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The Secret Adversary
     

The Secret Adversary

3.6 210
by Agatha Christie
 

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Agatha Christie, the most popular mystery writer of all time, achieved Britain's highest honor when she was made a Dame of the British Empire. With over two billion copies of her books in print, Dame Christie is to mystery what McDonald's is to the hamburger.

Overview

Agatha Christie, the most popular mystery writer of all time, achieved Britain's highest honor when she was made a Dame of the British Empire. With over two billion copies of her books in print, Dame Christie is to mystery what McDonald's is to the hamburger.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781543052336
Publisher:
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date:
02/11/2017
Pages:
238
Product dimensions:
5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER I

THE YOUNG ADVENTURERS, LTD.

"TOMMY, old thing!"

"Tuppence, old bean!"

The two young people greeted each other affectionately, and momentarily blocked the Dover Street Tube exit in doing so. The adjective "old" was misleading. Their united ages would certainly not have totalled forty-five.

"Not seen you for simply centuries," continued the young man. "Where are you off to? Come and chew a bun with me. We're getting a bit unpopular here?blocking the gangway as it were. Let's get out of it."

The girl assenting, they started walking down Dover Street towards Piccadilly.

"Now then," said Tommy, "where shall we go?"

The very faint anxiety which underlay his tone did not escape the astute ears of Miss Prudence Cowley, known to her intimate friends for some mysterious reason as "Tuppence." She pounced at once.

"Tommy, you're stony!"

"Not a bit of it," declared Tommy unconvincingly. "Rolling in cash."

"You always were a shocking liar," said Tuppence severely, "though you did once persuade Sister Greenbank that the doctor had ordered you beer as a tonic, but forgotten to write it on the chart. Do you remember?"

Tommy chuckled.

"I should think I did! Wasn't the old cat in a rage when she found out? Not that she was a bad sort really, old Mother Greenbank! Good old hospital?demobbed like everything else, I suppose?"

Tuppence sighed.

"Yes. You too?"

Tommy nodded.

"Two months ago."

"Gratuity?" hinted Tuppence.

"Spent."

"Oh, Tommy!"

"No, old thing, not in riotous dissipation. No such luck! The cost of living?ordinary plain, or garden living nowadays is, I assure you, if you do not know?"

"My dear child," interrupted Tuppence, "there is nothing Ido NOT know about the cost of living. Here we are at Lyons', and we will each of us pay for our own. That's it!" And Tuppence led the way upstairs.

The place was full, and they wandered about looking for a table, catching odds and ends of conversation as they did so.

"And?do you know, she sat down and CRIED when I told her she couldn't have the flat after all." "It was simply a BARGAIN, my dear! Just like the one Mabel Lewis brought from Paris?"

"Funny scraps one does overhear," murmured Tommy. "I passed two Johnnies in the street to-day talking about some one called Jane Finn. Did you ever hear such a name?"

But at that moment two elderly ladies rose and collected parcels, and Tuppence deftly ensconced herself in one of the vacant seats.

Tommy ordered tea and buns. Tuppence ordered tea and buttered toast.

"And mind the tea comes in separate teapots," she added severely.

Tommy sat down opposite her. His bared head revealed a shock of exquisitely slicked-back red hair. His face was pleasantly ugly?nondescript, yet unmistakably the face of a gentleman and a sportsman. His brown suit was well cut, but perilously near the end of its tether.

They were an essentially modern-looking couple as they sat there. Tuppence had no claim to beauty, but there was character and charm in the elfin lines of her little face, with its determined chin and large, wide-apart grey eyes that looked mistily out from under straight, black brows. She wore a small bright green toque over her black bobbed hair, and her extremely short and rather shabby skirt revealed a pair of uncommonly dainty ankles. Her appearance presented a valiant attempt at smartness.

The tea came at last, and Tuppence, rousing herself from a fit of meditation, poured it out.

"Now then," said Tommy, taking a large bite of bun, "let's get up-to-date. Remember, I haven't seen you since that time in hospital in 1916."

