Notes On Partners In Crime

Rating: 3.5 out of five

Year of Publication: 1929

Motive for Crimes: Wealth

Mission: Intelligence

Plot:

Tuppence’s thirst for adventure is fulfilled when Mr. Carter makes a surprise visit to the Beresfords’s home. He proposes Tommy taking over the now defunct ‘The International Detective Agency’ after the capture of Theodore Blunt, whose activities abroad are linked to a famous Russian agent ‘16.’ Tommy is to continue Blunt’s being a private detective while looks out for any blue letters with a Russian stamp on them. As soon as it turns up, the Beresfords must forward it to Mr. Carter.

Handling an array of interesting cases, from the missing girlfriend to an unbreakable alibi, the husband and wife are encountered with a series of fascinating and unprecedented events. Dangers also loom over them from their secret adversaries.

Franscesca Annis as Tuppence and James Warwick Tommy in 1983’s TV series.

Can the duo amateur sleuths accomplish the mission: to capture no. 16?

Highlights:      

Young Adventurers, Ltd.  makes a come back as ‘Blunt’s Brilliant Detectives’ – the couple’s slogan for the firm they run.  Six years after Jane Finn’s affair (see Notes On The Secret Adversary), Mrs. Beresford’s grey cells require exercise.  Playing her part as a demure but very effective secretary, Tuppence shows the same agility and perceptive mind tackling  a curious incident.

This second book of Tommy and Tuppence series has the same light-hearted touch of the sleuthing world as the previous one, published seven years earlier. Moving fast from one case to another, fourteen in total, their beguiling nature will thrill readers to no end. With sleeping enemies and a dangerous mission to achieve, some ‘hiccups’ are bound to happen along the way.

The husband might be the head of the firm, but the wife decides what matters. Or rather, a weary  husband who quietly disagrees the risky steps being taken by his indomitable wife. Nonetheless, she is apt in inventing the first case with a help of an old acquaintance; a good intention on her part that hurts a man’s pride. Tommy then scores in the second case, having found a way to prove the innocence of two people inspired Dr. John Thorndyke.  Summing up, he says: ‘My learned friend forgets. Thorndyke never tells until the last moment. Besides, Tuppence, you and your pal Janet Smith put one over on me last time. This makes us all square.’

Tuppence’s quick-thinking and Tommy’s cautious approach are the opposite attract that make the collaboration a success. Mind, Albert, the page boy Tuppence recruited to watch Rita Vandermeyer in The Secret Adversary comes handy when either of them are in tight places. Furthermore, every prospective client is fed with the agency’s credentials the moment they have stepped into the office. More importantly, his talk is as good as his act as he saves Tommy and Tuppence’s life on separate occasions.

The best aspect of the book is the duo’s humour in role-playing by enlisting various names in the crime genre. Taking his hat off after finding a missing pink pearl, Tommy wears another as Father Brown in The Man In The Mist, being the American McCarthy, trying his hand as Holmes in the mix-up of the US Ambassador’s kitbag on board a liner and Desmond Okewood. Meanwhile, although Tuppence is either Watson or Hastings, she seems to have more imagination than the sidekicks and takes an unexpected move when the net is closing in for No. ’16.’

Father Brown, GK Chesterton’s empathetic character has been adapted on the BBC and the new series were broadcast last January 2013. Mark Williams stars as the protagonist.

My favourite case is The Curious Telegram (I invent the title myself).  A Pole explorer who has returned having been away for two years’ expedition feels something is amiss when he received a telegram from his fiancée. Why didn’t she wish to meet him? After he leaves the office Tuppence points out that the county’s name has been written on the county’s name, which is not a common practice. Her hunch finally leads to the discovery of the ‘missing fiance’ whom has checked herself in into a clinic in Essex.  Furthermore, the scene in which Tuppence looks into the room by climbing the ladder will recall readers’ mind to the similar doing of hers while indentifying Jane Finn’s whereabouts in a nursing home. Above all, what amuses me is not the strange premises, but the very reason as to why the explorer’s fiancée has hidden herself in such establishment.

Full of Christie’s dry wits and humour, this book is nevertheless was written during an extremely difficult time in her life. Kudos to her, quadruple thumbs-up that she kept on writing and most significantly that not an iota of resentment is drawn against the opposite sex. In fact, she encourages the equal partnership between a man and a woman. As far as I am concerned, her hinting at her ordeal is expressed through the Beresfords’s stressing of not taking a divorce case.

In fact, she sent the message of her resilience in the ending. After Tuppence regains her consciousness, Tommy says,‘… we’re going to give it up now, aren’t we? ‘Certainly we are.’ He gives a sigh of relief. ‘I hoped you’d be sensible. After a shock like this..’ ‘It’s not the shock. You know I never mind shocks.’ He murmurs, ‘A rubber bone – indestructible.’ ‘I’ve got something better to do. Something ever so much more exciting. Something I’ve never done before.’ Another project, anyone? You bet.

Lastly, I wish there were more details about No. ’16.’ Who is the agent? As this is not deliberated, I hardly believe she might have been Countess Vera Rossakoff, Poirot’s so-called woman. In the following I omit The Most Fascinating Character owing to her being the perfect criminal and on a par with the fellow whodunits in Sad Cypress, After The Funeral and By The Pricking of My Thumbs (see my respective Notes on the three novels).

The Details of each case in the order of their appearance:

1.       The Missing Girlfriend:

Plot: A man in love is astounded by the sudden disappearance of a woman, of whom he has taken interest in. As usual he waits for her outside a hat shop where she works, but she has not came to work that day. He then seeks her in her lodging and she has not come back the night before.

In despair, he turns to the agency, having remembered about its advertisement on the paper mentioned by the woman. Can Tuppence keep her promise to find her in twenty-four hours?

Cast of Characters:  Lawrence St. Vincent (the client) and Jeanette (a.k.a. Janet Smith)

The Twist: Miss Smith is an ex-nurse, of whom Tuppence acquainted during the Great War and now works in a hat shop

2.       The Missing Pink Pearl:

Plot: A guest’s valuable pearl is missing when she stays at the Kingston-Bruces’s home, The Laurels. Beatrice Kingston-Bruce steps into Blunt’s Detectives office recommended by Lawrence St. Vincent, of whom happens to know the family and was at the house at that time.

Having heard the brief of the case, Tuppence notices that the young woman has not told her everything.

