The Secret Adversary

by Agatha Christie
Series: Tommy and Tuppence #1
266 pages, Mystery
Reviewed by Jeanne

An enjoyable romp of a mystery with Tommy and Tuppence; some language and moral flaws.


The Great War has come to an end, leaving nurse Tuppence Cowley and soldier Tommy Beresford out of work - and painfully low on funds. When the two childhood friends reunite, they put their heads together to develop a partnership. But their plans for adventure soon get a little out of hand, spiraling Tommy and Tuppence into a high-stakes political mystery that could lead them to their deaths. Who is the woman Jane Finn, and what are the documents she carries? More importantly, who is the sinister Mr. Brown at work behind the scenes?


Tuppence, who loves money and has none, suggests half-jokingly that she and Tommy go into crime. She is also set on marrying a man with money - preferably a millionaire. At one point in the story, she is brought face to face with her own mercenary spirit and greed (though it is not dwelt upon and seems to have little lasting impact).

The mystery begins when Tuppence lies to a prospective employer about her name; she has no qualms about continuing this tactic. Both Tommy and Tuppence are very loyal and stick together through thick and thin. As spies, they are obviously called upon to deceive the enemy through any possible means.

Spiritual Content

Tuppence is the daughter of a clergyman, a fact of which she is not very proud. His character is not presented in the highest light in his single scene.


The story opens on the doomed Lusitania and the drowning of a particular character is implied. Characters are abducted and threatened with either death or torture. A woman is poisoned with chloral, a sedative. The violence tends toward the melodramatic and is thus neither graphic nor disturbing, especially compared to many of Christie's other mysteries.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A character dies of an overdose of sleeping draught. Characters regularly drink alcohol, but never to excess.

Sexual Content

The romantic sub-plots are quite clean.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

"Devil," "d*mn," "gee," and "darn" are all used semi-frequently. God's name is taken in vain a few times, in English and in German.


"The Secret Adversary" marks the debut of amateur detective team Tommy and Tuppence, who appear in only three other books and a short story collection. The chemistry between them, the vivacity of each, and their truly amateur beginnings make the book particularly enjoyable: they are a perfect team, and quite different from the more well-known Poirot and Miss Marple. A mystery-lover who prefers more interaction and development among the characters will be likely to enjoy Tommy and Tuppence's story.

The mystery itself is, as mentioned above, often melodramatic and the events can even savor of Nancy Drew, but the central plot - who is Mr. Brown? - has Christie's marks all over it. The clues are all given and the mystery can be solved, but the authoress strings the reader along until the very end.

The characters' morality, particularly as regards Tuppence's avarice, can not always be condoned. There is also a fair amount of language, as mentioned above. However, as far as violent or psychological content goes, this is much lighter fare than can usually be found from Dame Christie.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 3
Written for Age: 13+

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