Tuesday ’Tec! A Fairy in the Flat/A Pot of Tea by Agatha Christie

Dynamic duo…

 

Tommy says: Why would anyone want to change us? We're perfect...
Tommy and Tuppence say “We really must find a better photographer.”

Anyone who is the housemate of cats will know they don’t like to feel they’re in second place. So when my cats saw that I had featured Miss Marple on a recent Tuesday ’Tec post, they were most displeased. Frankly, my life has been a misery ever since, so to try to get back into their good books, I am today featuring their namesakes – the original Tommy and Tuppence – on this week’s…

 

Tuesday Tec

 

A Fairy in the Flat

by Agatha Christie

 

Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford haven’t really become part of the public consciousness in the way that Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot have, but I think that’s an injustice. They are different from Agatha Christie’s other detectives in that, not only are they a married couple, but they age in real time. There are only four Tommy and Tuppence novels and a collection of short stories, Partners in Crime, from which these two stories are the opening chapters. The first novel, The Secret Adversary, takes place immediately after the First World War and involves a secret treaty and a missing woman. During it, Tommy is recruited to work for the Secret Service and Tommy and Tuppence fall in love. Partners in Crime is their next appearance – it’s six years later, Tommy is doing a desk job for the Secret Service and Tuppence, now his wife, is bored…

“I wish,” she said, “something would happen.”

When she goes on to explain that being fairly well off and married to Tommy isn’t quite as exciting as she anticipated, the rather offended Tommy offers to help…

“Shall I neglect you a little?” suggested Tommy. “Take other women about to night clubs. That sort of thing.”

“Useless,” said Tuppence. “You would only meet me there with other men. And I should know perfectly well that you didn’t care for the other women, whereas you would never be quite sure that I didn’t care for the other men, Women are so much more thorough.”

“It’s only in modesty that men score top marks,” murmured her husband.

Fortunately for the sake of their marriage, at this point Mr Carter shows up. He’s Tommy’s boss in Intelligence and has a proposition to put to them. A detective agency run by the dodgy Mr Theodore Blunt needs a manager, Mr Blunt himself being under arrest. It’s important that the agency remains open because mysterious blue letters with a Russian stamp get addressed there, and the Secret Service are keen to intercept them. So Mr Carter suggests that Tommy should take the place of Mr Blunt and, knowing Tuppence from their previous adventures, he tells them…

“You can run the Agency as you please. I fancied” – his eyes twinkled a little – “that it might amuse Mrs Tommy to try her hand at detective work.”

James Warwick and the delightful Francesca Annis as Tommy and Tuppence in the ITV adaptation
James Warwick and the delightful Francesca Annis as Tommy and Tuppence in the ITV adaptation

* * * * *

A Pot of Tea

 

And indeed it does! An avid reader of detective fiction, Tuppence fancies herself an expert and is keen to try out the techniques of some of her favourite fictional sleuths, and so Blunt’s Brilliant Detectives! is born. The rest of the book is made up of short stories in each of which Tommy and Tuppence take on an investigation, while the Russian letter storyline runs in the background. A Pot of Tea is the first story.

At first business is slow. Tuppence objects to doing divorce work and oddly enough murderers and embezzlers seem a bit thin on the ground. Things begin to look up when a young man turns up looking for help to find the girl he loves, who has mysteriously disappeared. The young man looks like a toff (and behaves not unlike Bertie Wooster) and Tuppence is convinced that if they solve this case, it’ll be great publicity for the Agency. But getting a description of the missing girl from the lovestruck Lawrence St Vincent is not altogether straightforward…

“She’s got the most marvellous hair – sort of golden but very deep, like a jolly old sunset – that’s it, a jolly old sunset. You know, I never noticed things like sunsets until lately. Poetry too, there’s a lot more in poetry than I ever thought.”

“Red hair,” said Tuppence unemotionally, writing it down.

Will Tuppence find the girl? Will Blunt’s Brilliant Detectives! be a huge success? Will Tommy and Tuppence live happily ever after? You’ll have to read it to find out…

* * * * *

Anthony Andrews and Greta Scacchi as Tommy and Tuppence with Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple in the much later, pretty awful ITV adaptation of By The Pricking of My Thumbs - great cast, shame about the script!
Anthony Andrews and Greta Scacchi as Tommy and Tuppence with Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple in the much later, pretty awful ITV adaptation of By The Pricking of My Thumbs – great cast, shame about the script!

