The Man in the Brown Suit is the fourth novel by Agatha Christie. This one is different from the other Agatha Christie’s I’ve read: no Hercule Poirot, no Jane Marple, no Tommy and Tuppence. This book has a completely new cast of characters, and a fun cast it is. Plenty of great dialogue, mystery, adventure, romance and surprises.
The other twist is that this book is told in the first person narrative by two people. The story alternates between Anne Beddingfeld and Sir Eustace Pedler. Each character has their own style in telling the story. As I was reading, I imagined what each character looked like. I tried to find pictures to match what was in my head but could not. These two will have to do.*
Anne Beddingfeld is a young woman with a deep longing for romantic adventures. She gets her chance when she witnesses the mysterious death of a man only a few feet away from her in a London tube station. A man in a brown suit comes forward as a doctor and pronounces the man dead, but immediately leaves the station. On the way out he drops a piece of paper which Anne recovers. The words on the paper will lead Anne on an exciting escapade that will take her to a murder in an empty estate, a ship bound for Africa, a trip through the back country of Rhodesia, and a couple of attempts on her life.
Fortunately, Anne is both smart and clever. It’s a good thing she is because along the way Anne meets some very interesting people. She must rely on her wits to tell her whom to trust and who is not who they seem to be.
Sir Eustace Pedler’s diary is the alternate version of the story. Sir Eustace is a member of Parliament and rather rich, although no one actually knows how he made his money. I love Sir Eustace’s dry, sarcastic wit. In his diary he makes fun of others, but of himself as well. He first meets Anne aboard the ship bound for Africa and invites her on a train trip through the backcountry. Aboard ship is Sir Eustace’s secretary, Guy Pagett, a second secretary, Harry Rayburn, Reverend Chichester, Suzanne Blair, and Colonel Race (who shows up in three other Christie novels).
It’s a wonderful cast of characers. There’s one more: the “colonel” who we never actually meet until the end. He’s the mastermind behind the group of criminals responsible for a diamond heist. This is an excellent mystery, especially for those who love Agatha Christie’s novels.
*The pictures here are of Stephanie Zimbalist and Edward Woodward who stared as Anne Beddingfeld and Sir Eustace Pedler in the 1988 TV movie of The Man in the Brown Suit.
DID YOU KNOW . . .
The Man in the Brown Suit was first serialized in 1924 for the Evening News prior to the publication of the book. The unexpected 500 pounds from the serialization was a nice bonus. Her husband insisted she spend it on a luxury – a car. It was enough money to buy her first car – a Morris Cowley. Her husband, Archie Christie, taught her to drive it.
If you are an Agatha Christie fan and would like to join in this perpetual challenge to read all of her novels, visit Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.