Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Man in the Brown Suit

Anne Beddingfield cares for her famous anthropologist father whose only interest is Paeleolithic Man.

When her father dies she is suddenly left without a single living relative, only as 87 pounds her inheritance and absolutely no idea what to do with herself.

She is forced to accept the offer of her father’s friend and lawyer to live with him and his wife.

But she gets bored with her life and inspired by her favourite heroine from “The Perils of Pamela” she dreams of adventure.

When she witnesses a man falling from a train station platform and is the only one to notice a clue on a piece of paper she sees this as an opportunity for adventure and mystery.

The police believe his death is accidental. Anne sees beyond the accident after she suspects the “doctor” on the scene not to be who he appears to be. Then there is the curious clue, a cryptic message that only Anne noticed. She needs to find the Man in the Brown Suit and solve the murder.

Her enquiries lead her to buys a ticket on a ship sailing for to South Africa. It costs exactly 87 pounds and Anne sees it as an omen that it had to be.

She decides to try and solve the mystery herself and her adventures begin. On board she meets the main characters.

·         Member of Parliament, Sir Eustace Pedlar; rich and eccentric with a delightfully wicked sense of humour
·         Guy Pagett, Sir Eustace Pedler's hard working and patient secretary
·         Charming socialite Suzanne Blair who becomes Anne’s close friend and ally.
·         The mysterious Colonel Race with a potential romantic connection. But who with - Anne or Suzanne?
Many reviews say how much they liked the character of Colonel Race but I felt that it lacked strength. However, his appearance in later books give greater insight into his character
·         Harry Rayburn, dark and mysterious and who is he really?
·         The creepy Rev Edward Chichester but is also what he seems. Is he even a man?

But who is the Man in the Brown Suit and are any of them what they seem?

During Anne’s her adventure passengers fight over wanting her cabin, she gets kidnapped, nearly murdered (twice) and finds love. Finally she discovers who the Man in the Brown suit really is and and reveals who the mysterious 'Colonel' is.

The story is a mixture of crime, mystery, adventure, espionage and romance with just a touch of insight into the history of South Africa.

I felt though that Anne’s romance didn’t have a build-up. Her announcement to the reader of who the man is that she loves, and of course he is ruggedly handsome, seems a bit sudden. When the relationship finally comes to something it has an exciting nature.

Part of the delight of the book is Anne’s confidence to deal with whatever comes along but when unexpected situations become truly dangerous she reflects that “this didn’t happen to Pamela” or “What would Pamela do in this situation?”

Anne is a charming heroine full of adventure and spirit. She’s an intelligent and witty young lady but at times very na├»ve about the dangers of her adventure.

Interspersed with Anne’s own narration of her story is that of Sir Eustace Pedler as he records his day and reflections in his diary. These writings have an amusing side particularly at the expense of his secretary who he enjoys making fun of.

While it may not be her best work it is still a great read and put simply, lots of fun and pure escapism. I think Christie has written this story a little tongue in cheek which makes for rollicking fun.

The plot is different, characters typically “Christie” vintage with the sprinkling of humour throughout.

Many reviews of this book criticise attitudes towards race and women expressed in the book. If you are offended by books that were written at a time when these attitudes were the norm then all I can say is don’t read them.

As readers, we need to be aware that may happen and, unfortunately, accept that this was the attitude of the day. If you can’t do that don’t read books from this vintage. Christie wrote this book in 1924