Tuppence was ushered into a room on the right of the long passage. A woman was standing by the fireplace. She was no longer in her first youth, and the beauty she undeniably possessed was hardened and coarsened. In her youth she must have been dazzling. Her pale gold hair, owing a slight assistance to art, was coiled low on her neck, her eyes, of a piercing electric blue, seemed to possess a faculty of boring into the very soul of the person she was looking at. Her exquisite figure was enhanced by a wonderful gown of indigo charmeuse. And yet, despite her swaying grace, and the almost ethereal beauty of her face, you felt instinctively the presence of something hard and menacing, a kind of metallic strength that found expression in the tones of her voice and in that gimlet-like quality of her eyes.
observations: Like all serious crime fiction fans, I am a big fan of Margot Kinberg’s Confessions of a Mystery Novelist blog, and of one of her regular features, the short video’ed Crime Fiction News Breaks. Margot, in her humble way, sometimes pretends this is a simple do-it-yourself job with minimal production involved, but secretly I believe it to be an Oprah-style operation with a team of technicians, researchers and stylists, and a studio audience in attendance.
Anyway, Margot rounds up news from all over the world – she is a global superstar brand after all - but still I was astonished to hear from her as she sat in her
This wasn’t one of Christie’s own plays, but it has been very cleverly adapted from the book by Sarah Punshon and Johann Hari. A small cast plays multiple parts, using a most effectively-designed set, and lots of props – and the actors also provided the music, including some songs. The whole thing is very funny and entertaining and professional, and if anyone can get to it I suggest they should – this is the website. (Fly there in your private jet, Margot.) These pictures from the production give a very good impression of the show!
The book (which naturally I re-read after seeing the play) was Christie’s second, and introduced us to Tommy and Tuppence, her occasional sleuths. One of my good blogfriends calls this genre ‘the flapper adventures’, and that’s about right – Christie wrote several of them before concentrating on straight detective stories. They featured annoyingly arch young people, being frightfully amusing, and hiding their strong principles and morals under an air of joking nonchalance.
This one starts – unusually for Christie - with a real-life event: the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. It then departs from the real world totally, with a ridiculous plot based on the fact that ‘a Labour Government would be a grave disability for British trade’ and that the Bolshevists are poised for a takeover. Tommy & Tuppence must search for some missing documents, a missing woman, and the mysterious Mr Brown – the man behind the Bolshevists. None of this stands up for a moment, there is no logic to it at all, but the plot rattles along, and it’s moderately entertaining in a light-hearted way. However the introduction of the name Jane Finn into the plot has not been thought out properly, and is one of Christie’s memorably bad moments. In the current play they change it to Jane Fish and give it slightly more solidity, and they also try to do something satirical with the politics of the book - but that's a lost cause.
The Secret of Chimneys, on the blog here, is a similar farrago, though without Tommy and Tuppence (good thing or bad thing? Hmmm). Christie's spy thriller N or M?, here on the blog, features T&T in wartime.
Curtis Evans has a splendid review of Secret Adversary on his Passing Tramp blog here.
The main picture is a 1922 evening dress from the NYPL. The blank features seem to suit the wicked (not exactly a spoiler given the description above) Mrs Vandermeyer.
Minority interests: Charmeuse – one of my favourite obscure fabric descriptions – is a silk fabric with a satin finish, apparently particularly suitable for ‘lingerie, flowing evening gowns, and drapey blouses’ (Wikipedia). Tommy and Tuppence meet up at Dover St Tube station in central London, which is now known as Green Park Tube station.
And finally, thank you again to the great Margot for pointing me in the right direction. I hope you can find something equally good for me in your next Crime Fiction Newsbreak, Margot.