Cast of Characters:

– Elise (Lady Laura’s maid)

– Gladys Hill (the parlour maid at the Kingston Bruces’s house The Laurels)

-Mrs. Hamilton Betts (American, the owner of the pink pearl who stays at The Laurels)

-The Kingston-Bruces (father, mother and Beatrice the daughter)

-Lady Laura Barton (a guest staying at The Laurels)

– Mr. Rennie (Beatrice’s friend)

The Twist: Beatrice and Mr. Reinnie suspect one another for stealing the pearl

3.       The Adventure of the Sinister Stranger

Plot: A doctor describes strange occurrences about the letter and the false summon he had to Tommy and Tuppence. Nonetheless, the client’s eyes somehow glance at a blue envelope arrived moments before. After he left, the couple examines the Russian stamp on it whereby number sixteen appears.

As promised, Tommy goes to the client’s house in Hamsptead at night. Little does he know what awaits him there.

Cast of Characters:

Dr. Charles Bower (a.k.a Carl Bauer)

Inspector Dymchurch

The Twist: Tommy inadvertently pockets a silver cigarette case engraved  ‘Francis from Tuppence’ that is supposed to be Tuppence’s present for her friend’s wedding

4.       The Three Arts Ball

Plot: In a costume party Tuppence realises that a woman, dressed as The Queen of Heart,  has been stabbed with a small dagger and is barely alive. ‘Bingo did it…,’ she says in a strained whisper and shortly afterward dies. She refers to Captain Hale, the deceased’s husband’s best friend.

Franscesca Annis as Tuppence is resplendent in the twenties’ dress

The next day, the deceased’s husband, Sir Arthur Merivale comes over to ask Tuppence about his late wife’s last words. For he had no idea that his late wife would have come to the party.

Did the captain kill her?

Cast of Characters:

Sir Arthur Merivale (the husband)

Lady Merivale (the deceased)

Captain’Bingo Hale (the main suspect)

The Twist: Sir Arthur jumps off the window of the agency’s office

5.       The Curious Telegram

Plot: A North Pole explorer turns up at the agency with a telegram in his hand. For he does not believe that it is from his fiancée, of whom upon his return after two years’ expedition has apparently not very keen to see him. Has she really gone to Monte Carlo for week as written on it?

Cast of Characters:

Gabriel Stavansson (the explorer)

The Honorable Hermione Crane (the fiancée, previously Mrs. Leigh Gordon)

Dr. Horriston (who runs The Grange, a clinic at Maldon, Essex)

The Twist: Mr. Stavansson dislikes a fat woman

6.       Blindman’s Bluff

Plot: A middle-aged man approaches Tommy and Tuppence’s table while they have lunch at the Blitz. Introducing himself as Duke of Blairgowie, he wants to consult them on the matter of the disappearance of his sixteen-year-old’s niece. Furthermore, he will give Tommy a lift back to the office while Tuppence, introduced as Miss Gange is left behind to arrange other matters.

In the car Tommy finds out that the man is an impostor, who knows his real name and the mission Blunt’s Detectives. What will Tommy do?

Cast of Characters:

–          Duke of Blairgowie

–          Captain Harker (the ‘Duke’’s companion)

–          Gregory (the chauffeur)

The Twist: The ‘Duke’ does believe that ‘Mr. Blunt’ is blind

7.       The Man In The Mist

Plot: Still wearing a parson’s outfit after solving a case, Tommy bumps into an old acquaintance, who happens to be in the same hotel in which the Beresfords were having tea. The other man introduces Tommy to his companion, a famous actress Gilda Glen. Presently she sends a letter to Tommy, asking for him to come to her dwelling at The White House.

Meanwhile, Tuppence is acquainted with a poet, of whom is the erstwhile boyfriend of Miss Glen. He remarks on her current relationship with a richer man. ‘And if she sells herself to that muck cheap, Leconbury – well, God help her. I’d as soon kill her with my own hands.’

When Tommy and Tuppence comes at the house at the agreed time, little do they know that the actress has already been killed. More importantly, they have met the murderer before entering the house.

Cast of Characters:

Ellen (Mrs. Honeycott’s maid)

James Reilly (the poet)

Miss Gilda Glen

Mrs. Honeycott (Glen’s sister, with whom she stays at The White House)

Marvyn Estcourt (a.k.a. ‘Bulger,’ the Beresfords’s acquaintance)

The Twist: Gilda Glen was married young at seventeen and now seeks divorce from her first husband to be able to remarry

8.       The Crackler

Plot: A case of counterfeit money brings the couple to a distinguished London club where the transactions allegedly have taken place before the forged notes brought across the English Channel. A certain man in position and power is suspected although nothing can be associated with the crime at a big scale.

The live and parties in the roaring twenties’ Britain.

When the party ends, Tommy, posing as a well-to-do young man with money to burn, follows his new friend, Mr. Reilly to Whitecapel. Through some dingy alleys Tommy goes straight into a lion’s den, which is the factory where the notes are produced. Can he escape in one piece?

Cast of Characters:

–          Hank Ryder (a rich American man)

–          The Laidlaws (a Major and French wife, Marguerite)

The Twist: Tommy has instructed Albert to follow him on a motorcycle if he goes with Ryder. The faithful ‘assistant’ then promptly alerts Inspector Marriot.

9.       The Sunningdale Mystery

Plot: Over lunch the Beresfords discuss the murder of Captain Anthony Sessle on the links. He was stabbed with a woman’s hatpin.  The last person to have seen him alive is his friend and partner in the insurance company, Hollaby. According to him the deceased was seen talking to a woman when he reached the sixth hole first. Afterwards it was noticed that the captain’s luck in the game changed and he left after the eighth hole.

A week later Dorris Evans is charged with the murder. To the police she said to have met Sessle at the cinema and had been invited to his bungalow Sunningdale, when there was nobody there. Moreover, she did not know that he was married. He then suggested their taking a stroll; she was walking  on the outskirt of the golf course when suddenly he brandished a revolver. They were then in a fight and she managed to free herself.

Whose story is the truth?

 Cast of Characters:

–          Mr. Hollaby (the deceased’s friend and partner at The Porcupine Assurance Co)

–          Mrs. Sessle

–          Mr. Hollaby’s son

The Twist: Dorris Evan never sees the body of Sessle’s

10.   The House of Lurking Death

Plot: Tommy’s attention is drawn to the headlines on newspaper:

‘Mysterious Poisoning Case. Deaths From Fig Sandwiches.’

For the victim, Lois Hargreaves, came the day before describing a box of chocolates she had received which contained a small dose of arsenic; enough to cause illness but not a fatal one.

Arrived in the village where Hargreaves used to live, Tommy and Tuppence interviews the doctor about the poisoning. At first they suspect Hargreave’s stepbrother, who benefits from her death. Nonetheless he also died on the same day despite having occurred on a separate occasion. Then, to the deceased’s friend who happened to stay over at the time of the tragedy.

Not until Tuppence meets another inhabitant of the house then she realises how the murderer has done it so far.

