Thursday, November 10, 2011

Christie November: The Man in the Brown Suit

Image from Wikipedia - first UK edition
The Man in the Brown Suit was first published in August 1924. It's a stand-alone mystery that starts in England but quickly moves onto the Kilmorden Castle, an ocean liner destined for South Africa. The reason for this change of scenery is the adventuresome nature of Anne Beddingfeld. Anne, who has lived for years with her archaeologist father in a mentally stimulating but still dull existence, is set free when her father unexpectedly dies. She has only a few pounds to her name and isn't sure what to do next in life until she sees a man accidentally fall and die on the underground train rails. A mysterious doctor, who happens to be on hand to tend to the man immediately, drops a cryptic note on his way out of the station and Anne takes it as a sign that she is meant to set out and follow the clue -- which leads her to the Kilmorden Castle. What follows is a quest for not only a murderer but also a master criminal and a parcel of stolen diamonds.

The reviews when it was released were mixed. Some reviewers thought the plot was far-fetched (which it is), some lamented the absence of Poirot (which could have worked but wasn't necessary) and some thought it was a good fun story (which it also is). There are a few small bits here and there that make the modern reader cringe a little but nothing too terrible. More than anything, I think that the story reveals Agatha's fondness for South Africa (where that wonderful piccie of her with a surfboard was snapped) and for the social changes that allowed women to become more independent. Anne even takes a detour while on her way to an appointment and tries her hand at surfing -- which I'm now thinking could be a lightly-veiled autobiographical tale!

Taking the waterway less traveled,


  1. This sounds like a more obscure one of hers!

  2. Jenners - I think most of her standalone novels get lost in the shuffle. This is definitely one of the lesser known ones.