Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Man in the Brown Suit by Dame Agatha Christie

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie surprised me. I had read enough about the story to know it isn't the run of the mill murder mystery. (It's a spy-thriller set in exotic South Africa and includes diamond thieves, murderers, and political intrigue.) What came as a surprise to me was the fact it is also a romance.

Yes, you heard me right -- The Man in the Brown Suit is a thriller/adventure/romance. And it's a good one! But this really shouldn't come as a surprise; Christie had some experience writing for that genre as well. In addition to her numerous mysteries and short stories, published under the name of Agatha Christie, she also had at least six romance novels published under the name of Mary Westmacott. I've not read any of these, but I might check them out some time once I've completed her mysteries.

I am a big fan of mysteries, especially those by Christie. A few months ago on a whim I decided to read through all of her mysteries starting with the first published and working book by book to her last. What I like about this is that I get a variety of characters (a little Hercule Poirot here, Tommy & Tuppence there or even a Miss Marple), and I'm also able to see Christie's writing mature over the years with each book.

Last night I finished The Man in the Brown Suit. The copy I had was borrowed from the library and 232 pages was a very fast read (I finished it in 2 days), of course the story itself pushed me along so I don't know that page count would have mattered much. Published in 1924, The Man in the Brown Suit is Christie's fourth mystery. Right away I noticed a few unique features of this book. First, it's a spy thriller, unlike the majority of her books, which are "Who Dunit" murders. Second, there is a void of Christie's famous detectives -- no Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple here. Instead the narrative is shared between two people -- a man and a woman -- neither of whom reappear in any of Christie's other works. (Although one of the supporting characters does return at least three times in future novels.)

My first inclination as I began the book was that it would not be one of my favorites. I was particularly turned off by the focus on Plaeolithic history (i.e. Neanderthal, primitive man, etc.) in the first few pages. What could this possibly have to add to the story? I wondered. But my concerns were premature. This focus soon faded, though it did remain a single thread that wove through the story as part of one character's background, which though not necessary to the story did add to the uniqueness. So for those of you out there who might find it likewise irritating, hang in there, the book is worth breezing through the rare parts you may not agree with.

As for the rest of the story -- I found it clever, exciting, and captivating. One particular character had such a wonderful dry wit I had to stop and read aloud a couple passages to my husband, who even though he hadn't a clue what was going on in the story still enjoyed the joke. As I mentioned, the romance came as a surprise to me, but I enjoyed it. I often find modern stories that mix murder with adventure and romance can be a little on the cheesy side, but I didn't find that to be the case here. Christie captured all elements in an excellent way leaving me, the reader, completely satisfied in the end.

Before reading The Man in the Brown Suit I would have said that Murder on the Links was my favorite Agatha Christie novel, but now I might have to reconsider. Or at the very least Murder on the Links is my favorite "Who Dunit" and The Man in the Brown Suit is my favorite spy/thriller.

If you are a reader who is looking for a great mystery, or maybe you're into adventure, or even if it's romance you're looking for -- you will find it all in this book. I highly recommend it to your reading list. Though I'd say borrow, don't buy, but only because once I've read a mystery I don't tend to go back and re-read since I already know the secrets.

As a post script I thought I'd mention a little detail about the Queen of Mysteries. Agatha Christie is considered the world's most published author, with only the Bible outselling her books. Interesting...


Alison said...

Very interesting. I might have to add this book to my read soon stack.

I'm so bad. For every book I read, there are at least half a dozen more I find to read. Although, I suppose that isn't such a bad problem to have. It just makes me wish I had all day to read. :-)

Carrie said...

Yes, if we only just had all day to read.... =D (I'm with you Alison!)

I like that you are reading Christie's books in the order that they are written. What a great idea!

Sherry said...

I like that project, too. It's one I wish I had time to add to all my other projects, but I'll just have to enjoy ikt vicariously through your blog.

Yvette said...

This is in my Top Five of favorite
Agatha Christie books. I mean I simply love it. I must have read and reread it about ten times. When I'm feeling ill, this is the book I reach for. For me the story is all about adventure with a capital A. I like the plucky heroine. I do like the little story within the story of her father's demise. Like the romance. But MOST especially I like the villain. I think this is my favorite Christie villain of all. And you'll notice she does the same thing here (SPOILER ALERT!!!)

as she did with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and yet it seems nobody noticed. Great review.
Oh, and I like the introduction of the ever mysterious Colonel Race.