Although the later novels take on a more serious tone (and in the case of By the Pricking of My Thumbs a distinctly creepy and sinister one), the Tommy and Tuppence stories are where Christie uses humour to best effect, in my opinion, especially in these early ones. The banter between the two is great fun, and Tuppence herself is a joy to spend time with. Impulsive, unpredictable and warm-hearted, she is always leading the rather more staid Tommy into tricky situations, but he adores her and, although he grumbles, he’s happy to follow. His skills as an ex-soldier and current member of the Secret Service mean he’s no slouch himself, especially when it comes to the action parts. They truly are a partnership, ably assisted by Albert, a young man they take under their wing, who acts at various times as their office boy, butler, confidant and friend.

Great fun – and the more of you who read them, the more likely my own little T&T are to forgive me…

 

* * * * *

Little Grey Cells rating: ❓ ❓ ❓

Overall story rating:      😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

No online version again this week – sorry! But these two introductory stories are available as a Kindle single…

a fairy in the flat

Amazon UK Link

(Sorry, not available in the US as far as I can see)

…or as part of the full collection…

partners in crime

Amazon UK Link        Amazon US Link

68 thoughts on “Tuesday ’Tec! A Fairy in the Flat/A Pot of Tea by Agatha Christie

  1. No need to tell you how much I love T&T 😀 And it is always a delight to see the furry friends keeping an eye on things. Ah, this review has brightened by afternoon no end – many thanks, FF!

  2. Oh, so happy you featured these two, FictionFan! And I don’t blame you one bit for wanting to get back into the real Tommy and Tuppence’s good graces. It’s always dangerous to irritate one’s feline overlords. I think that collection of short stories is some of the better Tommy/Tuppence work, to be honest. Besides the mysteries, I have to say I like the repartee between the two. Yes, you have to send your disbelief out for coffee or something once in a while, but I don’t somehow find that as off-putting in these stories as I do in some others. And please, please do not get me started on that television adaptation. Please.

    • Indeed it is – especially since my own little Tuppence is as feisty and unpredictable as the original! Yes, I love these stories probably best of the T&T stuff, though I do have a huge soft spot for By the Pricking of My Thumbs. I know it’s a bit messy, but I think she got a really creepy atmosphere into it. And although I really hate the recent adaptation, June Whitfield made a fine Mrs Lancaster, I thought. In fact, I liked most of the casting – just hated what they did to the story… ugh!

      • Absolutely, FictionFan! The story line….well…less said about that, the lower my blood pressure stays 😉
         
        I think you have a good point too about Christie’s ability to create a creepy atmosphere. I don’t know that she always gets the recognition she deserves for that.

  3. I’ve always loved Tommy and Tuppence, although I’ve yet to see a satisfactory TV adaptation of the books. And of course you have to get back into the good books of your delightful Tommy and Tuppence – taking pictures of cats without getting flashy eyes is soooo hard, isn’t it?

    • Yes, I think part of the problem is that they aged. If someone is cast correctly for the early ones then they’re far too young for the later ones and vice versa. Both Miss M and Poirot were more timeless. But I enjoyed the Francesca Annis ones. It is! Especially Tuppence who always stares straight at the camera – a pity, because they’re much prettier than they ever look in my pics! (They made me say that…)

  4. I always felt let down that there were never more of the T&T stories. But your cats are a bonus, I think. I daresay that Tuppence could tell you where Tommy hides their fuzz mice are hidden. Tommy and Tuppence are second only to Miss Marple in favor in my opinion. There just isn’t much to love when it comes to Hercule Poirot. Clever, yes. Humility, no.

  5. I saw By the Pricking of My Thumbs and felt instantly hostile that Miss Marple had been added in. Ugh!! I love Christie’s Miss Marple stories. But come on, people!!! Don’t add her into stories where she doesn’t belong!

    • I know – they messed so badly with the stories. I had to give up watching them in the end, which was a shame because I love both Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie. I reckon the scriptwriters should be the victims in the episode…

        • I don’t know why they do it. If they don’t want to film them the way they were written why don’t they just write something completely new? It’s just cashing in on someone else’s name…

  6. I loved that line about women being so much more thorough! – not just the line, but its context.

    You know, I really might have to read these. Though I am marginally disappointed that the original Tommy and Tuppence are a married couple of humans, I was kind of hoping they were a brother and a sister cat, who were also detectives.

