Some of my favourite Christies are her stand alone novels, no Poirot or Miss Marple or the annoying Tommy and Tuppence, many of which are relatively unknown.
Today I am writing about The Man in the Brown Suit. This was published in 1922 and features an intrepid young heroine, Anne Beddingfield, an orphan in search of adventure one of whose favourite pasttimes was watching the Perils of Pauline. There is a Master Criminal, known as 'The Colonel' a beautiful Russian actress determined to bring him down, stolen diamonds, a victim under a Tube train and a dead body of a glamorous woman found in the country house of Sir Eustace Pedlar. The hunt is up for the Man in the Brown Suit seen at the murder scene and also near the area of the Tube where that death occurred. A piece of paper is found by Anne which the police missed finding, naturally, at the murder scene with a mysterious date on it and the name Kilmorden Castle. This turns out to be a cruise ship leaving in a few days and with gay abandon Anne decides to blue her entire inheritence on a ticket.
In the middle of the night a handsome man bursts into her cabin, he has been shot and, as all good heroines do, instead of screaming for help she hides him and promptly falls in love with him.
"For the first time I took in the details of his appearance. The close cropped dark head, the lean jaw, the scar on his brown cheek, the curious light grey eyes that looked into mine with a sense of reckless mockery hard to describe. There was something dangerous about him"
So we have a real mix here of dashing hero and plucky heroine, a sinister criminal mastermind and somebody determined to kill off our hero, the Man in the Brown Suit, because as we all know he did not do the murders and is destined to marry Anne and live happily ever after.
One of my favouite characters in this book is Sir Eustace Pedler, on his way to South Africa to view conditions there and report back to the government. He is large and lazy and tries to avoid work as much as possible and he supplies a great deal of humour in the narrative.
"The only costume that fitted me for the fancy dress dinner was that of a Teddy Bear.I don't mind playing bears with some nice young girls on a winter;s evening in England, but it is hardly an ideal costume for the Equator. However, I created a great deal of merriment.....dancing was a hot affair. I danced twice with Anne Beddingfiled and she had to pretend she liked it. I danced once with Mrs Blair who didn't trouble to pretend and I victimised various other damsels whose appearance struck me favourably"
This is a John Buchanesque ripping yarn and tremendous fun from start to finish. I love these early books of Christie and if you are not familiar with this title please do seek it out. Great stuff.