Book of the Month February 2014: N or M?

TuppenceTuppence City of London, United Kingdom
Whether you're re-reading this classic Tommy and Tuppence spy adventure or if this is your first encounter with the characters, we want to know your thoughts.

What do you think of the adventurous couple? Have you read all their stories? How do these differ from Christie's other novels lead by Poirot and Miss Marple?

Questions, theories and comments - please leave them all below.


  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    This is an  excellent Book, It is one of the first 5 I read and the First Tommy and Tuppence Book I read, I love it, I think Tommy and Tuppence are Great as Characters, even though By The Pricking of My Thum and Postern of Fate are weak in areas but then most books have their weak spots, I think N or M is one of the exceptions, It has me entertained until the end. 
  • I'm not a major Tommy and Tuppence fan, so I didn't expect to like this book. So I was pleasantly when I found that it was a fun book to read. Most T&T books are described as "thrillers" but I think of rather like adventure stories for adults. But this book is different. It's definitely more like a Miss Marple in style. Most of the events take place in at a guest house where all of the people staying there are suspects. 

    It's biggest fault is that if you find it easy to work out plots, you probably won't be taken aback by the unmasking of the villains. 

  • AlexBarryAlexBarry Wisconsin, United States
    I regret that I won't be able to join in the discussion this month.  I did read N or M? some time back, but confess to not remembering enough of it to be able to comment authoritatively.  And I am still moving forward in my quest, begun at the start of the year, to read all the works in chronological order of publication.  I am currently half-way through Poirot Investigates, and thus many, many volumes lie between me and N or M? 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

    I have read this 2 or 3 times and it remains my favourite Tommy and Tuppence Book, The 2nd time I read it I had remembered who one Villain was but not the other one, this didn't stop me enjoying it, as there was so much I had forgotten and anyway I love the book.

    Poirot Investigates is very enjoyable, I have the Audio Cassette, the way David Suchet does women is just wonderful, I like his Military Men too.

  • ValitalyValitaly Piemonte, Italy

    Good evening,

    this is my first post in this forum. I'm writing from Italy and I'm a big fan of Mrs. Christie's works, I've been reading them all over again after a few years' stop.

    The novels featuring Tommy & Tuppence are some of my favourites; I love this couple, they are so funny... I found N or M? very entertaining.

    I wish Mrs. Christie had written more novels with T&T, actually I haven't read some of their short stories, still looking for them...

    Val from Italy

  • Completely agree with you Val, I love T&T as well, and wish she had written a few more novels while she was still in her prime. The Secret Adversary is one of her best!
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I think that as the ways Tommy and Tuppence found their Adventures in such Imaginative ways, (An Advertisement, A Picture and a Box of Books), I think it would have been difficult for \Agatha Christie do send The Beresfords off so imaginatively, The other one N or M is my personal favourite even though they found their Adventure the way they did in The Partners in Crime Stories, I should think Agatha Christie had the imagination to find other ways to send T&T off on their Escapades but not too many and perhaps that is a Good thing.
  • Yes, who knows, perhaps part of their appeal is the fact that they don't appear in too many stories and so it is practically impossible to tire of them.
  • ValitalyValitaly Piemonte, Italy
    lachy.a.w said:
    Completely agree with you Val, I love T&T as well, and wish she had written a few more novels while she was still in her prime. The Secret Adversary is one of her best!
    Oh yes, Secret Adversary is just great! And the tv movie was also very well done...
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

    I agree with you Lachy, I think that is probably why I like them so much as Characters, and I can't wait until I get to By The Pricking of My Thumbs and Postern of Fate to see If I lie them more.

    I liked the Adaptation of The Secret Adversary but it is a little too long, I wish James Warwick and Francesca Annis had done N or M, and the other 2, That would have been Great, 

  • youngmrquinyoungmrquin Buenos Aires, Argentina
    One of my personal AC favourites, possible the third or fourth in the top 5.
    As MissQuinn pointed out, this story feels like a Miss Marple, because of the task T&T are given and the context of its development. I would go on further to say that it's in the middle of The Secret Adversary and the '20's thrillers and a detective-whodunnit-story.
    Seeing them in their forties or fifties is fantastic, and you really feel the character development here. They are not the same mindless young people of the first two books, but they still have the joy for adventure.
    The topic of changing identities, so common in AC thrillers, is very nice painted also. They are not a lot of characters and identities, like in Chimneys, that drive you crazy, and the narrative feels much more organized.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

    Youngmrquin or Miss Quin can you please explain to me why it feels like a Miss Marple to you please, I really can't see it, I can see it could feel like a Bundle Brent if Bill and her were sent off on the quest by Battle and If Colin had his own case but I cant imagine N or M as a Miss Marple story

  • MariaMaria Pichincha, Ecuador
    N or M? is my first, and only (for now) novel with T&T. What I really liked about it, which is also why I love Christie, is how the mess in some characters' thoughts point you away from the people you began suspecting.

