Monday, January 17, 2022

The Man in the Brown Suit

A fast-moving thriller that keeps the reader guessing until the end

The latest paperback edition of The Man in the Brown Suit
The latest paperback edition of
The Man in the Brown Suit
Reading Agatha Christie’s novels again in order of publication is proving to be good fun because there is so much variety in the early stories as Agatha tries out new characters and different slants on the detective mystery format.

Agatha’s fourth novel, The Man in the Brown Suit, published in 1924, is very different from The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder on the Links, the first two Poirot novels and also nothing like The Secret Adversary, her first Tommy and Tuppence novel.

The novel has a pretty young heroine, Anne Beddingfield, who has long yearned for adventures, love and romance. When her professor father dies, leaving her alone in the world with a very small sum of money, she heads to London, where she witnesses the death of a man who falls from the platform at an underground station and is electrocuted on the rails.

The police decide it is an accidental death but Anne wonders about a man in a brown suit who she saw examine the body before running away. She has picked up a piece of paper that had been dropped nearby and armed with just one cryptic clue she vows to track down the man in the brown suit and achieve justice for the dead man. The message on the paper eventually leads to her boarding a ship bound for South Africa.

According to the official Agatha Christie website, the novel was partly inspired by a tour Agatha had made of the British Commonwealth with her first husband. Afterwards, Agatha wrote the story sitting in her Earl’s Court flat, finding inspiration for her descriptions of African landscapes by evoking her memories of them.

The Man in the Brown Suit is the first of her novels to feature an appearance by Secret Service agent Colonel Race, who assists Anne in her search for the truth. Colonel Race reappears in three later novels, Cards on the Table, Death on the Nile and Sparkling Cyanide.

Agatha Christie used her first payment from her fourth novel to buy a Morris Cowley like this one
Agatha Christie used her first payment from her
fourth novel to buy a Morris Cowley like this one
Towards the end of the story, Agatha describes Anne’s feelings as she falls in love very convincingly and in a complete departure from the style of her writing in her previous three novels.

However, she keeps the reader guessing  as to the identity of the villain right until the end of the book in true Agatha Christie style.

The Man in the Brown Suit is less a novel of detection and more of a fast-moving thriller that is typical of its period. It had mixed reviews when it was first published because some reviewers were disappointed that it was not a Poirot novel. This seems rather unfair. Surely, they would have realised that authors like to experiment?

It was not all bad news for Agatha though, as the £500 she received for the first publication of this story paid for her first car, a grey, bullnose Morris Cowley.

Even though the novel is nearly 100 years old, I would definitely recommend giving The Man in the Brown Suit a try. 

It is available from or


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