"Very well." Tuppence helped herself liberally to buttered toast. "Abridged biography of Miss Prudence Cowley, fifth daughter of Archdeacon Cowley of Little Missendell, Suffolk. Miss Cowley left the delights (and drudgeries) of her home life early in the war and came up to London, where she entered an officers' hospital. First month: Washed up six hundred and forty-eight plates every day. Second month: Promoted to drying aforesaid plates. Third month: Promoted to peeling potatoes. Fourth month: Promoted to cutting bread and butter. Fifth month: Promoted one floor up to duties of wardmaid with mop and pail. Sixth month: Promoted to waiting at table. Seventh month: Pleasing appearance and nice manners so striking that am promoted to waiting on the Sisters! Eighth month: Slight check in career. Sister Bond ate Sister Westhaven's egg! Grand row! Wardmaid clearly to blame! Inattention in such important matters cannot be too highly censured. Mop and pail again! How are the mighty fallen! Ninth month: Promoted to sweeping out wards, where I found a friend of my childhood in Lieutenant Thomas Beresford (bow, Tommy!), whom I had not seen for five long years. The meeting was affecting! Tenth month: Reproved by matron for visiting the pictures in company with one of the patients, namely: the aforementioned Lieutenant Thomas Beresford. Eleventh and twelfth months: Parlourmaid duties resumed with entire success. At the end of the year left hospital in a blaze of glory. After that, the talented Miss Cowley drove successively a trade delivery van, a motor-lorry and a general!" The last was the pleasantest. He was quite a young general!"

"What brighter was that?" inquired Tommy. "Perfectly sickening the way those brass hats drove from the War Office to the Savoy, and from the Savoy to the War Office!"

"I've forgotten his name now," confessed Tuppence. "To resume, that was in a way the apex of my career. I next entered a Government office. We had several very enjoyable tea parties. I had intended to become a land girl, a postwoman, and a bus conductress by way of rounding off my career?but the Armistice intervened! I clung to the office with the true limpet touch for many long months, but, alas, I was combed out at last. Since then I've been looking for a job. Now then?your turn."

"There's not so much promotion in mine," said Tommy regretfully, "and a great deal less variety. I went out to France again, as you know. Then they sent me to Mesopotamia, and I got wounded for the second time, and went into hospital out there. Then I got stuck in Egypt till the Armistice happened, kicked my heels there some time longer, and, as I told you, finally got demobbed. And, for ten long, weary months I've been job hunting! There aren't any jobs! And, if there were, they wouldn't give 'em to me. What good am I? What do I know about business? Nothing."

Tuppence nodded gloomily.

"What about the colonies?" she suggested.

Tommy shook his head.

"I shouldn't like the colonies?and I'm perfectly certain they wouldn't like me!"

"Rich relations?"

Again Tommy shook his head.

"Oh, Tommy, not even a great-aunt?"

"I've got an old uncle who's more or less rolling, but he's no good."

"Why not?"

"Wanted to adopt me once. I refused."

"I think I remember hearing about it," said Tuppence slowly. "You refused because of your mother?"

Tommy flushed.

"Yes, it would have been a bit rough on the mater. As you know, I was all she had. Old boy hated her?wanted to get me away from her. Just a bit of spite."

"Your mother's dead, isn't she?" said Tuppence gently.

Tommy nodded.

Tuppence's large grey eyes looked misty.

"You're a good sort, Tommy. I always knew it."

"Rot!" said Tommy hastily. "Well, that's my position. I'm just about desperate."

"So am I! I've hung out as long as I could. I've touted round. I've answered advertisements. I've tried every mortal blessed thing. I've screwed and saved and pinched! But it's no good. I shall have to go home!"

"Don't you want to?"

"Of course I don't want to! What's the good of being sentimental? Father's a dear?I'm awfully fond of him?but you've no idea how I worry him! He has that delightful early Victorian view that short skirts and smoking are immoral. You can imagine what a thorn in the flesh I am to him! He just heaved a sigh of relief when the war took me off. You see, there are seven of us at home. It's awful! All housework and mothers' meetings! I have always been the changeling. I don't want to go back, but?oh, Tommy, what else is there to do?"

Tommy shook his head sadly. There was a silence, and then Tuppence burst out:

"Money, money, money! I think about money morning, noon and night! I dare say it's mercenary of me, but there it is!"

"Same here," agreed Tommy with feeling.

"I've thought over every imaginable way of getting it too," continued Tuppence. "There are only three! To be left it, to marry it, or to make it. First is ruled out. I haven't got any rich elderly relatives. Any relatives I have are in homes for decayed gentlewomen! I always help old ladies over crossings, and pick up parcels for old gentlemen, in case they should turn out to be eccentric millionaires. But not one of them has ever asked me my name?and quite a lot never said 'Thank you.'"

There was a pause.

