considering that there was quite a bit to like and nothing majorly wrong, especially since this was only Agatha Christie's second book, this was definitely worth reading.

I recommend this to fans of detective, mystery, and crime fiction, as well as thrillers, because this book delivers the things that all four groups would want to see in a story.

As for everyone else, this might be worth giving a try, as it can serve as a good introduction to detective, mystery, and crime fiction, or even thrillers, and it is more enjoyable than the first book that Agatha Christie wrote.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, buy this book or any of the other book using the Amazon links provided in this review or support me on Patreon, so that I can find more worthwhile reads for you guys, and do whatever you do when you find something that impresses you.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.