Monday, November 1, 2010

The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie


Agatha Christie is best known for her detective novels featuring Poirot and Miss Marple, but for my money, her pleasantest works are the frothy tales of excitement and adventure she wrote mainly during the 1920s. The Man in the Brown Suit is one of the best of these, and The Secret of Chimneys is another.
The opening chapter finds Mr Anthony Cade, that amiable young adventurer, working as a tour guide in Africa. A chance encounter with an old friend sends him off on a possibly fatal trip to England to deliver the shady Herzoslovakian Count Stylptich's memoirs to the publishers. The Count intends to Reveal All in this document, so Anthony must evade half the diplomats, secret societies, and professional criminals of Europe in his attempt to safely deliver them. Fearing that he might become bored, Anthony also volunteers to return the love letters of Mrs Virginia Revel to her so that she need no longer fear blackmail.
Upon arriving in London, Anthony becomes aware that not all is what it seems. Though correctly young, pretty, and widowed Mrs Revel is not at all the kind of person to fear blackmail. Pompous diplomat George Lomax will stop at nothing to inveigle Anthony up to Chimneys House for the weekend, where a fabulous treasure is rumoured to be hidden and a foreign prince dies suddenly of lead-poisoning. Detectives from three different countries haunt the grounds—and all of them think Anthony did it. Fortunately, Mr Cade has a trick or two up his own sleeve...
Nobody would call The Secret of Chimneys a grand classic of English literature. The Secret of Chimneys wouldn't care. It is light, charming, and extremely well-written with plenty of twists and surprises—excellent public-transport or holiday reading.

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