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).
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.
The stories and their detective parodiesEdit
- A Fairy in the Flat / A Pot of Tea - Introduces the setup of Tommy & Tuppence at The International Detective Agency. Reminiscent of Malcolm Sage, detective (1921) by Herbert George Jenkins.
- The Affair of the Pink Pearl - This first case is in the vein of the detective Dr. Thorndyke by R. Austin Freeman.
- The Adventure of the Sinister Stranger - An espionage story, following in the footsteps of Valentine Williams and the detective brothers Francis and Desmond Okewood. One of the Williams' books in particular - The Man with the Clubfoot (1918) is named by Tuppence in the story.
- Finessing the King / The Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper - This two part story is a spoof of the nowadays almost forgotten Isabel Ostrander, with parallels to the story The Clue in the Air (1917) and the detectives Tommy McCarty (an ex-policeman) and Denis Riordan (a fireman).
- The Case of the Missing Lady - This story references Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (1911).
- Blindman's Buff - Matches Clinton H. Stagg's stories about the blind detective Thornley Colton.
- The Man in the Mist - In the style of G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories.
- The Crackler - A spoof on Edgar Wallace's style of plotting.
- The Sunningdale Mystery - The tale is in the style of Baroness Orczy's The Old Man in the Corner (1909) with Tuppence playing the role of journalist Polly Burton and Tommy tying knots in a piece of string in the same way as Orczy's character, Bill Owen.
- The House of Lurking Death - Recreates the style of A. E. W. Mason and his French detective Inspector Hanaud.
- The Unbreakable Alibi - Modelled after Freeman Wills Crofts, known for his detective stories centred around alibis and the Scotland Yard detective Inspector Joseph French.
- The Clergyman's Daughter / The Red House - A two part story, this is a parody on detective Roger Sherringham by Anthony Berkeley, with plot elements reminding of The Violet Farm by H. C. Bailey (although the latter was not published until 1928).
- The Ambassador's Boots - Following the style of H. C. Bailey with Dr. Reginald Fortune and Superintendent Bell as the parodied detectives.
- The Man Who Was No. 16 - This story parodies Christie's own The Big Four, featuring Hercule Poirot.
A Fairy in the Flat / A Pot of TeaEdit
Prudence ("Tuppence") Beresford, who has been married to Tommy for six years, is bored with life, although not with her husband. She flippantly discusses what exciting things she would wish to happen to her, mainly adventures involving German spies or spying trips to Bolshevik Russia. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Carter (See The Secret Adversary) who asks them to take over The International Detective Agency whose manager, Theodore Blunt, is now in prison. They are to undertake any of the cases that the agency receives whilst all the time watching for letters on blue paper sent to Mr. Blunt with a Russian stamp on them from a supposed ham merchant anxious to trace his refugee wife. They will have a "16" written under the stamp and they are also to be alert for any reference to said number.
A few days later, the two have installed themselves in the office. Tommy's alias is Mr. Blunt while Tuppence is his confidential secretary, Miss Robinson. The porter from their flat, Albert (Mrs. Vandemeyer's lift boy from The Secret Adversary) is their office boy. After a week of divorce cases, which Tuppence finds distasteful, they receive a visit from Lawrence St. Vincent. He is the nephew of and heir to the Earl of Cheriton. He has fallen for a young girl called Janet who works in a hat shop in Brooks Street but she has disappeared from the shop and has not been seen at her lodgings. St. Vincent heard several mentions of the detective agency from Janet and now wants them to find her. The Beresfords take on the case which Tuppence solves with ease. Janet is a friend of hers from her wartime nursing days who was working at the hatshop where Tuppence makes her purchases. She asked Janet to make the mentions of "Blunts" and then disappear. St. Vincent would ask them to take on the case (for which they get publicity) and they would "find" Janet, provoking St. Vincent into a proposal of marriage.
The Affair of the Pink PearlEdit
Tommy sorts out a pile of books in the office. They are a number of volumes of famous detective stories and he thinks it would be a good idea to base their techniques on the different styles of their fictional counterparts. He has also bought a good camera for taking photographs of footprints and "all that sort of thing".
