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N or M? by Agatha Christie

N or M? (original 1941; edition 2001)

by Agatha Christie

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2,096384,795 (3.62)112
Title:N or M?
Authors:Agatha Christie
Info:HarperCollins (2001), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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N or M? by Agatha Christie (1941)



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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Christie's Tommy and Tuppence never measures up to her more famous creations, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I enjoy their adventures to varying degrees. I would have really liked N or M? but for a very strange scene where they finally get to know who the main antagonist is. It is one of the most ludicrous things I have ever read. That scene seems like something an author would write if they could not find any other way of solving the problem at hand. It would have put me off even if a lesser author had written it, let alone my favorite Agatha Christie. I expect much better from her. Overall, this is an enjoyable spy thriller, barring that infernal scene! ( )
  Porua | Nov 12, 2018 |
In which a married pair of former intelligence agents track German spies.

After 20 years, Agatha Christie chose to revive her detective couple Tommy and Tuppence for a wartime mystery. In their first two appearances – "The Secret Adversary" and "Partners in Crime" - the pair were something approaching delightful: effervescent and irreverent. Things don’t sparkle quite as much this time, and it must be said that Christie’s adventure/thriller novels were never her best. The WWII setting (contemporary at the time) means that Dame Agatha is able to tie her action into a real-life atmosphere. However, unfortunately, the setting doesn’t sit well with the leads, who are just a little too eager. Perhaps Christie’s decision to age these two realistically was a bad one after all. The plot hangs together well enough, and the pair are a touching couple, but everything seems a little tired. And their later adventures would be far worse.

Tommy and Tuppence ranking: 3rd out of 5 ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 30, 2018 |
It appears I have read the Tommy and Tuppence novels in completely the wrong order – but I don’t suppose that matters. A few months ago, I read By the Pricking of My Thumbs which takes place a few years after this one, an excellent mystery – and I have had the final novel Postern of Fate for years but have never read it. Admittedly I have seen some poor reviews of that last novel – so perhaps I shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to read it.

N or M? takes place in the spring of 1940, Tommy and Tuppence who original readers first encountered as bright young things, trying to shake off the horrors of the First World War, are now middle aged in the early months of another war. They have been married for a long time, have two grown up children, and have, in the past undertaken work of a secretive nature for ‘Mr Carter’ the former chief of Intelligence. The pair have been feeling very much out of things for a while, yet know they still have a lot to offer, are desperate to do something to help the war effort.

So, when a Mr Grant ‘a friend’ of Lord Easthampton (the real name of Mr Carter) Tommy and Tuppence know immediately that it is no social call. Sensing that their visitor would rather speak to Tommy alone, Tuppence makes her excuses.

“ ‘…All we know about them is that these two are Hitler’s most highly trusted agents and that in a code message we managed to decipher towards the beginning of the war there occurred this phrase – suggest N or M for England. Full powers –’ ”

Mr Grant wastes no time in taking Tommy into his confidence, a conspiracy of fifth columnists, activities which threaten Britain’s European campaign. Grant asks Tommy to undertake a secret, covert operation, he needs someone whose face is unknown. The only thing the intelligence service know are the code names N and M; the final words of a murdered man and the name of a boarding house on the south coast. Grant asks Tommy to keep his mission a secret even from Tuppence and invents a dull desk job for him in Scotland to explain away his absence. Tommy bids a fond farewell to his understanding wife, and to add colour to the lie, takes a train to Scotland, before turning around and heading back South to the boarding house Sans Souci in the seaside town of Leahampton.

When Tommy finally arrives at San Souci – as Mr Meadowes he is absolutely stunned to find Tuppence already installed, in the guise of a Mrs Blenkensop. Tuppence having of course listened in to the conversation between Tommy and Mr Grant – was not about to miss out on a bit of excitement, and the chance to prove herself still useful. They have a challenging task, routing out traitors and conspirators, a seaside boarding house not an obvious hunting ground. Tommy and Tuppence must appear to everyone as strangers – and they manage to play their part very well, meeting up on the beach to swap notes. At their first meeting after Tommy’s arrival, Tuppence is unrepentant at her deception.

“ ‘…I wished to teach you a lesson. You and your Mr Grant.’
‘He’s not exactly my Mr Grant and I should say you have taught him a lesson.’
‘Mr Carter wouldn’t have treated me so shabbily,’ said Tuppemce. ‘I don’t think the Intelligence is anything like it was in our day.’
Tommy said gravely; ‘It will attain its former brilliance now we’re back in it. But why Blenkensop?’
‘Why not?’
‘It seems an odd name to choose.’
‘It was the first one I thought of and it’s handy for underclothes’
‘What do you mean Tuppence?’
‘B, you idiot. B for Beresford, B for Blenkensop. Embroidered on my cami-knickers. Patricia Blenkensop. Prudence Beresford. Why did you choose Meadowes? It’s a silly name.’ ”

The boarding house is filled with an odd assortment of people. There is Mrs Peranna, her daughter Sheila, a Major, Mrs Sprot a devoted young mother and her charming little child Betty, a large Irish woman Miss O’Rourke, a German refugee von Deinem, an elderly lady called Miss Minton, a married couple, the Cayleys an invalid and his fussy, chattering wife. Tommy and Tuppence soon have their suspicions, and within a day or two of their arrival another foreign woman has been seen loitering outside the boarding house.

