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by Agatha Christie
HarperCollins, December 2004
Unabridged audiobook pages
ISBN: 0007191138

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Originally published in 1924, THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT is one of Agatha Christie's earliest books; it also happens to be one of the first Christies that I ever read. When Anne Beddingfield's scholar father dies and leaves her nearly penniless, she eschews the traditional options open to young women of good families in the early 1920s. Anne wants and intends to have adventures.

After witnessing an accident, she begins to connect seemingly unrelated events. Although she lacks any plans for her future, she invests all of her inheritance in a ticket on a ship leaving for South Africa. In terms of her personal goals, it's the right move for Anne because adventures are what she finds.

Although there are mystery elements in the book, THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT is less of a traditional mystery and more of an adventure piece. Christie has Anne reference serial dramas and romantic heroines, which was perhaps wise, because both the book and Anne clearly fits into those molds. THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT boasts incredible coincidences, strong silent men, exotic locales, glamorous spies, and creepy criminals.

All of the above prove irresistible to Anne, who often willingly puts herself in harm's way just so she can continue her part in the story. For the most part, it's a fun ride. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the nostalgia factor; the casual descriptions of life aboard an ocean liner are mouthwateringly exotic today. The characters are colorful and often endearing. Every so often Anne's insistence on staying in danger is irritating, but she's so obviously charming that these instances are few and far between.

There are a few problems with THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT that a modern reader may encounter. Anne's notions of romance, for instance, while probably unremarkable to contemporary audiences, read somewhat as slightly disturbing now. The characters also refer to the native Africans with a term that is considered highly offensive. I recognize that Agatha Christie isn't the only Golden Age author who falls down in this regard. She was a product of her time after all, but modern audiences may have trouble with the story.

This unabridged audio book is read by Emilia Fox, who does a fine job with the narration.

Reviewed by Michelle L. Zafron, June 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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