Blindman's Buff is a short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in The Sketch in November 1924. It was the 10th of a series of stories for the Sketch under the banner "Tommy and Tuppence" which formed a loosely contiguous story arc. This story was subsequently compiled as part of the collection Partners in Crime which came out in both the U.K. and the U.S. in 1929. The stories in the story arc are resequenced in the collection. In U.K. editions, this story is chapter 8 (the 6th story). In U.S. editions, this story is chapter 10.
A Duke asks The International Detective Agency to help find his daughter who has been kidnapped, but this is a trap from agents keen on getting hold of the "blue letters" which the agency has received. For this story Tommy imitates the style of the blind detective Thornley Colton and this persona has a bearing on the solution of the case.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
Tommy receives a phone call from Mr Carter warning him and Tuppence that the people connected with the Russian letters on blue paper have become aware that they have taken Blunt's place and to expect developments any time soon. Tommy suggests Tuppence waits in the safety of their home but she refuses. To pass over the quiet time that the agency is currently experiencing, Tommy suggests in exercise in following the methods of the blind detective Thornley Colton. He dons a pair of black eyeshades and practises (badly) his awareness of his surroundings by use of his other senses. Tommy decides he and Tuppence will go for lunch at the Blitz Hotel in order that he can practise further in the surroundings of the restaurant.
At the Blitz, they are soon joined by two men who have been observing the pair and say that the Blunt's have been pointed out to them, although one of them confesses that he didn't know that Theodore Blunt was blind. They were on the way to see them but were told they were out to lunch and by coincidence have stopped at the same place. One of the men introduces himself as the Duke of Blairgowrie and his friend is Captain Harker. The Duke's daughter has been kidnapped "under somewhat peculiar circumstances" which mean that he cannot call in the police and he wants the Blunts to accompany them to his house immediately. Tommy agrees but not before he has drunk a cup of coffee and given Tuppence instructions for a meal at the hotel tomorrow that he is having with the French Prefect of Police. That done, they leave with Tommy and the Duke taking a different car to that of Captain Harker and Tuppence.
It is a trap and the "Duke" is in reality connected with the Russian letters. He prods a pistol at Tommy and takes him to a hideout where he is bound to a chair while the "Duke" gloats over him. He tells Tommy that the floor of the room they are in is metal and now electrified. Even though he is blind, he is going to make Tommy walk across the floor. If he steps on a contact point, he will die. He hands him his white cane and unties him and the "game" is about to commence. Tommy coolly takes out a cigarette and match but he has anticipated the trap and instead lights a magnesium wire he is carrying. The flare blinds the "Duke" who lowers his pistol and then he finds himself at the point of Tommy's cane – in reality, a swordstick. Tommy reveals that his dark shades were actually false and he has been able to see all the time. The "Duke" springs forward with rage and steps on a contact point, dying instantly. Tommy escapes the house and rings Tuppence from a call box. She is safe. Tommy's order at the hotel were codewords from Clinton H. Stagg's stories for Albert to fetch help. Albert tailed Tuppence and he and the police freed her from "Captain Harker".
Parody of a fictional detective
The style is that Clinton H. Stagg's stories about the blind detective Thornley Colton. Tommy does pretend to be blind and this is an important plot point.
References or Allusions
References to actual history, geography and current science
The Blitz Hotel is a play on words on London's Ritz Hotel. Christie uses the same location (and the same name for it) in the 1925 novel The Secret of Chimneys. But the actual Ritz is mentioned in The Sunningdale Mystery.
- 1924: The Sketch, Issue 1659, Illustrated London News Company (London), 26 November 1924.
- 1928 Hutchinson's Adventure & Mystery Story Magazine, vol. 2 no. 11, Hutchison (London), August 1928, as "Blind Man's Bluff".
- 1929: Partners in Crime, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1929, Hardcover, 277 pp
- 1929: Partners in Crime, William Collins and Sons (London), September 16, 1929, Hardcover, 256 pp
- 1943: Triple Threat, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1943, omnibus comprising Poirot Investigates, The Mysterious Mr. Quin and Partners in Crime), Hardcover.