Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Agatha Christie: Partners in Crime

Partners in Crime (Tommy and Tuppence)The second book in the Agatha Christie mystery series starring Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, the 1929 book Partners in Crime is a short story collection with a thematic spine to hold it together. Six years after the events in their 1922 debut The Secret Adversary -- Christie's second book -- childhood friends Tommy Beresford and Prudence "Tuppence" Crowley are now married.

Tommy is working with the British Secret Service when the chief asks him and Tuppence to take over the International Detective Agency -- the office was being used as a front for an enemy spy network, so Tommy is to impersonate the former head of the agency in order to trap any incoming spies. To keep up the front as a detective agency, of course, they have to take actual cases. As such, Tommy pretends to be "Mr. Blunt" and Tuppence takes on the role of his confidential secretary "Miss Robinson."

The various adventures in the book vacillate between the business of being a spy and the business of being a private detective. To succeed in his business as a private detective, Tommy feels the need to read up on the famous fictional detectives of the day and mimic their methods as each new case comes up. "It would do no harm to acquire the technique, so to speak," Tommy tells his wife. "These books are detective stories by the leading masters of the art. I intend to try different styles, and compare results." As such, Christie takes the opportunity to poke fun at her fellow mystery writers, all of whom were well-known to the reading public of the 1920s.

Partners in Crime is rich in the history of mystery fiction. While there are complete plot descriptions at Wikipedia, following is a list of the classic detectives and mystery writers represented. In the intervening years, many of them have fallen out of favor -- to be frank, I don't know much about some of them myself. (A situation I intend to remedy, and hope to one day follow-up on this blog.)

Listed are the chapter titles in Partners in Crime, followed by the name of the author and detective parodied:

"A Fairy in the Flat" and "A Pot of Tea"
Herbert George Jenkins' Malcolm Sage

The Affair of the Pink Pearl"
R. Austin Freeman's Dr Thorndyke

"The Adventure of the Sinister Stranger"
Valentine Williams' detective brothers Francis and Desmond Okewood

"Finessing the King" and "The Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper"
Isabel Ostrander's ex-policeman Tommy McCarty and firefighter Dennis Riordan

"The Case of the Missing Lady"
Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes

"Blindman's Buff"
Clinton H. Stagg's blind detective Thornley Colton

"The Man in the Mist"
G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown

"The Crackler"
Said to be a spoof on author Edgar Wallace

"The Sunningdale Mystery"
Baroness Orczy's armchair detective Bill Owen and journalist Polly Burton

"The House of Lurking Death"
A. E. W. Mason's French detective M. Hanaud

"The Unbreakable Alibi"
Freeman Wills Crofts' Scotland Yard detective Inspector Joseph French

"The Clergyman's Daughter" and "The Red House"
Anthony Berkeley's detective Roger Sherringham

"The Ambassador's Boots"
H. C. Bailey's detectives Dr. Reginald Fortune and Superintendent Bell

"The Man Who Was No. 16"
Parodies Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novel The Big Four (also a short story collection-turned-novel)

Related links:
Detectives: Agatha Christie: TOMMY and TUPPENCE
Detectives: Agatha Christie: MISS MARPLE
Detectives: Agatha Christie: HERCULE POIROT
Murderous Beginnings: 40 Detective Fiction Firsts
The changing face of traditional mystery fiction

More mystery series:
Detectives: S.S. Van Dine: PHILO VANCE
Detectives: ELLERY QUEEN and INSPECTOR QUEEN
Detectives: Carolyn Keene: NANCY DREW
Detectives: John Dickson Carr: DR. GIDEON FELL
Detectives: Margery Allingham: ALBERT CAMPION
25 Detectives -- from Sherlock Holmes to Adrian Monk
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Die Laughing: Funny Crime and Mystery Fiction

SHE'S THE SHERIFF!

A woman with a complicated past returns home to become the small town's new sheriff. Best Mann For The Job is by the writer/artist team of Chris and Erica Well. Read it from the beginning at StudioWell.com. Watch the trailer on YouTube.