The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie

The Man in the Brown Suit
Agatha Christie
England, 1924

What a wonderful romp! Christie’s fifth outing (and fourth novel) takes us on a multi-continent adventure in search of the eponymous “Man in the Brown Suit” and the answer to the mystery of the death of an unidentified woman in a home owned by the absent Sir Eustace Pedler. After a scene setting prologue, introducing us third-hand to the character of the anonymous “Colonel,” a master criminal who has managed to never get his hands dirty, we start ordinarily enough in post-Great War England, with  young heroine Anne Beddingfield, recently orphaned, rather poor, and in search of a great adventure.  With nothing to lose, she takes the first opportunity to move to London, sure that it is a city where adventure awaits. Anne is not wrong. Soon she finds herself embroiled in a complex web of intrigue stretching from England to South Africa and Rhodesia, as she endeavors not only to track down the brown-suited man, but also to unravel the mystery of the murdered woman, and discover the hidden secrets of her fellow travelers.

Anne is a delight as a character, with her youthful enthusiasm and intelligence. And the remaining cast of characters are fascinating as well: Mrs. Blair, a wealthy but bored socialite; the silent, stern Colonel Race, who may or may not be British Intelligence; Sir Eustice Pedler, a wealthy MP who loves nothing more than comfort; the sinister-looking Guy Pagett, secretary to Sir Eustice; Harry Rayborn, a mysterious man also in the employ of Sir Eustace; and Reverend Edward Chichester, who may not quite be what he seems.

Much as with The Secret Adversary, The Man in the Brown Suit is more thriller than mystery, despite the murder in the early chapters. Rather, it is the murder that triggers subsequent events, and the reader is carried along with our young heroine, against a background of diamond thieves, revolution, and dynamic scenery. As far as I can discover, it has only had one film adaptation, a made-for-TV movie that doesn’t appear to have been well-reviewed, but with the fast-pace and variety of scenery, I can imagine it as an excellent big-screen entertainment. As much as I enjoy the mysteries of Hercule Poirot, The Man in the Brown Suit is so far my favorite of the Christies in my chronological set of reads.

10 thoughts on “The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie”

  1. I don’t think I’ve read this one and I must get back to Agatha; I love your project, it’s such a good way of reading an author I think!

    1. Thanks, Jane! It wasn’t my idea to make reading Christie a project – I got it from Cleo at Classical Carousel who got it from someone else. But it’s certainly a fun way to make it through her mysteries.

  2. Oh, The Man in the Brown Suit is one if my favourites and was one if the first books I’d read by Christie. Have you ever read The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters? It reminded both my daughter & me of this book.

    1. Carol, yes I have read The Crodcodile on the Sandbank – but until you mentioned it, I hadn’t made the connection. I see it, though! Thank you for the reminder, it would be fun to go back and read more Amelia Peabody mysteries.

    1. Yes, I’ve read Crooked House, a couple years ago. I definitely enjoyed it; it’s actually one of the books that prompted me to revisit more Agatha Christie mysteries.

    1. I’d vaguely heard of this one, but knew nothing about it before starting on my Agatha Christie reading project. She wrote a lot, and it seems like really on the Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple stories are well known (or at least at my local library).

  3. And so you keep going …. I’m reading The Mystery of the Seven Dials now.

    This is one of my favourites and the movie with Stephanie Zimbalist is excellent! She does this thriller well, unlike The Big Four. Looking forward to your next review!

    1. Cleo, to be fair, I read this months ago (and the draft has been sitting patiently ever since)–but these mysteries make great light reads in between heavier books. (Sometimes literally heavier–I’ve read a couple books this year that do better sitting on a table than my lap.)

      Thanks for the movie rec–I’ll have to see if I can find it.

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