Cast of Characters:

–          Dr. Burton (the village doctor)

–          Hannah (the maid at Thurnly Grange)

–          Miss Logan (Lois’s late aunt’s companion)

–          Lois Hargreaves (the client, who inherits Thurnly Grange)

–          Mary Chilcott (Louise’s friend who stays over)

The Twist: Hannah keeps a textbook belong to Miss Logan in her room

An alley in East End London in 19th century. It is through one of these Tommy walks through with Mr. O’Reilly

  1. 11.   The Unbreakable Alibi

Plot: Mr. Montgomery Jones accepts a challenge from Una Drake to solve the mystery of her being at London and Torquay at the same time, on the same day. For he tries to impress her but does not feel to have the skills to explain the plausibility of the impossible.

Cast of Characters:

Mr. Le Marchant (Una’s friend who dines with her at the Savoy)

Mr. Montgomery Jones (the client, recommended by L.St. Vincent)

Mrs. Oglander (who sits next to Una’s table at the Savoy)

The receptionist, the chambermaid at the Castle Hotel in Torquay

The Twist: Miss Drake has a twin sister, who arrived in England from Australia

  1. 12.   The Clergyman’s Daughter

Plot: A priest’s daughter has inherited from a wealthy paternal great aunt, along with a big house. A man puts an offer to it, which she refuses. Then strange things occur, which suggests that her home is haunted.

Dr. O’Neill, whose great interest to the curious happenings in the house, is willing to buy the house for solving its mystery. What makes him increase his offer by £150?

While doing the search, Tuppence discovers a riddle among the great aunt’s papers:

My first you put on a glowing coal

And into it you put my whole

My second really is the first

My third mislikes the winter blast

What does it suppose to mean?

Cast of Characters:

Monica Deane (the client)

The gardener

The Twist: Miss Deane notices that Dr. O’Neill and the previous man who makes an offer to the house have the same gold tooth.

  1. 13.   The Ambassador’s Boots

Plot: Two identical kitbags with the same initials swap owners on board of Nomadic liner; one belongs to a senator and the other to the US Ambassador in Britain. Intriguingly, the senator denies having had the item among his luggage.

When enquired as to the content of the bag, the ambassador says that there were boots inside. ‘Silly case, this. Boots – you now. Why boots?’ asks Tuppence. ‘All wrong. Who wants other people’s boots?’

In their interview with the ambassador’s valet, he tells them that a woman happened to feel queer  outside his master’s cabin. He took her inside and left her alone to fetch a doctor, which took some time. Nonetheless, a witness came forward, saying that she actually pretended to be fainted and was seen to have slipped something in the lining of the ambassador’s boot.

Cast of Characters:

Cicely March (the witness, a.k.a. Ellen O’Hara)

Randolph Wilmott (the US Ambassador)

Richards (Wilmott’s valet)

The Twist: The valet sees a tin of bath salts in the senator’s kitbag

  1. 14.   The Man Who Was No.16

Plot: When Tuppence realises that the leaf of the office calendar is days forward, Sunday 16th,  she thought Albert has made a mistake. The evidence in the wastepaper basket is a contrast. Shortly afterwards a Russian prince goes in, of whom, after an exchange of secret phrases with Tommy, comes clean about his identity.

While the prince takes Tuppence for lunch, Tommy meets Mr. Carter to brew the plan. For he realises that the prince is no.16. Having understood what Tuppence has risked, the Chief reassures the other that his wife is in safe hands; that two agents have been assigned to follow her and No.16 into the prince’s hotel suit. Then all of a sudden they lose track of their targets.

Cast of Characters:

Prince Vladiroffsky (the Russian prince)

Mrs. Van Synder (American, who occupies suit No.318)

The Twist: The Prince is not no. 16

Notes On Postern of Fate

Rating: three out of five

Year of Publication: 1973 (UK Collins Crime Club)

The blue badge at a house in Lewisham, Greater London, UK where Flecker was born. The book’s title is taken from by  his poem ‘The Gates of Damascus.’Just like ‘Mary Jordan,’ the English poet died at young age. His poems were influenced by a certain literary style of French poetry – Parnassianism.

Motive for Murder: Evidence / Identity

Plot: The Beresfords, now in their seventies, are settling down in their new home at Hollowquay, a coastal village in East England. At retirement age one physically becomes tired easily, yet the mind is another matter.  Tuppence’s looking at some old books in the attic brings about another adventure – the last one. By chance, in a children’s book, she finds a number of words underlined which then, after pondering over them, form a message. Mary Jordan did not die naturally. It was one of us. I think I know which one.

Who is Mary Jordan? Nobody seems to know any Jordans having lived or buried in the village. Although some still remember about the Parkinsons, the family who used to live in the Beresfords’s. The book seems to have belonged to the young Alex Parkinson. While taking the dog for a walk in the churchyard, Tommy spots the boy’s grave, whom died at the age of fourteen.

Furthermore, were Parkinson and Jordan related? If Jordan had been killed, how about the boy, having died young? Rumours have it that Jordan was a governess and a German spy before the outbreak of the First World War.

In the meantime, Tommy is intrigued having been told by his old contacts that the village was used as the centre of an early fascist movement in Britain. Coupled with the revelation about an English Naval officer who supported the Fifth Column, it fascinates him more what role Jordan has meant to play. Was she a foe or friend? Who killed her?

Little does Tuppence realise that her life is in danger once more.

Highlights:

The last book in Tommy and Tuppence’s series sums up the husband and wife’s previous adventures as the unlikely and the unofficial British agents. It harks back to the days of The Young Adventurers, the hunt of Jane Finn and confidential intelligence information concealed in a nursery rhymes’s book  (N or M – see the Notes). So it is of a little surprise that in the pages of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Black Arrow Tuppence finds a treasure, which then spurs on a treasure hunt in the house they have moved in.

It was first published in 1888.

To begin with, the setting is an interesting period before the outbreak of the First World War. In 1913, once upon a time an English Naval officer is revealed as a German Spy by an undercover British agent. Nonetheless, Mary Jordan, despite of her hard work was unable to present the damning evidence timely. She was poisoned and died later while the incriminating papers in the form of letters had vanished, surely having been hidden somewhere.  For this reason Tuppence must figure out where they were and drags Tommy into it.

Next, the first hurdle they have to clear is that nobody actually knows what happened. The trails have gone cold, but recollections and reminiscences of elderly people. Nevertheless, just as in Sleeping Murder (see the Notes), somehow someone knows. Moreover, Tuppence’s ‘elephants’ are not much different from Ariadne Oliver’s (see Notes On Elephants Can Remember).

Next, the second challenge is to separate facts from myths, tales from truths.  Christie gives readers quite a number of red herrings and details, from various references to Edwardian era to classic titles of children’s English literature; from Tommy and Tuppence’s domestical issues to an old gardener with a wealth of knowledge about yesteryears.