    As I said, I haven't read other T&T books, but I think that what Youngmrquin or MissQuin mean about this novel feeling a bit like a Marple story is because of how Tuppence manages to figure everything out, how she collects her clues and what she does at the end. I don't want to get to much into it because I might give some details of the novel away.

    I must confess, I am a Poirot lover, so I found quite hard to read other novels where he's not present. I decided to take a chance with N or M? because I wanted to see for myself why the MI5 was so worried about. I was not dissapointed.
  • youngmrquinyoungmrquin Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Tommy: in my case, I said it "feels" like a Marple because I still think it's in the middle of the thrillers of the '20 and her detective stories (Marple/Poirot).
    While their risks by changing identities and further on, being kidnapped and confronting villains is very much in the terms of the thrillers (as you said, it's possible to see Bundle and Bill here), what I would call the "solving puzzle" aspect and the environment in which it takes place feels like a Marple. I mean, the seaside hotel and the chatting-in-order-to-figure-out looked to me like A Caribbean Mystery. And seems specifically a Marple and not a Poirot, because the development of (most) their actions feels familiar to hers. Of course, I said most because one or two actions of the whole process could be performed by Poirot also.
    I repeat, since it is very much in the middle of her two kind of stories, I can see why you imagine Bundle and Bill here (because of the thriller dimension).
  • ZeddieZeddie Ballymoney, United Kingdom
    Tommy, I completely agree with you.
    I really wish James Warwick & Francesca Annis had filmed ALL of the T&T stories as I absolutely love everything about them and really wish we had been able to see their relationship progress on screen.
    They are such great fun and the chemistry between both actors is amazing!
    I dont know how I would feel if new adaptations of these were filmed as I enjoy watching these ones so much.  I think thats why I really hate the recent versions of Why didnt they ask Evans? & The Secret of Chimneys that were made into Miss Marple stories!! Replacing T&T with Marple was really unnecessary and unbareable to watch in my opinion!
  • Zeddie, I couldn't agree more about James Warwick and Francesca Annis. Likewise, I don't understand why at least N or M? wasn't made into a film. I can understand the reluctance to do so with Postern of Fate since it is so poor and maybe even By the Pricking of My Thumbs but N or M? should have made an excellent movie adaptation. 
  • A lovely adventure! Tommy and Tuppence in their later and higher times. Who else could clear up this intriguing story? Old physically but young mentally. All those alternative identities were enough to confuse the reader. It is my 4th or 5th favorite.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Postern of Fate could be done with Oliver Ford Davies and Pauline Collins like they did the up-to-date version of Sparkling Cyanide if James Warwick and Francesca Annis couldn't do it, but I can see Francesca Annis and James Warwick doing it and By The Pricking of My Thumbs Brilliantly amd N or M.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    N or M needs 2 sleuths so it couldn't have be a Miss Marple Book, I think the reason it couldn't have Bill and Bundle is the same reason why it couldn'tBobby and Lady Derwent, How would they get into the Investigation, It would have to be SLIGHT SPOILER Colin and the woman he marries or Colonel Race (But he would have to marry the woman played by Rue McClannach in the Film of The Man In The Brown Suit.   
  • Nor M is a favorite. Tommy and Tuppence are at their best. What I really enjoy is their togetherness. They have evolved since Secret Adversary,but their camaraderie and their wit remain as fresh as ever. The storyline is extremely well designed. Their is suspense, adventure, mystery and their is a constant undercurrent of thrill and tension that keeps the reader on the edge of his seat. Quite 'unputdownable' .
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    And there is Humour to help the story along
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I forgot to say I agree with everything you say debaleena.Mukherjee about Tommy and Tuppence
  • youngmrquinyoungmrquin Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Now, I think that in order to really debate the book, we could state what was wrong with it or at least was weak.
    While T&T books are in general lighter than those of other detectives, there was a scene that felt to me extremely comedic and therefore out of place.
    When Betty is taken away by the woman and ALL the characters *get on* the car in order to hunt her. I remember thinking, my gosh is this for real or a joke? Why all of them? How did the get in just one car?
    It reminded me of a scene in The Simpsons in which the family and many other characters go to look for Skinner (Barreda, really) in Homer's car. And they are a bunch and the joke is that it's compeltely unnecesary for all of them to go. Even Homer points this out.
    As I said, while the main characters are funny, the scene was too over the top for the thematic of searching the mole, even more when constantly we are reminded of the war and the political difficulties.
  • I agree with you YoungMrQuin. I did  think that parts of the story did have a strange feeling of unreality.

