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In the novel The Secret Adversary, Mr Brown is the alias of the titular "secret adversary". Said to be The master criminal of his age, he controls a vast organisation with spies and operatives everywhere. His true objectives and motives remain a mystery, though his organisation is thought to be attempting to forment revolution and undermine existing institutions. British Intelligence speculates that he probably wishes to obtain supreme power for himself in some perverted way.

Despite being the head of a vast criminal organisation, very few people, not even most members of his gang know who he is or what he looks like. He invariably stays in the background, although he is often present, directing matters incognito, even at meetings chaired by his subordinates. Because Mr Brown would have spotted everywhere including inside the government, Tommy and Tuppence, being relatively unknown outsiders, are thought to be an ideal team to find him. As it turns out, they had already met him-- as a clerk in the office of Edward Whittington. Tommy didn't really notice him because he is "quite ordinary", "just like everyone else".

Mr Brown's true identity would not be discovered until the end of story.

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