They receive a client. It is a young woman named Miss Kingston Bruce. She lives in Wimbledon with her parents and last night one of their guests lost a valuable pink pearl. They do not wish to call in the police yet and the Blunts were recommended to them by Lawrence St. Vincent who was also one of the guests.
The Beresfords travel to Wimbledon and meet Colonel Kingston Bruce. He proudly tells them that Lady Laura Barton, daughter of the late Earl of Carroway, is staying with them together with an American couple, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton Betts, who wanted to meet a titled lady. During a bridge game after dinner, the clasp of Mrs. Betts' pearl pendant necklace broke. She laid it down on a small table and forgot to take it upstairs. The next morning, the necklace was still there but the pearl itself had gone. Aside from the Kingston Bruce's, the Betts, Lady Laura and St. Vincent, the only other guest was a Mr. Rennie who is paying court to Miss Kingston Bruce. Her father doesn't like or trust the man as he is a socialist. No one has been allowed to leave the house since the pearl was discovered to be missing except for their daughter when she went to the Blunts. They are given approval to search the house as part of their investigations.
Tommy tries to look impressive by using his new camera whilst Tuppence tactfully questions the servants. They overhear a scrap of conversation between Mrs. Kingston Bruce and her daughter about someone hiding a teaspoon in their muff and wonder who this can be. Later on, Tuppence ferrets out of Lady Laura's French maid, Elise, that her employer is something of a kleptomaniac and five times in the past items have gone missing when she had been staying at friend's houses. They start searching Lady Laura's bedroom and bathroom, momentarily getting stuck in the latter room when Elise cannot open the door. Tommy takes pictures in the bedroom with Elise's assistance and then quietly tells Tuppence that he has an idea and has to go out to pursue it. In the meantime, she is not to let Lady Laura out of the house.
Some time later Tommy returns with Inspector Marriot of Scotland Yard. They go straight back to the bathroom and cut the cake of soap in half. Inside it is the pearl. The reason Elise couldn't open the door was that she had soap on her hands after depositing the pearl there. Tommy's photographs included one of the maid and she handled one of the glass slides, thus leaving her fingerprints. The Yard have identified her from their records as a missing criminal and arrested her. Being the maid of a lady suspected of kleptomania was the best cover she could have.
The Adventure of the Sinister StrangerEdit
Bored with little to do at the agency, Tuppence receives a package. It is an engraved silver cigarette case to General Francis Haviland whom she drove in the First World War and who is getting married. Tommy's disparaging remarks about the General are interrupted by the arrival of the post and the first of the promised blue Russian letters. Their perusal of the letter is interrupted by the arrival of a large man with a club foot who states that he is Dr. Charles Bower of Hampstead. Twice in the last week he has been summoned away to an urgent case but on each occasion the call has been a hoax. On arriving back home, he has found signs that his study has been carefully searched in his absence, probably for papers he has on his studies of alkaloids, these papers being securely held in a secret drawer in his desk. He has received another summons to a patient who is now in Bournemouth but in checking on this summons he has found it to be another decoy. Another search of his study should therefore take place that night and Bower wants Blunts to be there when the third attempt is made.
Bower leaves and his club foot reminds Tuppence of the brothers Oakwood. Tommy resolves to be Desmond while she is Francis. Their next visitor is Detective Inspector Dymchurch from Scotland Yard, a colleague of Marriot's, who knows of the need to keep a watch on the blue letters and is following Bower. The doctor's real purpose is to decoy the Berefords away from their office that night in order that it can be searched and the latest letter retrieved. Tommy and Dymchurch make another plan to return to the office that night and catch the agents in the act. They do so but it is a trap and Tommy is bound. Dymchurch is a foreign agent with several of his men with him. Bower (real spelling, Bauer) is also one of his gang. He threatens Tommy with torture to reveal the whereabouts of the blue letter. He tells them that Tuppence has it and writes a letter summoning her to the office but he signs this 'Francis' and shows them the General's wedding present as proof that this is his real name and not Theodore Blunt. Tuppence arrives but, alerted by the false name in the note, she has brought Inspector Marriot with her and several armed policemen. 'Dymchurch' and his co-conspirators are arrested.
