Sometimes, when I am reading what other people think about Agatha Christie, I read a lot of flack about her spy novels. Unrealistic, they said. Improbable. A bit silly. A little ridiculous. Well, those people are absolutely correct, but that doesn’t make the books any less fun. If anything, Christie’s spy novels are my very favorites. I love the cloak and dagger silliness, and the humor in those books is always set at perfect.
The Man in the Brown Suit is one of Christie’s earlier novels, and it is one of my all-time favorites. I have read it multiple times, and never get tired of the humor and theatrics of the story. Sir Eustace is a fantastic voice, while Anne’s narrative is also fabulous. Christie weaves the two first-person narratives in a way that keeps both voices completely distinct. I never have a moment’s confusion as to whose perspective I am reading.
Do I have to suspend belief every time I read it? Yes, absolutely, but I just don’t care because the story is so much fun. That’s not to say that there isn’t any grit to the tale. There are definitely moments of tension and adventure, but it all just makes the big reveal that much more dramatic.
Published shortly after World War I, it’s a strong theme throughout, both in the obvious plot points (evil Germans, for one) and the background of a culture attempting to recover from a time of desperation and, at times, despair. I love little things that set the book in its time, like the sending of cables and the fact that Anne and her father have a maid even though they have almost no money. Christie always does a really wonderful job of writing her books in their time. Read this book 90 years after it was published, much of it is still relevant and the story is still fabulous, but it is also unmistakably set in the early 1920’s, and I love that. For me, books aren’t timeless because they have no time, but because the story transcends its time even as it embraces it.
All in all, a fabulous little Christie tale that I highly recommend, especially if you’re looking for a bit of an escape. 5/5.