Then lines after lines of conversations with myriad characters; tales retold and recalled in which truths and myths are intertwined. Christie can be quite convincing in doing so, for halfway the plot takes a U-turn as Mary Jordan’s status is clarified. In fact, it takes only a sentence to clarify it. ‘She is one of our lot,’ says Mr. Robinson to Tommy.

The opera was first performed in 1850 and inspired other works of art in the period.

Be that as it may, Tuppence’s list of clues becomes the most fascinating aspect of the plot (see the Twists). Seemingly nonsense, a list containing vintage toys, a pair of Victorian porcelain gardening stools and Wagner’s Lohengrin altogether are the solution. Christie’s whimsical sense of humour does not sound to have receded with age.

My question is: does it matter that the evidence must be recovered? First and foremost the people concerned are already dead.  What would Tuppence gain by dwelling into the matter? Was it the principle that truth must come up somehow on the part of the authoress? Or, does Tuppence see Jordan in herself and therefore she should complete the other’s mission? (see Clues).

Of all the characters, Isaac Boldicott stands out. The old gardener cannot do much around the garden but he has sharp memories about people and events. Through his rambling Tuppence is introduced to ‘Truelove, ’ ‘KK’ and ‘Mathilde.’ Was he ‘the East Gate Warden’? For in Flecker’s poem, it says ‘…This is the song of the East Gate Warden; when he locks the great gate and smokes in his garden…’

If anything, Boldicott reminds me of old Merdell in Dead Man’s Folly (see the Notes); the difference is that Merdell keeps himself to himself, except that he talks to his granddaughter. His remark to Poirot ‘ Always Folliats in Nasse’  is crucial. On the other hand, Boldicott is indiscreet about things and talks too much. Yet, unlike Merdell’s granddaughter, of whom being strangled to death, Boldicott’s grandson Henry invites himself to help Tuppence in her ‘research’ with his Junior Brigade friends.

‘Mathilde’ is a rocking horse. Tuppence found it in the green house at the back of her house. It is the content of its stomach that matters.

In this regard, Christie seems to reflect Alex Parkinson in Henry Boldicott, and Mary Jordan in Tuppence.  Here is the guessing part for readers, as to whether  Parkinson had an understanding about his smart governess; that her demeanour had been distinctive and may not have been quite like the former governesses whom had come before. Children’s blind understanding, so to speak.

As regard to the identity of ‘Mary Jordan,’ Christie also leaves readers to fill the gap about this ‘ghost’ character. In the book readers will find her real name, that she is half Austrian and thus fluent in German.  Nonetheless, how old was she when she died, who killed her and where she would have been buried are another story to be written.

Lastly, the title. I gather that James Elroy Flecker’s eponymous poem might derive from Christie’s reminiscences to the days of travelling in Syria in the thirties, which is then wittingly recalled with love in Come, Tell Me How You Live (see the Notes). More importantly, that ‘The Laurels,’ Tuppence and Tommy’s house suggests Greenway, The Mallowans’s much loved holiday home while  Hannibal the dog is in reality is Bingo, their second terrier (see The Most Fascinating Character). Nevertheless, what is in ‘Postern of Fate’? I cannot deduce why it is chosen rather than the names for the other three gates – Fort of Fear, the Desert Gate or Disaster’s Cavern? Perhaps it is just simply the fate that this is the last book written by Agatha Christie Mallowan.

In the meantime, do leave a comment, will you, if you happen to spot Jordan’s real name. 🙂

Four great gates has the city of Damascus…

And four Great Wardens, on their spears reclining

All day long stand like tall stone men

And sleep on the towers when the moon is shining

This is the song of the East Gate Warden

When he locks the great gate and smokes in his garden

Postern of Fate, the Desert Gate, Disaster’s Cavern, Fort of Fear

The Portal of Bagdad am I, and Doorway of Diarbekir

 (the first part of ‘The Gates of Damascus’ by J.E. Flecker)

The Twists:

Tuppence’s List of Clues:

-Black Arrow

-Alexander Parkinson

-Mary Jordan did not die naturally

An illustration of a pair of Victorian garden stools ‘Oxford’ and ‘Cambridge’ Isaac Boldicott points out to Tuppence. In the book, they have ‘swans’ which are associated to Wagner’s Lohengrin.

-Oxford and Cambridge porcelain Victorian seats

-Grin-Hen-Lo

-KK

-Mathilde’s stomach

-Cain and Abel

-Truelove’

 

-Albert sees Miss Mullins put something in Tuppence’s cup of coffee through an enlarged crack in the Tuppence’s bedroom door.

 

Cast of Characters:

Albert (the Beresfords’s manservant)

Andrew (Tommy and Tuppence’s grandson)

Colonel Atkinson (Tommy’s contact)

The Beresfords (Tommy and Tuppence)

Beatrice (the Beresfords’s cleaner)

‘Truelove’? A cart toy from the early 1900 are among old things Tuppence has unearthed in the green house of hers.   One of the wheels is tampered when Tuppence has a go on it. As a result, the cart goes down the hill very fast and nearly kills her.

Mrs. Boldicott (Isaac’s daughter-in-law and Henry’s mother)

Clarence (Henry’s friend at Junior Brigade)

Miss Collodon (the woman Tommy has employed to do some research)

Mr. Crispin (a British agent who takes cover as a gardener for the Beresfords)

Deborah (the Beresfords’s daughter)

Miss Dorothy Little (‘The Parish Pump’ – of the local Women Institute)

Gwenda (Beatrice’s friend, who works in the post office)

Hannibal (the Beresfords’s dog)

Henry Boldicott (Isaac’s grandson)

Isaac Boldicott (an old gardener, Henry’s grandfather)

Janet (Tommy and Tuppence’s granddaughter)

Miss Irish Mullins (a.k.a. ‘Dodo’ by Mr. Crispin, a facist)

Mrs. Lupton

‘Mutton-chop’ (a nickname for Tommy’s friend, an inactive agent)

Colonel Pikeaway

Mr. Robinson (in the Intelligent posing as a City banker)

Rosalie (Tommy and Tuppence’s granddaughter)

Mrs. Winifred Griffin (nee Morrison, an elderly neighbour who knows about the Parkinsons)

A grizzled man (Tommy’s friend and old contact)

The Most Fascinating Character: Hannibal

In A Murder Is Announced, Tiglath Pileser, the Vicar’s dog, gives Miss Marple a clue about the drama unfolded at Miss Letitia Blacklock’s house.

Hannibal, the black and tan terrier of Tommy and Tuppence’s is Bingo, the Mallowans’s second terrier.

It is little wonder that Hannibal, the Beresfords’s Manchester Terrier becomes a hero. The namesake apparently is based not upon another Assyrian king but Count Hannibal (1901). Nonetheless, it might resemble the appearance and traits of the Mallowans’s second terrier, Bingo.

