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Dustjacket illustration of the UK First Edition (Book was first published in the US)

Partners in Crime is a short story collection written by Agatha Christie and first published by Dodd, Mead and Company in the US in 1929 and in the UK by William Collins & Sons on September 16 of the same year. The US edition retailed at $2.00 and the UK edition at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6).

All of the stories in the collection had previously been published in magazines (see First publication of stories below) and feature her detectives Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, first introduced in The Secret Adversary (1922).

Plot introduction

The Beresfords' old friend, Mr Carter (who works for an unnamed government intelligence agency) arrives bearing a proposition for the adventurous duo. They are to take over 'The International Detective Agency', a recently cleaned out spy stronghold, and pose as the owners so as to intercept any enemy messages coming through. But until such a message arrives, Tommy and Tuppence are to do with the detective agency as they please - an opportunity that delights the young couple. They employ the hapless but well-meaning Albert, a young man also introduced in The Secret Adversary, as their assistant at the agency.

Eager and willing, the two set out to tackle several cases. In each case mimicking the style of a famous fictional detective of the period, including Sherlock Holmes and Christie's own Hercule Poirot. That's when her brother gets murdered...

At the end of the book, Tuppence reveals that she is pregnant, and as a result will play a diminished role in the spy business.

Chapters

Parodies of other detectives

Each story contains a parody of the detecting style of a detective in fiction including figures such as Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown and even Hercule Poirot! See the individual stories for details.

Literary significance and reception

(lengthy - click on expand to read)

The review of the book in the Times Literary Supplement's issue of October 17, 1929 seemed to recognise the tongue-in-cheek nature of the work when it stated, "Mrs. Christie has given an amusing twist to the episodes by suggesting that the two partners in "Blunt's Brilliant Detectives" assume on each occasion the method, the manner of speech, and the outlook favoured by some well-known detective of fiction. Holmes, Thorndyke, Father Brown and even Poirot are amiably parodied, and once or twice the solution as well as the dialogue is deliberately facetious". The review pedantically ended by saying that, "the author is incorrect in the explanation she gives of the printer's marks on newspapers, the distinction of dates which she makes really being one of editions".

The review in The New York Times Book Review of September 22, 1929 began: "To describe adequately such a book as this is no easy matter. It is a group of short detective stories within a detective novel, for there is a rather sketchy, but nonetheless absorbing plot which holds the separate tales together. The entire book and the separate stories may be taken as hilarious burlesque or parodies of current detective fiction, or they may be taken as serious attempts on the part of the author to write stories in the manner of some of the masters of the art. Taken either way they are distinctly worth while." The review concluded, "The result is the merriest collection of detective stories it has been our good fortune to encounter."

The Scotsman of September 16, 1929 said, "Detective fiction, like mathematics, tends to develop a language of its own which to the uninitiated can be a little troublesome. It is not so much a matter of 'blue-nosed automatics' and other jargon of the craft of detective fiction; the trouble is that many of the writers seem to have little command of English and cannot make their characters speak naturally. Agatha Christie is a notable exception. In this volume of stories she has conceived the ingenious idea of setting her two amateur detectives...to work out their problems after the fashion of various heroes of detective fiction. This enables her to parody the methods of various writers...in a way that is most enjoyable, for her literary skill is equal to the task. At the same time the stories are genuinely detective stories. They are well wrought and ingenious. The writer has the saving grace of humour and she does not let her detectives win too easily. By having two detectives who are usually alternately successful she has always a foil, less obtuse than 'my dear Watson'".

The Daily Express issue of October 10, 1929 gave the book a review of a couple of lines which concluded that the stories were "not quite up to her level, although they are entertaining enough".

Robert Barnard: "Tommy and Tuppence in a series of short stories which parody detective writers and their methods. Many of these are long forgotten, but the parodies are not sharp enough for this to matter very much. The House of Lurking Death anticipates the solution of Dorothy L. Sayers's Strong Poison."


Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The Case of the Missing Lady (1950)

This single story from Partners in Crime was presented as the twelfth episode in the twenty-six episode anthology series Nash Airflyte Theatre on Thursday, December 7, 1950 (possibly under the title of The Disappearance Of Mrs. Gordan). The 30-minute live transmission on CBS was at 10.30pm from New York City. There are differing accounts of who starred in the adaptation. Peter Haining states that the stars were Barbara Bel Geddes as Tuppence and Lee Bowman as Tommy but other sources state that the stars were Ronald Reagan and Cloris Leachman "Nash Airflyte Theatre" The Case of the Missing Lady (1950). The adaptation was written and directed by Marc Daniels.

1953 radio adaptation

Partners in Crime was adapted as a 13-part radio serial broadcast on the BBC's London, Midland and Scottish Home Service from Monday, April 13 to Monday, July 13, 1953. The half-hour episodes starred Richard Attenborough as Tommy and Sheila Sim as Tuppence, taking advantage of the actor's then-current starring roles in The Mousetrap. Oscar Quitak appeared in all episodes as Albert. Aside from a 1948 adaptation of Ten Little Ni**ers, this was the first adaptation of a Christie book for radio in the UK.

1983 television adaptation

A television adaptation in ten episodes was made by London Weekend Television with James Warwick as Tommy and Francesca Annis as Tuppence and Reece Dinsdale as Albert. It was first broadcast in the UK between October 16, 1983 and January 14, 1984.

Main article: Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime

Publication history

Dust-jacket illustration of the US (true first) edition.