Tommy and Tuppence find themselves playing a dangerous game in a bid to unmask the traitors. Neither of them is safe, each of them seeming about to land themselves in hot water, I had my heart in my mouth. However, Tommy and Tuppence are possessed of incredibly cool heads. Christie is quite brilliant here, at recreating the sense of wartime paranoia, where nobody’s identity can be take at face value and foreigners are all treated with a degree of suspicion. Twists, turns and misdirection keep the reader guessing, and there are several surprises before the case is solved.

N or M? is an excellent Christie novel, more wartime espionage than the usual murder mystery we associate her with, it’s a brilliant little page turner, featuring an adorable couple. ( )
1 vote Heaven-Ali | Apr 2, 2018 |
During WWII Tommy and Tuppence are frustrated by their inability to help the war effort. Their contacts in intelligence drop an opportunity into their laps. Two of Hitler's agents are believed to be loose in Britain. Tommy and Tuppence travel to a seaside boarding house to try and discover who these agents are, known to British intelligence as N and M. The cast at the boarding house is all rather suspicious. This mystery is similar to the earlier Tommy and Tuppence mysteries. At the end things look tight, but we discover we don't know everything about what Tommy and Tuppence know. ( )
  lahochstetler | Dec 30, 2016 |
It's 1940 and Tommy and Tuppence are frustrated that the government won't allow them to do their bit for the war effort by working in Intelligence again. One day, a Mr Grant appears and makes Tommy an offer he can't refuse: to go undercover in a small town on the South Coast and try to root out members of the Fifth Column – the enemy within – who have connections to a boarding house called Sans Souci; the only problem is that Tuppence can't go with him. When Tommy finally arrives at Sans Souci after a couple of days spent covering his tracks, he is introduced to the other boarders, one of whom is Tuppence under an assumed identity. Together they set out to uncover the identities of N and M, but spying on others and asking questions is a dangerous business as they soon attract the attention of enemy agents.

This was an enjoyable romp with a very likeable pair of leads, but maybe not on a par with some of Agatha Christie's better-known novels. Originally published in 1941, the setting and atmosphere feel authentic, even though some of the notions discussed feel very outdated by today's standards (phrenology, really?). Some reviewers have commented on the lack of pace, and while it is true that for the majority of the book Tommy and Tuppence poke their noses into other people's business asking questions, the tension gradually increases very effectively, with a definite sense of underlying menace felt at Sans Souci in the second half of the book.

For a novel written at the height of the Second World War, the author refreshingly displays a very enlightened attitude to Germans as a nation, when often Germany is portrayed as being a country full of Nazi sympathisers and collaborators. As usually the case with Agatha Christie titles, the fun lies in trying to beat the author to the big revelation at the end, trying to sift the multiple red herrings from the few genuine clues.

Not world literature, admittedly, but a very enjoyable way of passing a few hours and engaging the brain. ( )
  passion4reading | Oct 1, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Agatha Christieprimary authorall editionscalculated
teason, williamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Tommy Beresford removed his overcoat in the hall of the flat.
Our danger is the danger of Troy - the wooden horse within our walls. Call it the Fifth Column if you like. It is here, among us. Men and women, some of them highly placed, some of them obscure, but all believing genuinely in the Nazi aims and the Nazi creed and desiring to substitute that sternly efficient creed for the muddled easy-going liberty of our democratic institutions. (p. 14)
Mr Cayley, finding attention diverted from his explanation of Germany's methods of substitution of raw materials, looked put out and coughed aggressively. (p. 52)
I hate the Germans myself. "The Germans," I say, and feel waves of loathing. But when I think of individual Germans, mothers sitting anxiously waiting for news of their sons, and boys leaving home to fight, and peasants getting in the harvest, and little shopkeepers and some of the nice kindly German people I know, I feel quite different. I know then that they are just human beings and that we're all feeling alike. That's the real thing. The other is just the war mask that you put on. (p. 123)
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Book description
Haiku summary
Sun and spies at the
seaside – Tommy and Tuppence
go undercover.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451201132, Mass Market Paperback)

The last words of a murdered government agent lead Tommy and Tuppence Beresford to the Sans Souci Hotel, where they're greeted by hostile guests, a mysterious hotelier, and reports of a missing girl. When Tommy himself vanishes, Tuppence has reason to fear that checking out of the Sans Souci comes at a perilous price.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:27 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

"It is World War II, and while the RAF struggles to keep the Luftwaffe at bay, Britain faces an even more sinister threat from 'the enemy within'--Nazis posing as ordinary citizens. With pressure mounting, the intelligence service appoints two unlikely spies, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Their mission: to seek out a man and a woman from among the colorful guests at Sans Souci, a seaside hotel. But this assignment is no stroll along the promenade--N and M have just murdered Britain's finest agent and no one at all can be trusted..."--P. [4] of cover.

» see all 15 descriptions

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