This is the second Tommy and Tuppence book I've read and they are becoming favorites of mine. It is also the second book published by Christie. Tommy and Tuppence are not in many of her books, only five total but they are a great addition to her detective characters.
When the story begins, it is 1920 and the Great War has just ended. Childhood friends, Tommy Beresford and Prudence "Tuppence" Cowley are reunited in London and share their personal stories of their latest adventures. Tommy, a former soldier and Tuppence, a war volunteer, commiserate together about their need for jobs and money. While they both would love to be independently wealthy, they realize that probably isn't going to happen anytime soon. As they talk further they decide to pool their intellect and talents and form a company, "The Young Adventurers, Ltd," aimed at solving any problem thrown their way, and soon have a client, Mr. Whittington. Before Tuppence can ascertain much information from him, she shocks him by giving him a false name she innocently pulls out of her memory, a "Jane Finn." This name completely surprises Whittington and he responds by angrily giving her money to keep quiet. Tuppence is shocked, not understanding why he is so upset over the seemingly made up name.
A friend of Tommy's from the intelligence community, Carter, tells Tommy the story of the real Jane Finn, who has disappeared after trying to deliver a secret letter to the American embassy in London, and that the letter was given to her on the fated ship, the Lusitania. Tommy and Tuppence decide to search for Jane, along with her American cousin, the very wealthy, Julius Hersheimmer. Carter warns them that they are likely to come up against a mysterious man, "Mr. Brown," who is the likely kidnapper of Jane and an evil man. No one knows his true identity and he tells them to be careful.
Their sleuthing soon becomes dangerous, leading them to shadowy Russian politicians, secret back rooms, mansions with highly placed nobility, and kidnapping. Each of their lives are in danger, along with a tense sense of time running out to find the real Jane Finn alive. Throughout the case, their personal feelings grow for one another, making the resolution to the mystery even more high stakes.
This story was a lot of fun and the identity of "Mr. Brown" was kept secret very well right up until the end. In fact, I was originally convinced I was right and then at the last moment I was proven incorrect! Switching back and forth between Tommy and Tuppence's experiences, as well as adding many colorful characters made it necessary to really pay attention and held my interest throughout. The plot was complicated and well drawn. I thought it was much better than many of her other stories I've read for this reason.
My only real problem with the story was the part where Tuppence calls herself "Jane Finn." Although this is explained away as the plot unfolds, it was a bit of a stretch to me that it all happened the way it did. Without this element the story would not have worked, but still it did kind of bother me as far fetched. But it is fiction, so I went with it!
Even with the dark behavior of many of the villains, the story manages to retain a light heartedness that isn't there in some of her books. It often felt much more like a cozy mystery. Tommy and Tuppence both come across as relatable, likeable young people who are clever, resourceful, and brave. It's too bad Christie didn't write more stories with them as the main detectives. I will be reading more of their books in the future.