While there is no need to describe that Hannibal is part of the family, no reference has been made as to how ‘he’ has come into the possession of Tuppence and Tommy. Whose idea to get a dog? Was ‘he’ a present from their grown-up children? There is no mention either of getting a dog in the previous novel of theirs, By The Pricking Of My Thumb (see the Notes).

Christie’s soft spot to this canine creature sees her refer Hannibal as a ‘he’ than ‘it’ and therefore having given ‘it’ a voice. At any rate the terrier is part of the team; it guides Tommy to find Alexander Parkinson’s grave and knows – sniff, to be precise- which one is either enemies or friends.

His looks are described as:

‘…Hannibal was a small black dog, very glossy with interesting tan patched on his behind and each side of his cheeks. He was a Manchester terrier of very pure pedigree and he considered himself to be on a much higher level of sophistication and aristocracy than any other dog he met.’

Furthermore is the character:

He (Tommy) did not know if it was worse or better that Tuppence should have Hannibal. Hannibal would certainly allow no harm to come to Tuppence. The question was, might Hannibal do some damage to other people? He was friendly when taken visiting people, but people who wished to visit Habbibal, to enter any house in which he lived, were always definitely suspect in Hannibal’s mind. He was ready at all risks to both bark and bite if he considered necessary.

I am fascinated since when the black and tan terrier has been domesticated. For it is originally a working dog whose reputation as a ratter was popular over a hundred and fifty years ago. The name ‘Manchester Terrier’ was first used in 1890s, owing to a number of them usually found in North West England in towns near Manchester where the cotton industry was.  More importantly, it gained famous reputation – or notorious some would say- from the Rat Pit in 19th century.

‘The Rat Pit,’ a popular ‘sporting game’ in 19th century in which a Manchester terrier would run around a pitch killing the rats.

One thing for sure, Hannibal is an extraordinary dog.

Clues:

Tuppence Beresford (TB)’s interviews Gwenda (G):

TB: ‘It was someone called mary Jordan I was asking about. Beatrice [her cleaner] said you knew about her.’

G: ‘Not really – I just heard her name mentioned once or twice, but it was ages ago. Lovely golden hair she had, my grandmother said. German she was – one of those Frowlines as they were called. Looked after children – a kind of nurse. Had been with a naval family somewhere. That was up in Scotland, I think. And afterwards she came down here. Went to a family called Parks – or Perkins. She used to have one day off a week, you know, and go to London, and that’s where she used to take things, whatever they were.

TB: ‘What sort of things?’

G: ‘ I don’t know – nobody ever said much. Things she’d stolen, I expect.’

TB: ‘Was she discovered stealing?’

G; ‘On, no, I don’t think so. They were beginning to suspect, but she got ill and died before that.’

TB: ‘What did she die of? Did she die down here? I suppose she went to hospital?’

G; ‘ No – I don’t think there were any hospitals to go to then. Wasn’t any Welfare in those days. Somebody told me it was some silly mistake the cook made. Brought foxglove leaves into the house by mistake for spinach – or for lettuce, perhaps. No, I think that was someone else. Someone told me it was a deadly nightshade but I don’t believe that for a moment, because I mean, everyone knows about deadly nightshade, don’t they, and anyway that’s berries. Well, I think this was foxglove leaves brought in from the garden by mistake. Foxglove is Digoxo or some name like Digit – something that sounds like fingers. It’s got something very deadly in it – the doctor came and he did what he could, but I think it was too late.’

TB: ‘Where there many people in the house when it happened?’

G; ‘Oh, there was quite a lot I should think – ys, because there were always people staying, so I’ve heard, and children, you know, and weekenders and a nursery maid and a governess, I think, and parties……’

Conversations between Thomas Beresford and Colonel Atkinson:

A: ‘Well, I expect you’ve read about it or heard about it. The Cardington Scandal. You know, came after that other thing- the what-you-call- ‘em letters- and the Emlyn Johnson submarine business.’

TB: ‘Oh, I seem to remember something vaguely.’

A: ‘Well, it wasn’t actually submarine business, but that’s what called attention to the whole thing. And there were those letters, you see. Gave the whole show away politically. Yes. Letters. If they’d been able to get hold of them it would to several people who at the time were the most highly trusted people in the government. Astonishing how these things happen, isn’t it? You know! The traitors in one’s midst, always highly trusted, always splendid fellows, always the last people to be suspected…..’

Notes On The Secret Adversary

Rating: 3.5 out of five

Year of Publication: 1922

Motive for Murder: Identity/Betrayal

Plot: At the end of the Great War the political map in Europe alters a great deal. A wave of change swipes across Britain;  the Labour is growing from strength to strength and the economy is bleak.

It is five years after Germans torpedoed the Lusitania in the Atlantic. Among the dead passengers was a British agent, who had brought with him a draft of treaty from the US. Such document would have been beneficial to Britain at the war time. Now it will easily be used to topple the incumbent government.

As a result, the hunt for the document continues. For both opposing sides have realised that before the agent died, he had handed it over to a young American woman, Jane Finn, who was rescued and arrived safely in England.

Apparently her memory has been affected by the shock: she cannot remember anything before 7th May 1915, the day the Lusitania sinking. Consequently, nobody can retrace the document until she recovers.

Tommy Beresford and Prudence Crowley – the making of the duo detectives

In the meantime, a mere chance of having heard scraps of conversations on the street leads the young Tommy Beresford and Tuppence Crowley to be involved in the ‘Jane Finn Affair’. When they accept the assignment from Mr. Carter to get the document, little do they know of what their enemies are capable.  Despite Mr. Carter’s warning on their ruthlessness, the pair are determined to carry out their plan. Time is essential, for  Tommy and Tuppence just have a fortnight: they have to hand it in to Mr. Carter before the Labour Strike on 29th.

But beforehand they must find who Mr. Brown is.

 

Highlights:

The second novel of Christie’s sees the making of Tommy and Tuppence. They formed Young Adventures, Ltd.  after bumping into one another on a tube station.  Over tea and toast they were lamenting about the gloomy prospect for romance and job and therefore being ‘self-employed’ to take tasks to find ‘anything’ sound s like the most suitable option presently. The rest is the couple’s respective adventures to find out where Jane Finn is and reveal the identity of Mr. Brown.

