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Back To Christie-ism
Dec 26, 2023 05:25 PM 344 Views



A few posts back I had written about a Failed Christie Mystery - Postern Of Fate. A novel written by the dame, Agatha Christie, in her later years grappling with old age and failing memory. The book had enough allusions to another of her novel penned earlier - N Or M? Both were Tommy Tuppence mysteries.

But I made a big mistake by reading Postern Of Fate before N Or M. It had to be the other way round as the former gave away a lot about the latter. A sign of an aging author?

Surprisingly, I had not read both the books and I thought I was a Christie Connoisseur!????

The narrative goes thus.

Tommy and Tuppence are bored as they have no adventure left in life. The war is on. Their children are serving the country in the Forces and/or Intelligence. The middle aged couple, confined to their flat, are itching to do something exciting. And lo! Arrives Mr. Grant with "work" for Tommy in the Ministry of Requirements. No, Tuppence is not recruited.

Tommy has to be a boarder in a guest house in Leahampton to keep an eye on the other boarders and to nab "The Cat Among The Pigeons". A double crossing spy who is an insider, serving the country, but secretly bearing sympathies towards the Nazis in his or her heart of hearts. The only clue that Tommy is given is the code name: N or M?

Tommy jumps to the bait, arrives at Sans Souci - the guest house in Leahampton - and is dumbfounded to find one Mrs. Blenkensop, comfortably ensconced there, who is a "transformed version" of none other than Tuppence. Now they(Tommy and Tuppence) are both into "the work".

However, all the boarders seem enigmatic. From the retired Army Officer, Bletchley, to the formidable oldie Mrs O'Rourke, the hypochondriac Mr. Calay(who nurtures admiration for the Germans) and his over caring wife Mrs. Calay, the observant spinster Ms. Minton and the owner of Sans Souci itself, Mrs Perena and her breathtakingly beautiful daughter Shiela. Above all, Carl Von Deinim, the German refugee, employed in a chemical factory, who is apparently anti-Nazi. yet.

N Or M has thrill, chill, action and lots of Christie moments. Like when Mrs Blenkensop is caught snooping by Mrs Perena. When she is barricaded on the staircase on one end by the satanic Mrs. O'Rourke and on the other end by the Wolverine Mrs. Perena.Or when Mrs. Sprot, the devoted mother(also a boarder of the guest house), blindly shooting the kidnapper of her two years old daughter, Betty, at the edge of the cliff - a narrow escape for her only daughter. These are the typical Agatha-ish bone chilling twists in the plot.

It's rather funny when the sleuth duo's grown up daughter Deborah underestimates her parents and considers their past adventures overhyped!

When I told my sister that I am surprised not to have read these two books earlier, I was in for another surprise as my sister appeared to remember minute details of both the books. And she is seven years older to me!

N Or M is a page turner. I finished the book in no time. Now I am wondering what to read next as my Kindle is full of unread or half read books.

Christie fans can go ahead and pick this up. I am sure others too will enjoy the book.

You need not be young and a go getter to be adventurous. Age is just a number. The salivation for suspense, thrill and adventure has to be in your bones or rather genes. Middle or old age has nothing to do with it.

So go ahead with your snooping if you are like Ms. Marple or the older version of Tommy and Tuppence.

In contrast, Poirot has always been portrayed as old and rather clumsy with his fashionable three piece suits, shining patent leather shoes and super waxed moustache belying a razor sharp brain.

Ms. Marple is wooly and a little too inquisitive as old spinsters tend to be. With her fuddled way of explaining things she gets on the nerves of those who have not yet come across her astute deduction abilities.

Tommy, on the other hand, has a quiet, hound-ish quality systematically following a trail to it's logical completion. Tuppence, like most women, is intuitive, an unconventional risk taker and amazingly resourceful to the extreme in the vortex of danger.

All foursome created by a genius who knew how to keep her readers enthralled, amused by the English sense of humour, on edge of the seat with her powerful and unputdownable storytelling and spellbound when the culprit turned out to be the one least expected.

The Queen of Detective Stories must have created history in her times when women were not as empowered as the modern connotation of the term goes. When I first started reading Christie her books were just adrenaline rushing. But now as I read or re-read her I find her writings multi-layered.

As a woman she comes forth as independent minded, politically aware, keen judge of human psychology, very much into the intricacies of international espionage and much ahead of her times.

Her writings are, therefore, timeless classics - a genre(murder mysteries/suspense thrillers) until then dominated by men. I am curious to know how she would have been to interact with. But I have to satiate that thirst now just by reading her.gauging how her mind worked.

So off to another Christie then.

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N or M: A Tommy and Tuppence Mystery - Agatha Christie