Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Man in the Brown Suit - Agatha Christie

     I read this on my Kindle and can't figure out how to copy and paste an image of the cover from another source.  Sometimes I can do this, sometimes I can't.  This time, I can't.  There are a couple of great covers, if you want to look for them.  I like the one with the ship on it.  And the first edition cover.

     I was feeling nostalgic for an Agatha Christie.  I don't know why I picked this one, but it was a  disappointment.  It's been quite a while since I've read a Christie.  Miss Marple is my favorite.  Poirot has always left me cold.  To me, he's sort of like the character in the TV series Monk  -  brilliant, but his constrained oddness annoys me.  I'm fond of flamboyant freaks.

     The Man in the Brown Suit has neither Marple nor Poirot.  It's listed on Fantastic Fiction as being one of Christie's Colonel Race mysteries, of which they list only three.  He doesn't dominate the book, in fact,  I'd even relegate him to a minor character.

     Anne Beddingfeld is orphaned early in the book.  Her father was a leading authority on primitive man.  He left her a small inheritance, which Anne blows on a trip to South Africa in search of the killer of a mysterious woman.  She wants excitement and adventure  -  and she finds it.

     Anne gets involved when she sees a man killed as he steps backward onto a train track third rail, frightened by the sight of another man.  She finds a piece of paper dropped by the 'doctor' who examines the dead man at the train station, a man posing as a doctor in order to go through the dead man's pockets.  The dead man also has in his pocket a house agent's letter to view a house.  The police don't think there's anything to investigate.

     But the next day, Anne sees in the newspaper that a woman has been found murdered in the same house that the dead man had an appointment to see.  She starts to investigate and finds herself off on a transcontinental adventure  -  just what she'd been hoping for.  The mysterious message leads her to a ship sailing from London to South Africa.

     On board the ship to South Africa, she meets and befriends a wealthy woman, a wealthy man, and some interesting characters.  She also discovers that the mystery and the murders are about stolen diamonds, the men who were implicated in the theft, and a ring of spies run by The Colonel'.  She and the wealthy woman, Suzanne Blair, become chummy.  She's not sure what to make of the rather goofy and vague Sir Eustace Pedler, or Colonel Race, who may or may not be Secret Service.  One of Sir Eustace's secretaries turns out to be Harry Rayburn, one of the men incriminated in the diamond theft.  And Anne falls in love with the mysterious Rayburn.

     Twice Anne is summoned to meetings that turn out to be traps.  How bright is this woman?!  She's kidnapped, she falls over a waterfall on her way to one of the mysterious meetings and is presumed dead.  Her goal is to find out who The Colonel is and to clear Harry Rayburn.

     I couldn't get into this book.  The romance portions were so sophomoric and / or dated that I couldn't read them without rolling my eyes.  Anne was annoyed me, too, not one of my favorite Christie characters.  Be forewarned, almost no one is who they purport to be and several turn out to have more than one persona.  This is one of Christie's earliest books, so I guess she hadn't yet hit her stride.


  1. It's years since I read a Christie book although I have read some short stories in the last few years. It seems to take a few years for some writers to get into their stride so the earliest ones are often a disappointment. I love the art deco aspect of Poirot on TV but he isn't a really likeable character.

    1. I think I should have chosen one of Christie's more famous works to read / re-read. Now I'm wondering if I remembered her books as being better than they are. No, that can't be true. I'll try a Miss Marple one next. I hope she won't fail me!