Finessing the King / The Gentleman Dressed in NewspaperEdit
Tuppence is bored and, reading the 'Daily Leader' newspaper, decides that she wants to go dancing. A reluctant Tommy tries to distract her attention by pointing out to her the interesting fact that dots in the masthead of the newspaper indicate the different days on which the paper was produced but his tenacious wife has spotted an advert in the personal column which reads, "I should go three hearts. 12 tricks. Ace of Spades. Necessary to finesse the King." She deduces that this refers to the Three Arts Ball which is to take place tomorrow night, "12 tricks" means twelve o'clock midnight and the "Ace of Spades" refers to a somewhat decadent nightclub-cum-eating place in Chelsea where it is fashionable to go to after events like the Three Arts Ball. Wondering what is meant by "Necessary to finesse the King" and feeling that they need to hone their detective skills, she decides that she and Tommy will go the following night to investigate in both their ball costumes and in their detective roles of Tommy McCarty and Dennis Riordan.
At the 'Ace of Spades', Tommy and Tuppence sit in one of the private booths and peer through the door at the various other costumed and masked patrons. The booth next door is soon taken by a woman dressed as Alice's Queen of Hearts and a man outfitted as the gentleman dressed in newspaper. After a while, they hear a cry from the woman followed by the man laughing and then see him leaving. After a few minutes, suspicious, Tuppence makes Tommy follow her into the booth and they find the woman stabbed through the heart. She whispers, "Bingo did it" before she dies...
The next day, Inspector Marriot brings Sir Arthur Merivale, the husband of the dead woman, Lady Vere Merivale, round to the Beresford's flat. "Bingo" Hale is known to both of them and he is stunned that his best friend could have killed his wife. Hale had been staying with them and was arrested that morning for murder. Merivale is perplexed as to what the motive could have been and is incensed at the suggestion from Marriot that the two were lovers and that Vere was threatening Hale who was paying attention to a rich American woman. Tuppence shows Sir Arthur the advert from the "Daily Leader" and the way the two communicated with each other using this device. Before she died, Vere tore off a piece of Bingo's newspaper costume and the police intend to match this up with the discarded costume.
Marriot returns to the Beresford's later on with photographs of the fragment and the section of the costume it came from – he has the last link to convict Hale but Tuppence senses that he is far from satisfied with the conclusion to the case. When he has gone, she spots that the dots in the masthead of the two pieces don't match. They invite Sir Arthur back round and confront him with the evidence. Tuppence puts it to him that he too was at the 'Ace of Spades' dressed in a near identical masked costume. Hale alleges that he was slipped a note asking him not to approach Vere and he complied. Sir Arthur took his place and killed his own wife. The man laughs at this suggestion and Tuppence recognises it as the same laugh she heard from the booth. Marriot is hidden in their flat listening in but Sir Arthur throws himself out of the window and falls to his death before he can be taken. Marriot tells them that the motive wasn't jealously but money. Vere Merivale was the one in the marriage with the money and if she'd left her husband he would have been destitute.
The Case of the Missing LadyEdit
The International Detective Agency receives a visit from Gabriel Stavansson, the famous explorer, who has just returned from a two year expedition to the North Pole. Tommy and Tuppence impress him with their initial display of observational and deductive powers (whilst in reality using their common sense and a judicious read of the Daily Mirror earlier that day) and he entrusts his case to them.
Stavansson explains that before he went on the expedition, he became engaged to the Honourable Mrs. Hermione Leigh Gordon, whose previous husband was killed in World War I. Upon his return to England, a fortnight sooner than expected, his first thought was to rush to London and see his fiancé who had been staying with her Aunt, Lady Susan Clonray, in Pont Street. However, Lady Susan was surprised to see him and proved evasive about her niece's whereabouts, saying that she was moving between friends in the north of the country. Stavansson and Lady Susan had never really got on well, partially due to his dislike of fat women (of which Lady Susan is one example) and partially due to his perception that she disapproved of the engagement. Nevertheless he insisted on the names and address of the various people that Hermione was supposed to be staying with and traveled north to see them – finding not one of them had had recent contact with his fiancée.
