This was a fun outlier in Christie’s body of work, though it is actually one of her earliest published books. She doesn’t normally do thrillers or espionage (and when she does it’s often not all that great), or feature one-off main characters, or feature a narrative that has travel and adventure in it, but this book has all of that. It’s also unfortunately one of the more dated of Christie’s works because it takes place outside that domestic sphere her other work is so comfortable in. We’ve got rampant colonialism, some racism, and lots of gender issues like measuring a man’s manliness by whether or not he likes to go to Africa and kill lions. Lots of stuff like that, but nothing so egregious that I couldn’t enjoy myself with a healthy dose of cultural context and some eye-rolling. If nothing else, it’s a portrait of the British mindset at the time this was written.
Our main character is young Anne, whose archaeologist father has just died, and she decides to throw caution to the wind and go have adventures instead of being getting a job and being responsible. She seizes on the opportunity to investigate two suspicious murders she has a tangential connection to to make her adventures start. First, she witnesses a man fall onto train tracks after being surprised, and then later that day, a woman is murdered in a house across town. Anne puts the pieces together and ends up on a ship to South Africa, trying to find the man in the brown suit who everyone thinks murdered the woman in the house.
There’s hijinks and ridiculousness, and Anne makes some poor life decisions, but overall she is very clever and quick on her feet. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Emilia Fox, and it was a good time, except that the voice she used on the titular man was a bit silly. I’d already met Colonel Race in the very first Christie book I ever read, Death on the Nile, but I barely remember it, so he was basically brand new to me.
A good Christie, but not my favorite.
[3.5 stars, rounded up]