"Of course," resumed Tuppence, "marriage is my best chance. I made up my mind to marry money when I was quite young. Any thinking girl would! I'm not sentimental, you know." She paused. "Come now, you can't say I'm sentimental," she added sharply.

"Certainly not," agreed Tommy hastily. "No one would ever think of sentiment in connection with you."

"That's not very polite," replied Tuppence. "But I dare say you mean it all right. Well, there it is! I'm ready and willing?but I never meet any rich men! All the boys I know are about as hard up as I am."

"What about the general?" inquired Tommy.

"I fancy he keeps a bicycle shop in time of peace," explained Tuppence. "No, there it is! Now you could marry a rich girl."

"I'm like you. I don't know any."

"That doesn't matter. You can always get to know one. Now, if I see a man in a fur coat come out of the Ritz I can't rush up to him and say: 'Look here, you're rich. I'd like to know you.'"

"Do you suggest that I should do that to a similarly garbed female?"

"Don't be silly. You tread on her foot, or pick up her handkerchief, or something like that. If she thinks you want to know her she's flattered, and will manage it for you somehow."

"You overrate my manly charms," murmured Tommy.

"On the other hand," proceeded Tuppence, "my millionaire would probably run for his life! No?marriage is fraught with difficulties. Remains?to MAKE money!"

"We've tried that, and failed," Tommy reminded her.

"We've tried all the orthodox ways, yes. But suppose we try the unorthodox. Tommy, let's be adventurers!"

"Certainly," replied Tommy cheerfully. "How do we begin?"

"That's the difficulty. If we could make ourselves known, people might hire us to commit crimes for them."

"Delightful," commented Tommy. "Especially coming from a clergyman's daughter!"

"The moral guilt," Tuppence pointed out, "would be theirs?not mine. You must admit that there's a difference between stealing a diamond necklace for yourself and being hired to steal it."

"There wouldn't be the least difference if you were caught!"

"Perhaps not. But I shouldn't be caught. I'm so clever."

"Modesty always was your besetting sin," remarked Tommy.

"Don't rag. Look here, Tommy, shall we really? Shall we form a business partnership?"

"Form a company for the stealing of diamond necklaces?"

"That was only an illustration. Let's have a?what do you call it in book-keeping?"

"Don't know. Never did any."

"I have?but I always got mixed up, and used to put credit entries on the debit side, and vice versa?so they fired me out. Oh, I know?a joint venture! It struck me as such a romantic phrase to come across in the middle of musty old figures. It's got an Elizabethan flavour about it?makes one think of galleons and doubloons. A joint venture!"

"Trading under the name of the Young Adventurers, Ltd." Is that your idea, Tuppence?"

"It's all very well to laugh, but I feel there might be something in it."

"How do you propose to get in touch with your would-be employers?"

"Advertisement," replied Tuppence promptly. "Have you got a bit of paper and a pencil? Men usually seem to have. Just like we have hairpins and powder-puffs."

Tommy handed over a rather shabby green notebook, and Tuppence began writing busily.

"Shall we begin: 'Young officer, twice wounded in the war?'"

"Certainly not."

"Oh, very well, my dear boy. But I can assure you that that sort of thing might touch the heart of an elderly spinster, and she might adopt you, and then there would be no need for you to be a young adventurer at all."

"I don't want to be adopted."

"I forgot you had a prejudice against it. I was only ragging you! The papers are full up to the brim with that type of thing. Now listen?how's this? 'Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good.' (We might as well make that clear from the start.) Then we might add: 'No reasonable offer refused'?like flats and furniture."

"I should think any offer we get in answer to that would be a pretty UNreasonable one!"

"Tommy! You're a genius! That's ever so much more chic. 'No unreasonable offer refused?if pay is good.' How's that?"

"I shouldn't mention pay again. It looks rather eager."

"It couldn't look as eager as I feel! But perhaps you are right. Now I'll read it straight through. 'Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused.' How would that strike you if you read it?"

"It would strike me as either being a hoax, or else written by a lunatic."

"It's not half so insane as a thing I read this morning beginning 'Petunia' and signed 'Best Boy.'" She tore out the leaf and handed it to Tommy. "There you are. Times, I think. Reply to Box so-and-so. I expect it will be about five shillings. Here's half a crown for my share."

Tommy was holding the paper thoughtfully. His faced burned a deeper red.

"Shall we really try it?" he said at last. "Shall we, Tuppence? Just for the fun of the thing?"

"Tommy, you're a sport! I knew you would be! Let's drink to success." She poured some cold dregs of tea into the two cups.

