The Ambassador's Boots is a short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in The Sketch in November 1924. It was the 8th 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 16 (the 12th story). In U.S. editions, this story is chapter 22.
The American ambassador asks the Beresfords to look into a mystery where his kit bag had been taken and then returned.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
The Blunt's agency is visited by Randolph Wilmott, the United States Ambassador to Great Britain. He arrived back from a trip to his home country a week ago. Soon after his return, his valet informed him that his kit bag, which carried his initials, had been mistakenly taken by another passenger on board the liner with the same initials – Senator Ralph Westerham, also from the US – but quickly returned by that man's valet. The puzzle is that Mr. Wilmott met Mr. Westerham yesterday and the Senator denied such a mistake having taken place, especially as he did not have such an article amongst his luggage on board the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Mr. Wilmott knows the matter is a trivial one but his curiosity has been piqued and he wishes the agency to investigate.
At Mr. Wilmott's invitation, the Beresfords visit the US Embassy and speak to Richards, his valet, who confirms the basics of the tale told by the Ambassador. Just before the other valet called for the bag, he had started to unpack and glimpsed the contents of it. It contained boots and toilet things, a tin of bath salts being glimpsed. Tommy wonders if the Ambassador's bag could have been tampered with on the voyage and Richards recalls the incident of a young lady called Eileen O'Hara being taken ill just outside the Ambassador's cabin on the liner and he having to fetch a doctor for her, leaving the cabin alone. When he returned with the medical man, the patient seemed fine.
Tommy decides that their next line of action is to advertise for Miss O'Hara to come forward, even though they risk putting her on her guard if she isn't innocent of any action relating to the kit bag. Two days later, Albert shows into Tommy's office a Miss Cicely March who is answering the advertisement but before she can relate what she knows they are interrupted by a big, dark Spanish-looking man who holds them up at gunpoint. He has followed Miss March, having recognised her from being a passenger on the liner and he suspects that she is about to meddle in their plans. Before he can carry out any of his threats, he is accosted by Albert, disarmed and Tommy throws him out, deciding not to involve the police.
Alone with Miss March, she tells Tommy a tale of having also seen the incident of Miss O'Hara on the liner but she was also witness to the supposedly ill woman, when she thought she was alone and unobserved, going into Mr. Wilmott's cabin and putting something into the lining of a boot through a slit which she cut. Worried about what she had done to the boot, Miss March later went into the empty cabin and extracted the object from the lining. It was a slip of paper with verses of the bible on it which yesterday, through an accident, she got wet and which revealed hidden writing on it of what looks like the plans of a harbour. The paper is back at her place of work – a beauty parlour in Bond Street where she is the US agent for preparations sold there. Tommy leaves a note for Tuppence and he and Miss March go there. Preparing to take a taxi, Tommy spots that the cab has just refused a fare further down the road and, suspicious that they are being watched, insists on walking to Bond Street. Once there, they pass through the front shop past a woman customer and two waiting men and go into a back office where instantly Tommy is set upon. Rescue is immediate however as the woman in the front of the shop is Tuppence and the two men are policemen, alerted by Tommy's note. He noticed a look of disappointment on Miss March's face when their assailant at the agency was overcome and realised that she was in the enemy's camp. He had also worked out that it wasn't the Ambassador's bag that was important but that a bag of some nature was in the Ambassador's possession for an hour or two thereby bypassing customs for reasons of diplomatic immunity. He delayed their arrival at the parlour thus giving Tuppence time to get herself and the police there. They search the premises and find tins of bath salts which are found to contain cocaine.
- Tommy Beresford
- Tuppence Beresford
- Albert Batt
- Randolph Wilmott
- Ralph Westerham
- Cicely March
- Inspector Grace
Parody of a fictional detective
Follows the style of H. C. Bailey with Dr. Reginald Fortune and Superintendent Bell as the parodied detectives.
References or Allusions
References to other works
Tommy refers to a mention by Sherlock Holmes of a case not yet documented by Watson which hinged on the depth which the parsley had sunk into butter on a hot day. This alludes to the story The Adventure of the Six Napoleons by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, first published in 1904. At the time that The Ambassador's Boots was written and first published, Conan Doyle was still writing Sherlock Holmes stories (the last was published in 1927) and therefore Tommy's wish that "Watson will disinter it from his notebook" was a real possibility at that time.
The case is also alluded to in the Poirot story Lord Edgware Dies, (written in 1932, three years after Partners In Crime) in which it appears that in fact it was Poirot who solved the case - he speaks of spending an hour in a 'lady's beauty parlour ' to solve a case involving cocaine smuggling.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime
- 1924: The Sketch, Issue 1659, Illustrated London News Company (London), 12 November 1924, as "The Matter of the Ambassador's Boots".
- 1928: Hutchinson's Adventure & Mystery Story Magazine, vol. 2 no. 7, Apr 1928, as "The Matter of the Ambassador's Boots".
- 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 Yor), 1943, omnibus with Poirot Investigates and Partners in Crime), Hardcover
- 1970: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, vol. 56 no. 3, whole no. 322, Sep 1970.