Prudence ("Tuppence") Beresford, who has been married to Tommy for six years, is bored with life, although not with her husband. She flippantly discusses what exciting things she would wish to happen to her, mainly adventures involving German spies or spying trips to Bolshevik Russia. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Carter (See The Secret Adversary) who asks them to take over The International Detective Agency whose manager, Theodore Blunt, is now in prison. They are to undertake any of the cases that the agency receives whilst all the time watching for letters on blue paper sent to Mr. Blunt with a Russian stamp on them from a supposed ham merchant anxious to trace his refugee wife. They will have a "16" written under the stamp and they are also to be alert for any reference to said number.
A few days later, the two have installed themselves in the office. Tommy's alias is Mr. Blunt while Tuppence is his confidential secretary, Miss Robinson. The porter from their flat, Albert (Mrs. Vandemeyer's lift boy from The Secret Adversary) is their office boy. After a week of divorce cases, which Tuppence finds distasteful, they receive a visit from Lawrence St. Vincent. He is the nephew of and heir to the Earl of Cheriton. He has fallen for a young girl called Janet who works in a hat shop in Brooks Street but she has disappeared from the shop and has not been seen at her lodgings. St. Vincent heard several mentions of the detective agency from Janet and now wants them to find her. The Beresfords take on the case which Tuppence solves with ease. Janet is a friend of hers from her wartime nursing days who was working at the hatshop where Tuppence makes her purchases. She asked Janet to make the mentions of "Blunts" and then disappear. St. Vincent would ask them to take on the case (for which they get publicity) and they would "find" Janet, provoking St. Vincent into a proposal of marriage.
References or Allusions
References to actual history, geography and current science
- In A Fairy in the Flat, Tommy and Tuppence look at a blemish on a photograph, the shape of which resembles a fairy and Tuppence suggests writing to Conan Doyle about it. This is a reference to the Cottingley Fairies. This was a media cause célèbre of the early 1920s and surrounded five photographs taken by two girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, in Cottingley, West Yorkshire which supposedly showed fairies at the bottom of their garden. Conan Doyle believed the photographs were real and wrote a famous article about the incident which appeared in the November 1920 issue of the Strand Magazine.