"Here's to our joint venture, and may it prosper!"

"The Young Adventurers, Ltd.!" responded Tommy.

They put down the cups and laughed rather uncertainly. Tuppence rose.

"I must return to my palatial suite at the hostel."

"Perhaps it is time I strolled round to the Ritz," agreed Tommy with a grin. "Where shall we meet? And when?"

"Twelve o'clock to-morrow. Piccadilly Tube station. Will that suit you?"

"My time is my own," replied Mr. Beresford magnificently.

"So long, then."

"Good-bye, old thing."

The two young people went off in opposite directions. Tuppence's hostel was situated in what was charitably called Southern Belgravia. For reasons of economy she did not take a bus.

She was half-way across St. James's Park, when a man's voice behind her made her start.

"Excuse me," it said. "But may I speak to you for a moment?"

Meet the Author

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, DBE was an English crime novelist, short story writer, and playwright.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
September 15, 1890
Date of Death:
January 12, 1976
Place of Birth:
Torquay, Devon, England
Education:
Home schooling
Website:
http://www.agathachristie.com

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The Secret Adversary (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 210 reviews.
amulet4good More than 1 year ago
This is about two young people in postwar (WW 2)London scrabbling about with empty pockets in search of jobs. Casual accqaintences before, they meet by accident and, over a cup of tea, decide to pool their talents and put an ad in newspapers as investigators, The Young Adventurers' and they niavely fall into a crimminal gang's plot to overthrow the British government. I couldn't put it down 'til the last page and is that a surprise.
Ryan_G More than 1 year ago
I finally finished reading the second book of my Agatha Christie self challenge. I picked it up shortly after finishing The Mysterious Affair at Styles but wasn't able to really get into it the way I wanted to, not because of the book though, but because of outside influences. Then when I went to pick it up again, I couldn't find the blasted thing. I looked everywhere for it and not one speck of it's lovely brown cover was to be seen. So I had to go buy the book again and now here I am a few days later giving my short review of it. Here is the synopsis from the back cover: Two bright young characters of the Jazz Age start out looking for adventures and wind us saving England in Agatha Christie's The Secret Adversary. Childhood friends Tommy Beresford and Prudence "Tuppence" Crowley have hit hard times. It's 1920, and the Great War is blessedly over. But the peace has left staid old England in the upheaval and the young veteran and the pretty former nurse flat broke. In the free spirit of the age, the two advertise themselves as "Young Adventurers," hoping for enjoyable as well as profitable employment. Their first client, a British Army Intelligence officer, promises both when he hires them to find a missing woman, and the charming duo are soon involved in a case of international intrigue, mistaken identities, and ultimately romance. I found the book as well as the characters, Tommy and Tuppence, to be both intelligent and at times a little spastic. Now you may think that spastic is a bad thing, normally it is, but here it is a wonderful thing. The pace and the dialogue are snappy, quick, and above all else entertaining. The dialogue is simply breathtaking to read. It's quick and punchy. The report between Tommy and Tuppence is simply amazing. This book really showed how well Agatha Christie could write quick, believable dialogue. It is still the one element that is really sticking in my mind after finishing the book last night. It had been a long time since I had read the book so the fact that this is more of a "espionage" novel rather than a "murder mystery" was not at the top of my mind. I was a little bit dismayed at first because I do enjoy a nice murder. It wasn't long though before I didn't care anymore. The story grabbed me and never let go. I'm really looking forward to the next Tommy & Tuppence novel but there are a "few" books between now and then. They already feel like old friends that you can't get enough of. If you like a great read with secret organizations, master-mind criminals posing as someone else, witty dialogue and characters, torpedoed ships, beautiful girls with amnesia, and rich Americans, this book is for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that this book was pretty good. It presented a unique problem. I predicted who the criminal was, but I am very good at mysteries and I don't think that it was very obvious (the answer, I mean). You should definitely read this book. I couldn't put it down!
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pattyb41 More than 1 year ago
The Secret Adversary may turn out to be my favorite. A younger version of Miss Marple and Poirot, every bit as spellbinding.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im thirteen i love this book great book to help you strengthrn ur mind abd catch you into a mysterious world thst makes you think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not much on the mystery side both wonderfully done...
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manirul01 More than 1 year ago
Beautiful
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KeithDaniels More than 1 year ago
Typical Christie: a fast read with plenty of red herrings. One of the better Tommy and Tuppence books.
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