Crime Fiction shorts: Partners in Crime

I picked up Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime because I saw a trailer for a TV version of it and wanted to read the book before I watched it.

I just watched the trailer again and am now surprised by how different it is from the book – namely that it’s taking place in the 1950s and Tommy and Tuppence are now evidently spies in the Cold War.

But we will get to that.

I chose Partners in Crime as a sort of palate cleanser after the short story experience of The Tsar of Love and Techno. I was ready to jump into a story and stick with it for a couple of days. Or hours, really. Agatha Christie books are never more than 300 pages.

So I was pretty shocked to realize that Partners in Crime are a bunch of short stories featuring Tommy and Tuppence Bereford!

tommy and tuppence

Tommy and Tuppence are probably the least popular of Agatha Christie’s characters. They are a married couple who solve crimes that come their way as proprietors of a detective agency in London. Tommy and Tuppence both worked for the secret service during the war – although as Partners in Crime was published in 1929, one presumes that “the war” in question was actually the First World War. Now that the way is over, Tommy is still working for the agency in some capacity but Tuppence is bored at home – their place isn’t that big and it doesn’t take that much effort to keep it running smoothly. So when Tommy’s boss asks them to operate this agency undercover, Tuppence convinces Tommy that they should do it.

The stories are short and sweet, if a little far-fetched at times. But they are still extremely clever. Some cases are little more than misunderstandings, such as the missing fiancée who is actually just at a kind of fat camp, while others are more serious and have shades of spy rings.

They decide that they will emulate famous fictional detectives, which actually is really hilarious. Sometimes they try and be Sherlock Holmes, other times a pair of detective brothers but when the decide to copy Hercule Poirot and encourage the use of “the little grey cells” – well that’s obviously the best.

This little book is very much of it’s time and while I don’t have much time for Tommy, I’m a fan of clever Tuppence. It seems like TV adaptations always make Tuppence seem kind of scatterbrained and flakey but she’s actually much the cleverer of the two. Tommy is very much a man of his time but Tuppence is quite modern.

In the end though, this book is from 1929 and when Tuppence gets pregnant, of course she will give up work.

I’ll still try and watch the show but I’m not sure that Tommy and Tuppence will be my Agatha Christie go-to.


By The Pricking of My Thumbs

I read By The Pricking of My Thumbs last week and then, yesterday, I watched the movie.

Movie is a bit of a strong word I guess. It was more of an extra long TV show. We got Netflix recently and there are a whole bunch of Miss Marples on there and I’ve been watching the ones that I’ve read. I found it a bit strange that By The Pricking of My Thumbs was included in the Miss Marple series because it’s not a Miss Marple book. It’s a Tommy and Tuppence book!

This is going to be more of a rant-y post. Feel free to run now.

Without giving too much away, By The Pricking of My Thumbs starts off with Tommy and Tuppence Beresford (an older married couple, not the school aged kids I assumed they were.) visiting Tommy’s Aunt Ada in a nursing home. While there, Tuppence meets a Mrs. Lancaster and has a nice chat with her. Weeks later, Aunt Ada is dead and Mrs. Lancaster has been moved to another home. Tuppence feels that something is off and when a painting of Mrs. Lancaster’s is found among Aunt Ada’s things, she decides to try and find out more about the whole situation.

In the book, Tuppence used to work with her husband in the secret service during the war and Tommy is well aware of his wife’s superior intelligence. In the “movie”, Tommy seems annoyed by Tuppence who in turn is apparently a heavy drinker, who is incapable of driving the car her husband bought her and is completely insecure in her ability to do anything else, especially solve a possible crime. Guess how much that irked me.

The movie also added a bunch of completely unnecessary characters. An American GI? Really? One of the dead children (oh yeah, there was a period of time where children were disappearing and then dying) had a twin? Tommy and Tuppence are related to one Hannah Beresford in the village? Completely unnecessary. They twisted the vicar from a lovely old man into a hateful alcoholic. One Alice Perry goes from a lovely older woman, married to Amos, living peacefully in the house in the painting, to a crazy old woman wandering in the woods while her son Amos stays angry at the village that caused his simple minded brother to kill himself when everyone thought he was killing children. A way more complicated plotline that Agatha Christie just didn’t use!

What I suspect happened was that the writers had to find a way to fit Miss Marple into a story where she doesn’t belong and while they were there, they decided to make some additional tweaks. Which I understand, in theory. But in practice, if it takes away from the story…I’m not on board.

Miss Marple mysteries are not long books. They tend to run to 225 pages. I kind of feel like they are the perfect length for adapting into a movie or 90 minute TV show. Cut Miss Marple out of this one because, let’s not forget that By The Pricking of My Thumbs is a Tommy and Tuppence story, and everything else could have moved along quite nicely.

In the end the TV show reached the same conclusion as the book, which was actually a nice surprise because I wasn’t sure that we would ever get there. But the ending was filled with all sorts of additional characters that didn’t need to be there and an arrest instead of a heartbreaking….well I don’t want to give the ending away if you haven’t read it.