  7. PS Is Stalin about to appear soon……….I note his physog has vanished from the being read place. I might have to have a replay of Shostakovich 5th to get into the mood……….

    • Well, maybe – I’m really struggling to motivate myself to write reviews at the moment, and while it was quite good, it wasn’t the most inspiring biography I’ve read. Unlike my current read The Rival Queens which is a rip-roaring romp (with the best footnote I have ever read in my entire life – intrigued?)! So get Shostakovich ready but tell him he may have to hang around for a while, and line up something French and a bit raunchy for later…

      • Hmm – well my almost psychic dear heart – just WAIT for tomorrow’s post, which might be just what the bit raunchy French musical doctor ordered!! It’s been ready and waiting to go for more than a week, but was scheduled behind various ARCS and publication days

        It sounds as if I might have to wait longer for your wonderful footnote than you will have to, for the ooh la la!

        Funnily enough, I’ve also been half eyeing some TBRR classics, of fin-de-siecle nineteenth century France, all rather decadent. Perhaps they are more exhausted than raunchy though.

        • Aha! I shall listen while I read the next installment in the lovelives of the rich and royal! I must say I’ve never read a bio before that actually had tears of laughter streaming down my face!

          Ooh, I may not be able to repeat the footnote in the review – I might have to change my blog status to adults only! You might just have to read the book… or bribe me.

          I don’t think I’ve read very many French classics – bit of Flaubert, bit of Zola, and I think that’s about it. And sooooo long ago, back in the days when I used to try to read these things in French (and then hastily give up and get a translation).

  8. You finally got them together in the same frame.. 😛
    I thought I had read all the Tommy Tuppence books..I see I left out By The Pricking of My Thumbs though..
    there’s a T&T TV adaptation?! *screams in delight*.. 😀

    • By the Pricking of my Thumbs is a really good one – the plot’s a bit messy, as some of her later books were, but it’s a really scary one.

      Haha! Yes, but the new version of By the Pricking is awful! The old series with Francesca Annis was a lot of fun though, if you ever get the chance to watch them. They were based on the stories on this book if memory serves me right… 😀

  9. Oh this sounds so good and I still haven’t read any of Tommy and Tuppence’s books but scrabbling around in the TBR cupboard I have found the one I own which is the first, The Secret Adversary. Thanks for featuring such a brilliant tale for Tuesday ‘Tec

    • I think this collection of shorts is my favourite of the T&T ones, but I love The Secret Adversary too – she manages to do romance without it being soppy, and T&T are such fun characters. Hope you enjoy! 😀

  10. These sound delightful! Sadly, I have previously been unaware of their existence, although I have enjoyed numerous Miss Marple and Poirot stories in the past. Thanks for the introduction. 😀

    • My pleasure! 😀 I suspect it’s because there are so few Tommy and Tuppence books that they haven’t become as famous, but these early ones in particular are great fun!

  11. I feel a reread coming on. And as for the cats; my very own domestic tyrant needed a pill on Sunday, and my hands are still bleeding in places. He’s due another one tomorrow – think I may just leave home!

  12. How clever of you to name your kitties after this couple, FF!! I haven’t read these stories, but they sound fascinating, certainly something I should add to my TBR list — thank you!!

    • They were re-running the old series at the time that I acquired the kittens and somehow the names seemed to suit them! But now they have delusions of fame…

      These stories really are light, enjoyable fun – hope you enjoy them! 🙂

    • The early series with Francesca Annis was quite good fun, but the later adaptation of By the Pricking of My Thumbs was pretty bad. I don’t think they’ve done a really great version yet though – maybe there just aren’t enough stories to make it worthwhile.

  13. As much as I do like that picture of T&T…we really do need a new one. But I understand. It’s not like a certain someone just got a new camera to try out!!!

    Just look at that hat Tuppence is wearing. I think she stole it from a guy.

    • *laughs lots* Well, you see, it’s not really the camera that’s the problem. It’s just that T&T used to always be together and then they grew up and decided they don’t really like each other much. Now the only way I could get a picture of them together is to use superglue…

      *laughs some more* At least it’s not a baseball cap…

      (PS I’ve added this one to your TBR – T&T insisted!)

