Thursday, November 19, 2015

"N or M?" by Agatha Christie

I'm on an Agatha Christie kick lately. ;)  The second "Partners in Crime" novel by Christie to be filmed for television was "N or M?" and, as usual, I wanted to try to get the book read before part one of the TV adaptation was broadcast earlier this week on Bravo here in Canada. I started it just before part one aired, and finished it a few days later. Parts two & three of the TV show are still to come. :)

"N or M?" is another adventure featuring Tommy & Tuppence -- the same couple from "The Secret Adversary." "The Secret Adversary" took place in post-WWI Britain; "N or M" picks up some 20 years later. It's 1940, the Second World War is in full swing, and Britain is expecting a Nazi invasion at any time. Speculation is rampant about "the Fifth Column" and German spies lurking everywhere.

The Beresfords are now a long-married, middle-aged couple and the parents of young adult twins (a boy & a girl, both involved in the war). Their old friend Mr. Carter enlists Tommy's help:  British intelligence believes there are two Nazi spies operating out of a quiet seaside boarding house, laying the groundwork for an imminent invasion of Britain.  Who among the staff and guests are they?  (Of course, Tuppence finds out what he's up to and gets in on the action...!)

By the end of the book, I had figured out the identity of at least one of the spies. But, in true Christie fashion, there were still enough twists & turns and surprises to keep things interesting. The ending, with Tommy & Tuppence out for dinner & dancing with their adult children, is rather amusing, although beware! -- there is a groaner of an ALI angle to the story at the 11th hour. :p

As I said, I've only seen the first of three parts of the TV adaptation of "N or M?"  As with "The Secret Adversary," the producers seem to have taken a lot of liberties with Christie's story:  the action has shifted to the Cold War years of the 1950s, and instead of fending off a looming invasion, the Beresfords are now trying to locate a nuclear bomb. Somehow, it's not quite as exciting as a looming Nazi invasion.

Unfortunately, it seems that others agree with my assessment: "Partners in Crime" has been cancelled by the BBC, after just these two adaptations. It's been fun (re)reading the adventures of Tommy & Tuppence, though, and I may still carry on with the remaining volumes, even if there's no longer an impending TV episode to serve as a reading incentive. :)

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Side note: I started reading this book shortly after the events that unfolded in Paris on Friday, Nov. 13th.  Among the story's prime suspects is a young German man, a refugee from Nazi persecution whose (non-Jewish but critical of Hitler) family is now in a concentration camp. Imagine my reaction when I started reading & found a few exchanges like this:
"...You take my word for it, this refugee business is dangerous. If I had my way I'd intern the lot of them. Safety first."  
"A bit drastic, perhaps."  
"Not at all. War's war. And I've got my suspicions of Master Carl... He's a Nazi -- that's what he is -- a Nazi." 
As the French say, "Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose." (The more things change, the more they stay the same...).

(There's also a few shots against the Irish throughout the book. Full disclosure: my family background is 1/4 Irish. ;)  )

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This was book #25 that I've read to date in 2015.


  1. Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose. Exactly.

    Your review made me wonder - if you like Agatha Christie, have you read PD James?

    1. I haven't, but dh has & has really enjoyed her. So many books, so little time...! ;)