Lady Susan seemed genuinely upset when told this news but a telegram arrived as she and Stavansson were talking, purportedly from Hermione and addressed from Maldon saying she was going to Monte Carlo. Stavansson travelled to Maldon but was, once again, unable to find any trace of Hermione, prompting his visit to Blunt's International Detective Agency.
Taking up the case, Tommy and Tuppence travel to Maldon themselves and draw a similar blank on the whereabouts of the missing woman. It is then that Tuppence realizes that there are two Maldons – one in Surrey which they have been investigating and another small place of the same name in Sussex. They travel there and find out that there is an isolated private nursing home near the village. Investigating this lead, Tuppence inquires at the nursing home and is told they do not have a patient named Mrs. Leigh Gordan. Next Tommy poses as a journalist seeking an interview with Dr. Horriston, but he too is unable to gain access to the house. Next the sleuths overhear a conversation which fuels their suspicions further, so Tommy leaves Tuppence to keep watch while he goes to make some phone calls in the village. Upon his return he informs Tuppence that he'd found out that Dr. Horriston has a reputation as "a most unscrupulous quack..."
After dark, the two return to the house to further their investigation. Tuppence ascends a ladder to a second floor window, where she sees a woman strapped to the bed and writhing in pain. She recognizes the woman as Mrs. Leigh Gordan from the photograph provided by Stavansson. While Tuppence is watching, a nurse enters the room and injects the woman with an unknown substance. Tuppence informs Tommy of what she has seen and then ascends the ladder again, leaving him to keep a look out while she tries to free the woman. A few moments pass and Tommy is startled by a hand upon his shoulder, but it is Tuppence, having left by the front door of the house. She informs Tommy that the case is solved. Hermione Leigh Gordan is at the nursing home of her own free-will. Having put on weight during the 2 years Stavansson was at the North Pole, she had gone to Dr. Horriston for a high-priced (and strictly confidential) weight loss treatment. The only problem was that Stavansson had returned early, just at the time she had started the treatments.
Feeling somewhat foolish, the young detectives leave quickly, with Tommy commenting that there is no need to place the case in their records as, "It has absolutely no distinctive features."
Tommy receives a phone call from Mr. Carter warning him and Tuppence that the people connected with the Russian letters on blue paper have become aware that they have taken Blunt's place and to expect developments any time soon. Tommy suggests Tuppence waits in the safety of their home but she refuses. To pass over the quiet time that the agency is currently experiencing, Tommy suggests in exercise in following the methods of the blind detective Thornley Colton. He dons a pair of black eyeshades and practises (badly) his awareness of his surroundings by use of his other senses. Tommy decides he and Tuppence will go for lunch at the Blitz hotel in order that he can practise further in the surroundings of the restaurant.
At the Blitz, they are soon joined by two men who have been observing the pair and say that the Blunt's have been pointed out to them, although one of them confesses that he didn't know that Theodore Blunt was blind. They were on the way to see them but were told they were out to lunch and by coincidence have stopped at the same place. One of the men introduces himself as the Duke of Blairgowrie and his friend is Captain Harker. The Duke's daughter has been kidnapped "under somewhat peculiar circumstances" which mean that he cannot call in the police and he wants the Blunts to accompany them to his house immediately. Tommy agrees but not before he has drunk a cup of coffee and given Tuppence instructions for a meal at the hotel tomorrow that he is having with the French Prefect of Police. That done, they leave with Tommy and the Duke taking a different car to that of Captain Harker and Tuppence.
It is a trap and the "Duke" is in reality connected with the Russian letters. He prods a pistol at Tommy and takes him to a hideout where he is bound to a chair while the "Duke" gloats over him. He tells Tommy that the floor of the room they are in is metal and now electrified. Even though he is blind, he is going to make Tommy walk across the floor. If he steps on a contact point, he will die. He hands him his white cane and unties him and the "game" is about to commence. Tommy coolly takes out a cigarette and match but he has anticipated the trap and instead lights a magnesium wire he is carrying. The flare blinds the "Duke" who lowers his pistol and then he finds himself at the point of Tommy's cane – in reality, a swordstick. Tommy reveals that his dark shades were actually false and he has been able to see all the time. The "Duke" springs forward with rage and steps on a contact point, dying instantly. Tommy escapes the house and rings Tuppence from a call box. She is safe. Tommy's order at the hotel were codewords from Clinton H. Stagg's stories for Albert to fetch help. Albert tailed Tuppence and he and the police freed her from "Captain Harker".