The Ritz, Piccadilly London, where Tommy, Tuppence and Julius are based while finding Jane Finn’s whereabouts

I fancy Prudence Crowley as the young Christie herself;  Tuppence’s hastiness, temper, wittiness and indomitable spirit. For a number of engaging dialogues in the book seem to have a natural flow and lighthearted . In spite of discussing serious issues,  the carefree attitude of Tuppence’s of discussing the convenient option of marrying a rich husband and her having no qualms criticising her ‘war time experience’  as an ex-V.A.D. (Voluntary Aid Detachment) to Tommy is refreshing. Unlike Christie, the future Mrs. Beresford  is not shy; her being forthright is not quite Victorian, bearing in mind that she an Archdeacon’s daughter.  I imagine Christie would not have allowed herself to air her personal views liberally – even in a circle of friends. Be that as it may, the opportunity for revelations await in her heroine. Quite what writing stories are all about.

Furthermore, I wonder if some details about Tommy Beresford might have derived from  Archibald Christie, the ex-husband. Moreover,  Tommy and Tuppence’s partner in crime Julius P. Hershemmeir, the American millionaire who claims to be Jane Finn’s cousin, is the authoress’s fond memories of her late father.

Christie is apt to catch the mood of her readers. The political upheavals in Europe, Russia and Turkey  provide the background for the plot with blossoming romance in between. At any rate the book is a clean break from her debut, written during the Great War; in which her words are more guarded and subtle in delivering refugee issues and war heroes. Although there is no criticism about the British Judicial System – that a suspect cannot be trialled twice- in Tommy and Tuppence’s first case but quick pacing and twists that makes it a page turner.

After the first reading I am intrigued as to what Mr. Christie thought of his being portrayed as a jobless war hero and whether he read the manuscript. Personally I believe his wife meant well; her wish that their marriage should have been a sport and partnership was a wonderful notion. The  dynamic in their relationship is fantastic, as their personality appear to complement one another.  On the one hand, Tuppence is frustrated about Tommy’s ‘slowness.’  On the other, she admires his cool-headed personae under a great pressure while acts accordingly when his plan is mature.

Is there anything behind Matisse’s Marguerite in a Soho house where Tommy is detained by Mr. Brown’s gang?

The plot speaks volumes about the authoress’s growing confidence in her voice. Yet I notice that there seems to be quite a few coincidences that guide Tommy and Tuppence through the investigation. To begin with, it was a Mr. Whittington, one of the gang, who gave the clue about Jane Finn and Rita.  Next, Mr. Carter, a senior figure in British politics answers their advertisement about ‘information about Jane Finn.’ What was the chance that a small advertisement found its way to a high-rank politician?  Thirdly,  Sir James Peel Edgerton turning up at Rita’s abode; during which Tuppence played her undercover part as a domestic help in the flat. Sir James,  a famous King’s Counsel,  became Tommy-Tuppence-Julius’s invaluable ally. Nevertheless, did it ever occur to one of them how did he know Rita?  Fourthly, their introduction to Mr. Hersheimmer, who also responded to their advertisement.  Tommy and Tuppence appeared to have easily taken a stranger’s story without a background checking. Supposing he was indeed a millionaire; but when the American claimed to be Jane Finn’s cousin, weren’t the pair amateur sleuths ought to have checked his story first? What do you think, readers?

The most interesting scene to my mind is when Tuppence has managed to stall Rita disappearing from her flat with the help of Albert. Afterwards Rita has a heart attack and Tuppence, Mr. Heinsheimmer and Sir James have to stay in the flat overnight to take care of her. Meanwhile, Tuppence is told to get some sleep but refuses. As the night draws on, she says to Sir James: ‘I can’t help it. I know Mr. Brown’s somewhere in the flat! I can feel him.’  He responds: ‘With due deference to your feelings, Miss Tuppence, I do not see how it is humanly possible for anyone to be in the flat without our knowledge.’

Dialogues aside, Christie’s  idea about  ‘women’s instincts’ is at the heart of the matter. ‘Heart’ versus ‘head,’ which one to believe in a situation? More importantly, Tuppence’s objection for sleeping. For she senses that something unfortunate might happen due to sleeping (and oversleep – more common the case is). This notion is fascinating as it might have emanated from some old literatures, which sees sleeping as an opportunity to relinquish power. Particularly if it is a figure of power who is asleep. For instance, in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Caliban promises that Prospero’s afternoon nap is the right moment in which to murder him and seize his books. Likewise, the downside of sleeping is also highlighted in the children’s tales (Sleeping Beauty, anyone?).

On the whole, the Secret Adversary works a magic for a feel good factor to Christie’s growing readers. In spite of having just a dead body, the touch of espionage, betrayal and over-ambition play more significant aspects in the plot. Tuppence is the first of Christie’s adventure-seeking young female protagonists while Tommy is a laid-back male character who watches and wraps things up nicely in the end.

The Twists:

-Rita Vandermeyer dies from overdose of sleeping tablets the next morning

-Tommy and Julius’s retracing document see that it has been replaced by two blank sheets of paper by Mr. Brown

-Julius keeps the photograph of Annette in his room; she is a French girl who helps Tommy escaped from the gang’s house in Soho

-Julius proposes to Tuppence.

-Tommy gives Mr. Carter a note that can only be opened in the eve of the Labour Strike on 29th

-Tommy is shown a note with Tuppence’s handwriting but the sender’s name is  ‘Twopence’

-A black pocket book is found in Sir James Peel Edgerton’s coat following his death

-Jane Finn’s screaming about going back to ‘Marguerite’

 

Cast of Characters:

Albert (Tommy and Tuppence’s ally, the boy that works in South Adley Mansions, a block of flats in Mayfair where Rita Vandermeyer lives)

Boris Ivanovitch  (a.k.a. Count Stepanov, Rita’s friend, part of the gang)

Mr. Carter (a handler of the Young Adventurers, a senior figure in British government)

Sir James Eel Edgerton (a famous King’s Counsel, Mr. Carter’s old friend)

Jane Finn (a.k.a. Annette, to whom Davern trusted the draft of treaty to be handed to the Ambassador of the US in London)

Julius P. Hersheimmer (Jane Finn’s cousin, an American millionaire)

Rita Vandermeyer (a.k.a. Margueritte, ex-actress, on board of the Lusitania with Jane Finn and is part of the gang with the knowledge about Mr. Brown)

Prudence Cowley (a.k.a. Tuppence – the heroine, Tommy’s partner in the Young Adventurers, Ltd)

Tommy Beresford (a war hero, Tuppence’s partner)

Mr. Whittington (part of the gang)

 

The Most Fascinating Character: Rita Vandermeyer

She happens to be on board of the Lusitania with Jane Finn. Allegedly, she saw the British agent Danvers had approached Jane Finn and suspected that he had passed the document to the young woman at that time. After their arrival in England Vandermeyer took Finn under her wing and placed her in a nursing home owing to Finn’s memory loss and severe trauma.

