“To all those who lead monotonous lives …” begins Agatha Christie’s mystery novel The Secret Adversary. And damn did she bring thrill and excitement into my monotonous life. She transported me into a world chockfull of danger and risks for a day—just for a day, which is the time it took me to read the book. I’ve never read this quickly since forever.
On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania, traveling from the United States to England, is sinking. Because of “women and children first” in the lifeboats, a man carrying a secret treaty concerning the war, knowing full well he had a smaller chance for survival, entrusts the papers to a young American girl, not more than eighteen, instructing her to hand them over to the American ambassador in case he doesn’t make it. The girl takes the packet and boards a lifeboat. About five years later, in the next chapter, the documents and the girl are still missing.
The Secret Adversary drove me crazy. As you read, it makes you wonder whether the young girl had been captured for carrying important papers or she herself was an enemy, the man unfortunately entrusting the papers to the wrong person. There were also a few other characters that could potentially be the secret adversary, such as English lawyer Sir James Peel Edgerton and American millionaire Julius P. Hersheimmer. It’s incredible how Agatha Christie confuses readers and only reveals the truth at the very, very, very, very end. My mind is still blown.
Childhood friends Tommy and Tuppence, jobless and broke in their early twenties, decide to advertise their services as “young adventurers” on the newspaper, which is how they get involved with the mystery of the missing girl. This story reminds me that the first genre I fell in love with was in fact mystery and not fantasy and that the first series I enjoyed (and devoured in one sitting) were The Nancy Drew Notebooks and the hardbound Nancy Drew classics with yellow covers. In a way, the pair brought me back to childhood days.
Tommy and Tuppence hit several roadblocks along the way but never stop working their way around them whether individually or as a pair. I like how determined they are to solve the crime and figure out the archenemy, the elusive “Mr. Brown,” who at times they sense is among their friends. Despite dead ends, they shift their attention to what they can do, which is something I want to practice in daily life. As Tuppence has said, “The great thing is what to do next[.]”
“No use crying over spilt milk, you know.”
The Secret Adversary, published in 1922, is the first of five Tommy and Tuppence books. It’s my third Agatha Christie read, the first being They Do It With Mirrors, a Miss Marple mystery, and the second being And Then There Were None, one of her best works. But considered best or not, all three are equally incredibly thrilling—I can’t stress this enough. I’ve just got to get my hands on another Agatha Christie book.