  • 1929, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1929, Hardcover, 277 pp
  • 1929, William Collins and Sons (London), September 16, 1929, Hardcover, 256 pp
  • c.1929, Lawrence E. Spivak (New York), Abridged edition, 126 pp
  • 1943, Dodd Mead and Company, (As part of the Triple Threat along with Poirot Investigates and The Mysterious Mr. Quin), Hardcover
  • 1958, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 189 pp
  • 1962, Pan Books, Paperback (Great Pan G526), 203 pp
  • 1963, Dell Books (New York), Paperback, 224 pp
  • 1986, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, ISBN 0-7089-1540-X
  • 2010, HarperCollins; Facsimile edition, Hardcover: 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-00-735463-4

Chapters from the book appeared in Agatha Christie's Crime Reader, published by Cleveland Publishing in 1944 along with other selections from Poirot Investigates and The Mysterious Mr. Quin.

First publication of stories

All of the stories in Partners in Crime first appeared in magazines between 1923 and 1928, principally The Sketch magazine. One other was in The Grand Magazine and the last from Holly Leaves, the annual Christmas special of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News

For Partners in Crime, Christie rearranged the story order and changed the framing device of several of the chapters to make the flow of the book easier. The original order and publication details of the stories versus where they ended up in the collection can be seen in the table below. Note that U.K. and U.S. editions of Partners in Crime have different chapter numbers.

Original Magazine Publication Chapters in Partners in Crime
The First Wish
The Grand Magazine issue 226, Dec 1923
illustrated by Arthur Ferrier.
14. (20. US) The Clergyman's Daughter

15. (21. US) The Red House

Publicity
The Sketch issue 1652, 24 Sep, 1924
1. A Fairy in the Flat
2. A Pot of Tea
The Affair of the Pink Pearl
The Sketch issue 1653, 1 Oct, 1924
3. (3. and 4. US) The Affair of the Pink Pearl
Finessing the King
The Sketch issue 1654, 8 Oct, 1924
5. (7. US) Finessing the King

6. (8. US) The Gentleman Dress in Newspaper

The Case of the Missing Lady
The Sketch issue 1655, 15 Oct, 1924
7. (9. US) The Case of the Missing Lady
The Case of the Sinister Stranger
The Sketch issue 1656, 22 Oct 22, 1924.
4. (5. US) The Adventure of the Sinister Stranger

- (6. US) The Adventure of the Sinister Stranger (continued)

The Sunninghall Mystery
The Sketch issue 1657, 29 Oct, 1924
11. (15. US) The Sunningdale Mystery

- (16. US) The Sunningdale Mystery (continued)

The House of Lurking Death
The Sketch issue 1658, 5 Nov, 1924
12. (17. US) The House of Lurking Death

- (18. US) The House of Lurking Death (continued)

The Matter of the Ambassador's Boots
The Sketch issue 1659, 12 Nov, 1924
16. (22. US) The Ambassador's Boots
The Affair of the Forged Notes
The Sketch issue 1660, 19 Nov, 1924
10. (13. US) The Crackler

- (14. US) The Crackler (continued)

Blindman's Buff
The Sketch issue 1659, 26 Nov, 1924
8. (10. US) Blindman's Buff
The Man in the Mist
The Sketch issue 1662, 3 Dec, 1924
9. (11. US) The Man in the Mist

- (12. US) The Man in the Mist (continued)

The Man who was No. 16
The Sketch issue 1663, 10 Dec, 1924
17. (23. US) The Man who was No. 16
The Unbreakable Alibi
Holly Leaves, Dec, 1928
13. (19. US) The Unbreakable Alibi

Book dedication

As with most of Christie's short story collections, this book carried no dedication.

Dustjacket blurb

The blurb of the first UK edition (which is carried on both the back of the dustjacket and opposite the title page) reads:
"This delightfully witty book will come as a pleasant surprise to all admirers of these ingenious detective thrillers for which Agatha Christie is famous. It tells the story of the amazing adventures of two amateur detectives – Tommy, a remarkable young man of thirty-two, and his equally remarkable wife, Tuppence – who follow the methods of famous detective heroes, such as Sherlock Holmes, Inspector French, Roger Sherringham, Bulldog Drummond, Father Brown and even Monsieur Poirot himself. Problem after problem comes before them for solution, and the account of their endeavours to live up to their slogan, ‘Blunt’s Brilliant Detectives! Any case solved in twenty-four hours!’ makes delicious reading."

The blurb was incorrect in that "Sapper's" Bulldog Drummond stories were not parodied although the character and the situations that he encountered were briefly mentioned in The Adventure of the Sinister Stranger.

International titles

  • German: Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box)
    Der Besuch der Fee/Eine Tasse Tee (The Visit of the Fairy/A Pot of Tea)
    Die rosa Perle (The Pink Pearl)
    Der geheimnisvolle Unbekannte (The mysterious Stranger)
    Der Herr in Zeitungspapier (The Gentleman in Newspaper)
    Die verschwundene Dame (The disappeared Lady)
    Blinde Kuh (Blindman's Buff)
    Der Mann im Nebel (The Man in the Mist)
    Der Raschler (The Rustler)
    Das Rätsel von Sunningdale (The Mystery of Sunningdale)
    Das Haus des Todes (The House of Death)
    Ein unerschütterliches Alibi (The Unbreakable Alibi)
    Die Pfarrerstochter (The Clergyman's Daughter)
    Die Stiefel des Botschafters (The Boots of the Ambassador)
    Der Mann, der Nummer 16 war (The Man Who Was No. 16)
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