With the aid of passenger list supplied by Mr. Carter,  Tuppence is then able to trace Rita’s address. Tuppence is able to penetrate into the other’s flat by way of Albert’s recommendation as a maid. A few days later Tuppence’s cover is revealed. ‘Are you going to poison me?’ she asks Rita. ‘Perhaps.’ ‘Then I shan’t drink it (a glass of water )….’  ‘Don’t be a little fool! Do you really think I want a hue and cry for murder out of me? If you’ve any sense at all, you’ll realize that poisoning you wouldn’t suit my book at all. It’s a sleeping-draught, that’s all….’

In her brief presence in the book, Rita’s remarks say a lot about her. She does not seem to be a ruthless woman, for her intention to just sedate Tuppence instead of killing her. Furthermore, I believe her being involved in the gang is because of Mr. Brown – the Mastermind himself. Besides, her motive is money. No sooner has Tuppence offered Mr. Heishemmer’s £100,000 to betray the gang than she accepts.

The mystery lies in her relationship with Mr. Brown. She knows who he is – unlike Boris Ivanovitch and Mr. Whittington. It is not clear how they met; yet I gather they have known each other long before the Lusitania (I wonder whether Mr. Brown ‘planted’ her on the liner to watch Danvers’s movement).

From Tuppence’s point of views readers understand his charisma and power and  therefore his control over someone. Rita seems to be under his spell; she would do whatever he asked. More importantly, she loves the man. She is not a fool and might have realised the fact that he had used her to his own advantages. But love has blinded her. And just as Jason Rudd (The Mirror Crack’d From Side To Side), she protects him. She has masked his identity, even to her friend Boris.

Perhaps he is right about her. ‘You are a clever woman, Rita; but you are also a fool! …Be guided by me, and give up [the different name of Mr. Brown].’ It is intriguing how instinct works without someone realising it.

If there are traits of her character in Christie’s later books, Louise Leidner (Murder In Mesopotamia) and Marina Gregg (The Mirror Crack’d From Side To Side) are the exemplary examples.

 

Clues:

Annette’s screaming (to Tommy Beresford):

‘This is a terrible house. I want to go back to Marguerite. To Marguerite. To Marguerite!’

 

Boris Ivanovitch (to Rita Vandermeyer):

‘Money – money! That is always the danger with you, Rita. I believe you would sell your soul for money. I believe-,’ He paused, then in a low, sinister voice he said slowly:’Sometimes I believe that you would sell –us!’

 

Prudence Cowley (to Sir James Peel Edgerton):

‘I can’t help it. I know Mr. Brown’s somewhere in the flat! I can feel him.’

 

Rita Vandermeyer (to Boris Ivanovitch):

‘You forget, Boris, I am accountable to no one. I take my orders only from – Mr. Brown.’

‘Reassure myself, my dear Boris. He (Sir James Peel Edgerton) suspects nothing. With less than you usual chivalry, you seem to forget that I am commonly accounted a beautiful woman. I assure that is all that interests Peel Edgerton.’

 

 

Notes On By The Pricking Of My Thumbs

Rating: 3.5 out of five

Year of Publication: 1968

Motive for Murder: Insecurity (to children) and Identity

Plot: ‘Was it your poor child?’ asked Mrs. Lancaster. She was  looking at the fireplace in the sitting room at Sunny Ridge as she enquired Mrs. Beresford, whom looked perplexed with the other’s remark as a result.

Tommy and Tuppence went to the nursing home to visit to Tommy’s great aunt Ada Fanshawe. Three weeks later they went back  for Miss Fanshawe’s funeral.

When Tuppence was in Aunt Ada’s room sorting out her effects, she was drawn to a small oil painting of a house adjacent to a canal. Apparently it was given by Mrs. Lancaster. Tuppence asked Tommy for another trip so she could ask her whether she would have wanted the painting returned. To her dismay, the other had left the home a week beforehand. Her departure intrigued Tuppence.

Furthermore, she remembered to have seen the house once from the train.  As her tracking Mrs. Lancaster did not come to fruition, she was convinced that if she had found the house then she would have found Mrs. Lancaster. Hot on her trail, along the way she met a “friendly witch”, found a dismembered doll in a chimney of an old house and discovered a cold case of children murders.

Little did Tuppence realise that she was about to uncover a criminal gang. At the same time, she had fallen into a trap set by a serial killer, whom was still at large after many years.

 

Highlights:

 By The Pricking of My Thumbs, something wicked this way comes

 2nd witch in Macbeth, Act IV scene 1.

Macbeth and The Witches by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)

Having mixed bitumen in the paint, Sir Joshua aimed to create a wet effect on the surface as the lights reflected upon it. His experiment caused the darkening throughout the painting – over 200 years already and counting. Now part of the National Trust Collection, it is hung in the Square Dining Room in Petworth House, West Sussex, England.

Meet a touch of The Sittaford Mystery and Murder Is Easy with a hint of Third Girl and 4.50 From Paddington in the background. The plot combined two of Christie’s 1930s smashing crimes peppered with Ariadne Oliver’s imagination and Miss Marple’s amusing memory of her railway journey.

To begin with, Tuppence’s aptness would remind readers a lot of Emily Trefusis (The Sittaford Mystery); the latter only being much younger. Next, Tuppence’s reminiscence about the house in the painting to Tommy was similar to Miss Marple’s recollection of seeing a girl throwing a doll to a man who was sleeping in another train . Thirdly, Mrs. Copleigh’s , the owner of B&B where Tuppence stayed at Sutton Chancellor was very much like Mrs. Curtis (The Sittaford Mystery). Their knowledge on local gossips and constant chattering were equally entertaining. Lastly, the ending when Tuppence eventually faced the killer. Her struggle for not to be the next victim was near enough  to the ex-fiance of the self-made peer (Murder Is Easy) as she wrestled her life against a psychopath.

Moving on, someone had been watching Tuppence’s move in the village. Like Ariadne Oliver in Third Girl, she was then hit on the head and regained consciousness in the hospital. Unlike Mrs. Oliver, Tuppence was not doing her detective job at the time she was knocked off in the church yard. Instead, she merely helped the vicar to find a child’s grave .

In the story, somebody had to die because she recognised a killer on the loose. When this was passed on to Tommy’s great aunt, sadly she had to pay with her life. Likewise, Lavinia Pinkerton (Murder Is Easy)’s number was up in a hit-and-run accident on her way to report the face of the killer to Scotland Yard.

Everything was tranquil at Sunny Ridge – or was it? Not until the nursing home’s doctor alerted Tommy about his suspicion concerning the death of Mrs. Moody of overdose morphine. By the time Tuppence had lay unconscious in the church ground.

What might have delighted Christie’s fans perhaps were the comeback of duo husband and wife Tommy and Tuppence Beresford;  twenty-seven years after the wartime N or M (1941).

Why Macbeth?

I was much fascinated with the quote used from Macbeth. What was very special about?