        • Well, I have – but since they both spend 99.9% of their time sleeping, action shots are few and far between. You need to come and teach them a few tricks…

          *nods* And the dinky little baseball trousers…

          (Tuppence is not happy with you now… hope you’re feeling brave…)

          • *laughs* Do they really? See, I thought that my cats slept all the time because it was hot. Is it hot in Scotland? That could be the ticket. Yes, I do need to visit. You will be proud to know I found the city you live in on a map! *proud himself* Zoomed in on Scotland. The worrisome thing is that I had some trouble finding where I live…

            Oh trousers nothing, dadblameit!

            (I’m very brave at the moment. Ready to fight at Troy or something.)

            • We’re having a heatwave (70s)! Thunderstorms and rain… but hot! But these two sleep all the time whatever the weather – I swear if they didn’t need to eat occasionally they’d never wake up. What a fabulous life! I’m very proud! Was it one of those maps that shows images? (Must take some pics!! *guilty face*) *laughs* I wish that surprised me more than it does…

              No trousers!! Professor!!! Really!!!! (*searches the TV listing for baseball matches*)

              (*nods* Yes, the weather’s perfect for skirts and sandals…)

            • Oh…that’s beautiful weather. I’m wishing for snow, the sudden, though. *laughs* You have to play with them more. You know, make them exercise and all that. Yes, it was like Google Earth, if you’re familiar with that. (Yes, you must! I’m soooooo curious to see Scotland.)

              *laughs* You know what I meant! Pants not trousers!

              I didn’t know you wore skirts and sandals…

            • Yeah, I miss winter! Look here, I do my best! I sit here for hours dangling fishies on sticks, or throwing mice or running laser beams up and down the walls! They watch… but they don’t move!! I think their batteries have run down…

              Indeed! You could see my house then – if only you knew where I live! It’s the red one in the middle… (I’m not photographing the whole of Scotland!! Even though it’s the most beautiful country in the entire universe!)

              *disappointed face*

              Hmm… how badly would you pick on me if I admitted that… occasionally…

            • No! You must tackle them (easily) and rough them up manually! Always need to manually reset things, see.

              Red one! That’s perfect, since that’s the best color. (Rats. You bummer you!)

              I would think that’s absolutely one of the coolest things ever.

            • Rough them up?!? Tuppence?? I’d be lucky to survive! We do occasionally play ‘throw the cat treats around the room’ – that makes Tommy move. And ‘throw the chocolate wrappers around the room’ is good too, but then sadly I have to eat the chocolates…

              I’d rather have a castle though. (*gasps* Name-calling, is it, you… you… cheeky monkey!)

              *laughs* Really? You’re a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, you know, you know…

            • Yes, you know… Hmm, that Tuppence is sure a wicked one. Just do it to Tommy, then. But it seems like he gets exercise in the other games. Yes, I fear you must brought Tuppence up.

              A castle? You would not! Too…dark and damp, remember. (*laughing lots* I’m definitely that.)

              *nods* Absolutely. And I love that description, the sudden.

            • I could make Tuppence bungee jump out of the bedroom window… *muses*

              Only in the dungeons – and the people down there deserve it! (*nods vehemently*

              I first said it in my past life as Winston…

            • And please take some pics when you do it, madam. *waiting for pictures since 1000 years ago*

              What sort of people would you put in the dungeons? Darby?

              Ohhhhh….how very clever of you.

            • Do you think I’m a contortionist?! Or a thark?? Handling Tuppence requires more than one hand, you know, you know… *checks e-mail to see if the promised OK pics have arrived yet*

              Professors. And girls with pony-tails. But different dungeons so don’t bother practicising your winking technique…

              *preens despite not being altogether sure what she did to deserve it*

            • Definitely a thark! You should love to be one of those. Well…here’s the thing… *laughs* I was going to send them, but then I thought who wants to see that stuff anyway. But if you do, I’ll send them forthwith!

              Oh, I’d escape from the jail.

            • Well, as you know, I’d really rather be a calot. Why make do with six limbs when you could have ten? Forthwith, sir, forthwith!!!

              Without rescuing the girl? Fie, sir, where’s your knightly chivalry?

            • That’s a good argument. I suppose the reason against it is the amount of shoes you’d have to buy. Okay…you asked for it!

              Well, she’d have to give me a pretty good reason as to why I should help her out.

            • Hmm… a valid point! But imagine how dramatic it would be to dance the flamenco! (Hehe! Cool hat!)

              No, she wouldn’t! One flick of her ponytail and you’d be putty in her hands… *shakes head despairingly*

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