Partners in Crime, by Agatha Christie

March 2, 2023 Book Reviews 6 ★★★★

Partners in Crime, by Agatha ChristiePartners in Crime by Agatha Christie
Series: Tommy & Tuppence #2
Published by William Morrow on May 31, 2005 (orig. pub. June 7, 1929)
Genres: Mystery, Cozy Mystery
Pages: 224
Format: Kindle or ebook
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Audible | Chirp
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Also by this author: The Monogram Murders, Hercule Poirot's Christmas, The Man in the Brown Suit

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford are restless for adventure, so when they are asked to take over Blunt's International Detective Agency, they leap at the chance.

Their first case is a success—the triumphant recovery of a pink pearl. Other cases soon follow—a stabbing on Sunningdale golf course; cryptic messages in the personal columns of newspapers; and even a box of poisoned chocolates. But can they live up to their slogan of "Any case solved in 24 hours"?

A charming husband-and-wife crime-solving team

It’s been several years since the events of The Secret Adversary (which you should really read first.) Tommy and Tuppence are now happily married, but Tuppence is bored with her day-to-day life. Luckily for the intrepid duo, Her Majesty’s Government has detained one Mr. Blunt, head of a private investigation agency, on charges of espionage. Tommy’s boss, Mr. Carter, asks the couple to run the detective agency for a few months in an effort identify Blunt’s contacts and confederates. This framework sets the stage for a number of short mysteries which Tommy and Tuppence try to solve in the style of popular mysteries of the day, from Dr. Thornton to Christie’s own Hercule Poirot. The puzzles range from missing items to unbreakable alibis to murder; all bear the unmistakeable stamp of a Christie mystery, usually with a characteristic twist or surprise solution.

I love Tommy and Tuppence and their enthusiastic servant/office boy, Alfred, but I admit that Partners in Crime, while both fun and entertaining, is not as exciting as The Secret Adversary. Due in part to the short-story format, it’s hard to build up tension over the entire book. There’s also very little character development, butTommy and Tuppence are both so engaging that it hardly matters.

I sometimes wish Christie had written more full-length mysteries about the Beresfords in their younger years. The next book in the series, N or M?, takes place when the couple are middle-aged empty-nesters, and while it’s very good, I miss the more carefree 1920s-era Tommy and Tuppence.

TV adaptations

Partners in Crime, the 1983–84 LWT series starring Francesca Annis and James Warwick, is remarkably faithful to the books. It begins with The Secret Adversary in several parts, then adapts some of the best of the short mysteries from Partners in Crime. Annis and Warwick are very convincing as Tuppence and Tommy despite being a trifle old for the roles, and their chemistry together is just about perfect. Reece Dinsdale steals almost every scene he appears in as the eager but not always sensible Alfred.

I haven’t seen the 2015 series, so I can’t speak to its quality, but judging from the episode descriptions, it’s not nearly as faithful to the source material. For one thing, they skipped the stories in Partners in Crime entirely (even though that’s the series title!), choosing instead to cover The Secret Adversary and N or M? over the course of three episodes each. It’s an odd choice, since the first book involves (among other things) a missing draft treaty in the aftermath of World War I, while N or M? centers around the search for Nazi spies in a British beach-resort town during World War II.


Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Upside-Down 2023: Chapter 1

6 Responses to “Partners in Crime, by Agatha Christie”

  1. Katherine

    I enjoy this book though I don’t think it aged particularly well. I didn’t get so many of the then popular detective references without having to do some research. I definitely agree about missing the energy of the first book. I think I would have liked to see at least one more Tommy and Tuppence adventure before they became a bit more settled. I do like N or M? but unfortunately the last Tommy and Tuppence book, Postern of Fate, is one of my least favorite books by Christie.
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I would say, start with The Secret Adversary. That said, it is as much an adventure and spy novel as a mystery. If you want to try a standalone first, that has some of the same feel and flavor, try Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (also known as The Boomerang Clue in the US.)

      If you want to read a more typical Christie mystery with one of her best-known sleuths, read either The Body in the Library or A Murder is Announced; both are Miss Marple books, and are (I think) a little better as an introduction than the first Miss Marple mystery, Murder at the Vicarage. There’s also The Moving Finger, The 4:50 from Paddington, and Sleeping Murder, which are also favorites of mine. You can read most of the Miss Marple mysteries in almost any order, although it helps if you read A Caribbean Mystery before Nemisis.

      For a really good introduction to the Poirot mysteries, try The ABC Murders or Murder on the Orient Express. Or almost any of them, really, especially the early and mid-career ones. Just save Curtain for after you’ve read a fair number of the others, since it is Poirot’s last case (although written well before some of the others. Christie wrote and put it aside to be published after her death; she didn’t want someone else continuing the series. Her estate adhered to that request until a decade or so ago, when they decided to authorize Sophie Hannah to continue the series.)