Friday, 17 December 2010

Partners In Crime (1929)

Plot: What Tommy and Tuppence did next... was take the piss, frankly.

After the ripping yarn of The Secret Adversary, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford set out to solve crimes using the methods of other detectives as a set of literary parodies.

The whole idea was already waaay out of date when the stories were adapted for a baffled 1980s television audience. While Francesca Annis chews the scenery and a variety of hats, James Warwick turns up in a variety of mad costumes without explanation, including a priest's costume. If you're well-read in
your crime, you may just think “Why is he dressed as Father Brown?” but that'll be about it. By the time Francesca Annis dances through a health farm in a series of veils, you may indeed be ready to commit a crime yourself.

If you want to know the sources, Charles Osbourne's Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie features a handy grid... giving your an at-a-glance guide to a lot of mostly out-of-print and forgotten sleuths. You probably won't be much wiser, although you may go “oooh, I've read a couple”. There's also a lovely analysis here

The most interesting parody is when Tommy pretends to be Hercule Poirot, at which point you can only applaud Christie for being rather meta.

Hopelessly out-of-context, how do the stories themselves hold up? The nearest comparison I guess is The Big Four, although Partners In Crime is neither as mad nor as bad. Some adventures are joyous and atmospheric (The House Of Lurking Death), some are madcap John Buchan (The Sinister Stranger) or just madly Dr Nikola (Blindman's Bluff with its electrified floor).

However, just when your teeth grind together like a vintage gearbox, you'll be reminded how adorable Tommy and Tuppence are, or how well they work in an atmosphere of vague conspiracy and intrigue. What keeps this collection fun is that they're having a ripping time, which makes it all more than bearable. They're great company even on an off-day. More of which, next time.

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