Certainly there was a “Lady Macbeth” and a witch – a friendly one. It was the impression in Tuppence’s head when she met “the witch” woman for the first time. Moreover, who were then the other two witches in the plot?

Also, what was the prophecy the authoress offering? At the end of the story, it was rather unusual that Christie let quite a few of some “loose ends” remained unanswered. It was as if she left the homework for readers.

With this in mind I came across an article about the discovery of Lauren Olivier’s screenplay of Macbeth, which did not make into a picture. The project was abandoned in 1958, following which the actor claimed that there were no surviving scripts.

It contained some alterations from the original Macbeth. One of them was Lady Macbeth had a miscarriage, which mirrored with the sad occurrence to Vivien Leigh. More importantly, it fit with one of Christie’s characters although “she” terminated the foetus; the decision which haunted her later on.

Did Christie have any knowledge about the loss? She might have been, owing to her wide circles of distinguished people from a wide range of professions. Did she feel it was appropriate to base a character upon Ms. Leigh after her death in 1967?

In Olivier’s  Macbeth,  it concluded with a fight between Macbeth and Macduff. In Christie’s version, it was a fight between two women.

Who was Macbeth in the novel do you think?

The Twists:

– The dismembered doll found in the chimney at the House on the Canal

Featured in "Call A Midwife" drama series on BBC - at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Prefab house; one of the legacies of the sixties era. Tuppence passed some of them during her search of the House on the Canal.

– Great Aunt Ada’s letter in the secret drawer of Great Uncle William’s desk

– The boat in the painting

– The Perrys’ York and Lancaster red and white stripe roses

-The Priest Hole

Cast of Characters:

Miss Ada Fanshawe (Tommy’s great aunt)

Albert (the Beresfords’ servant)

Alice Perry (Amos’s wife – the friendly witch)

Amos Perry (Alice’s husband; both lived at the back of the House on the Canal)

Mr. and Mrs. Copleigh (the B&B’s owner at Sutton Chancellor)

Deborah Beresford (Tommy and Tuppence’s daughter)

Mrs. Emma Boscowan (a sculptor and the ex-wife of Bosowan, an artist who painted the House on the Canal)

Mrs. E. Moody (Miss Fanshawe’s fellow resident at Sunny Ridge)

Mr. Eccles (the lawyer to Mrs. Lancaster’s relative)

Ivor Smith (a private investigator – Tommy’s old friend)

Major General Sir Josiah Penn (Tommy’s acquaintance whom he met at a conference)

Mrs. Julia Lancaster (Miss Fanshawe’s fellow resident at Sunny Ridge)

Dr. Murray (the doctor at the nursing home)

Nellie Bligh (Sir Peter’s former secretary)

Nurse O’Keefe (worked at Sunny Ridge)

Miss Packard (the matron/superintendent at Sunny Ridge)

Sir Philip Starke (the owner of the House on the Canal).

Mrs. Prudence Beresford (a.k.a. Tuppence)

The Vicar of Sutton Chancellor

Tommy Beresford (Tuppence’s husband)

The Most Fascinating Character: Ada Fanshawe

Ada Fanshawe with her feistiness and short-fused temper was easily perceived as a difficult elderly. Yet Nurse O’Keefe called her a gran old lady; her appreciation to her charge’s sharp mind. Likewise, her old fling Sir Josiah Penn recalled her as “pretty as a picture. Sprightly, too! Gay! Regular tease…’ Tuppence reckoned Ada’s glee for outliving her old friends.

Certainly Ada had the wits about her, which her great nephew had not the least idea. What a fur stole could tell about a woman for a man, anyhow? Funnily enough, many would have found it hard to believe either contrasting or uncomprehending accounts from strangers concerning a relative.

Through Aunt Ada Christie seemed to have tickled readers’ mind to realise senior moments from a different light. The authoress talked about the issue of arrangement for a nursing home at length in the first chapter.  According  to her, not only was it a matter of choosing the right one but also thinking of the alternative should the choice be underappreciated or even rejected. Although in the story she made aunt Ada’s nursing home a comfortable one. Besides, she was a lucky one as she could afford it.

Nowadays, as more people in the UK live longer, the issue has shifted to cost rather than choice.    And it was not so much about the prospect of being poisoned or having overdosed at the premises that was worrying but neglect and abuse in the hands of the staff.

I sincerely hope these would not make aunt Ada turn in her grave.

 

Clues:

Alice Perry:

‘…Miss Marchment I think it was, but it might have been something else. – you wouldn’t believe the things I used to make up about her. Really, I suppose, I hardly ever saw or spoke to her. Sometimes I think she was just terribly shy and neurotic. Reporters’d come down after her and things like that, but she never would see them. At other times I used to think – well, you’ll say I’m foolish-I used to think quite sinister things about her. You know, that she was afraid of being recognized. Perhaps she wasn’t an actress at all. Perhaps the police were looking for her. Perhaps she was a criminal of some kind. It’s exciting sometimes, making things up in your head….’

Mrs. Copleigh:

‘I daresay as you(Tuppence)’ll have read about it all the papers at the time. Let’s see, near as possible it would have been twenty years ago. You’ll have read about it for sure. Child murders. Little girl of nine years old first. Didn’t come home from school one day.Whole neighbourhood was out searching for her. Dingley Copse she was found in. Strangled, she’d been. It makes me shiver still to think of it. Well, that was the first, then about three weeks later another. The other side of Market Basing, that was. But within the district, as you might say. A man with a car could have done it easy enough.’

‘And then there were others. Not for a month or two sometimes. And then there’d be another one. Not more than a couple of miles from her, one was; almost in the village, though.’

‘All I say is there was something that wasn’t right about Sir Philip. He was too fond of children, I think, and it wasn’t in a natural kind of way’.

Mrs. Emma Boscowan:

‘Well, that boat wasn’t there, not when I saw it last. William never painted that boat. When it was exhibited there was no boat of any kind.’

Mrs. Julia Lancaster:

‘I wondered. I thought perhaps you (Tuppence)’d come for that reason. Someone ought to come some time. Perhaps they will. And looking at the fireplace, the way you did. That’s where it is, you know. Behind the fireplace’.

Prudence Beresford:

‘It’s just a feeling I have – something to do with time. Time goes at different pace in different places. Some places you come back to, adn you feel that time has been bustling along at a terrific rate and that all sorts of things will have happened – and changed….’

Nurse O’ Keefe:

‘Oh, she (Ada) was that (had been a tartar), indeed. But she had a grand spirit. Nothing got her down. And she was no fool either. You’d be surprised the way she got to know things. Sharp as a needle, she was.’

The Vicar:

‘..Somebody wrote to me. A Major Waters, he asked if by any possibility a child had been buried here. I looked it up in the parish register, of course, but there was no record of any such name, All the same, I came out here and looked round the stones…’