    Another point, this is a huge N&M SPOILER!!!  Tuppence appears to have been captured, lured into a trap by XXX. She insults him at random with "Goosey". I thought this is so strange. It turns out that the Nursery was really important. Yet she didn't know that. She said it at random. It just seemed too unbelievable.  

    Also Betty's mother is shot. Yet Betty simply runs away from her mother and back to XXX holding the gun. Even very young children have a perception of her their mother is. It's almost like an inborn instinct. They might tell a person, but the bond is there.  The fact she ran away from her was a plot red herring, making it look like she was going to her mother. It felt wrong. I think it may have been added to try and add something of a twist, but I did work out who the mother was and who N & M were and the shoelaces etc etc.. I did like the shoelace idea.

  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    When I think of the scene where they "Get On" The Car for some reason I always think of Those fIlms made in the 50s with people like Kenneth, More, Leslie Philips, Donals Sindern or John Gregson, I always imagine two of them and the women from Genweveive or other women of that era to be in or "On The Car.
  • youngmrquinyoungmrquin Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Thanks for your insights, MissQuin and Tommy.
    Yes, that part of Betty running away could be awkward, but at least I think it could be explained in terms of the shock. She got scared when the woman who was carrying her was shot and went away, to that other character who, keep in mind, had been nurturing her. It still isn't that strange like the "all people in the car" scene.
    About that word that Tuppence says randomly that, in the end, was really important and helped to save her life for a few moments, I agree, completely improbable. I could have bought it in The Secret Adversary, when something similar happens in the beginning of the story. She is asked her name and she turn to say at random a key name, but I think that there was more plausible because they had been talking about it recently with Tommy.

    Other aspect that is a bit questionable is *SPOILERS* the fact that Tommy is kidnapped and drugged, but not killed (giving him the chance to escape). In every book of T&T at least one of them, if not both, is kidnapped and drugged. I could go on even further than that to say that this happens in most of AC thrillers. I don't mind it very much the way he escaped, because it was very clever and made it possible the role of other classic character. But the whole "you will die tomorrow" came across implausible at best, or could have been improve with better reasons for the part of the villain (e.g. Tuppence ringing his bell accidentally por a random reason or sort of).
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    That bit always reminds me of SPOILER!!! Why Didn't They Ask Evans when Lady Derwent and Bobby are stuck in The Attic, I think that aspect of Thrillers is quite Fun and makes me want to reach for my Paul Temple Audio Cassettes
  • erfacererfacer Tameside, United Kingdom
    edited March 2014
    The bit towards the end of N or M, i think it's at a dentist or doctors or something, the way it is described reminds me of the place in Why didn't they ask evens. I hope i haven't mixed up stories but i think in WDTAE it was a mental home or something?
  • Other aspect that is a bit questionable is *SPOILERS* the fact that Tommy is kidnapped and drugged, but not killed (giving him the chance to escape). In every book of T&T at least one of them, if not both, is kidnapped and drugged. I could go on even further than that to say that this happens in most of AC thrillers. 
    @youngmrquin  That's true, Tommy and Tuppence are indestructible!  Even an elderly Tuppence could dodge death thanks to her doggie companion in their final book! I like the TV series Partners In Crime a great deal. Mainly because of the lavish costumes, such as in Finessing the King (there are Harlequin and Pierrot costumes included!). Also the chemist between the leads was excellent. 

    But something I liked was that the series didn't take itself too seriously. There was a playfulness and tongue in cheek element to the stories. I think I like that because of the that there's always improbability about the stories,  so to play it completely straight would only show the flaws in the plots. 

    erfacer- Why Didn't They Ask Evans?-  there was a sanitarium in the story. 

    There is a nursing home in Pricking Of My Thumbs. The plot about clues hidden in a painting and looking at churchyard is remarkably similar to finding clues in a book and in a churchyard in Postern of Fate.
  • StuartBarnettStuartBarnett Connecticut, United States
    As for getting on the car--I haven't had a chance to check the text itself, but it's probably worth pointing out that English cars in the late 30s and early 40s still had runners. 
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