The Man in the MistEdit
Tommy and Tuppence have had a setback in that they have failed to solve their latest case which involves a stolen pearl necklace. Instead, the local police inspector had managed to apprehend the culprit. Having withdrawn to lick their wounds with cocktails in a hotel, they meet an old acquaintance, Mervyn Estcourt – known as "Bulger" – who is in the company of the famous actress Gilda Glen, a woman who is renowned for her beauty and rumoured for her lack of intelligence. Miss Glen seems puzzled by Tommy's Father Brown disguise and Tommy ambiguously confirms his detective credentials. Getting directions from Bulger as to the way back to the station they are told to walk down Morgan's Avenue. Miss Glen seems startled by this advice and Bulger laughs at her belief in a local tale that the road in question is haunted by the ghost of a policeman who was killed and yet still walks his spectral beat. Miss Glen leaves hurriedly at this point. Bulger tells them that she is engaged to marry Lord Leconbury who they have just seen meeting the actress outside the door to the hotel. Bulger himself leaves soon afterwards and it is then that Tommy receives a note from Miss Glen asking for his help and for him to call on her at The White House, Morgan's Avenue at 6.10 p.m.
Their discussion as to what this could mean is interrupted when a shabbily dressed and aggressive young man bursts into the hotel. Sitting near Tommy and Tuppence he tells them that his name is James Reilly, he is a pacifist poet enamoured of Gilda, who once cared for him but no longer after her engagement to Lord Leconbury. Still angry he leaves as suddenly as he arrived. Tommy and Tuppence make their way to Morgan's Avenue. There is a thick fog in the air and Tuppence is startled when a policeman looms up out of the mist just near to the White House. Recovering herself, they see Reilly enter the house and the policeman confirms it is the residence of a Mrs. Honeycott and he saw someone who resembles Miss Glen enter there a few minutes before.
About to enter the house, they hear a muffled cry and Reilly runs out of the house, leaving what looks like red paint on his hand on a gatepost as he does so. The two go into the house and meet Ellen, the maid who is indignant about the visit by Reilly and then they meet Mrs. Honeycott herself. Mistaking Tommy for a real priest she asks for his help with Gilda who she reveals is her sister. Some twenty years before, at the age of seventeen, she married a man against the wishes of her family and now wants a divorce to marry Lord Leconbury. Her husband is refusing to grant her this wish, although the marriage took place so long ago that Mrs. Honeycott can't remember his name. She confirms that it wasn't Reilly who she saw rush upstairs and as quickly down again. Nervous as to what might have happened, Tommy asks to be shown upstairs where they find Gilda's body, her head smashed in on one side by some unknown blunt instrument. Tuppence fetches the policeman from outside and it is confirmed by questioning that Mrs. Honeycott heard her sister entering the house at eight minutes past six as she was re-setting the main clock. This confirms with the time that the policeman himself saw the actress enter, just before Tommy and Tuppence walked up Morgan's Avenue.
The next day, Reilly has been arrested and Tommy and Tuppence meet with the accused man's solicitor, Mr. Marvell. Reilly insists that the woman was already dead when he entered her room but as there was no one else in the house at the time that would mean either Ellen or Mrs. Honeycott killed her. Tommy suddenly realises no one inside the house actually saw Gilda enter – they only heard her – but prior to that the two women already in the house were in the kitchen, where they couldn't see or hear anyone with a key entering. Just because they heard the door banging, it doesn't prove anything – it could just as easily have been someone leaving the house – like the policeman outside who loomed up out of the fog by the gate and carries a truncheon, which would serve as the blunt instrument needed to carry out the deed, especially if the policeman happened to be Gilda's long-ago husband.
Blunt's detective agency is doing well and Tommy considers the need for a larger office, in part to accommodate the shelf-space needed if they are to store the "classics" of Edgar Wallace if they are to copy his methods of detection. Inspector Marriot calls on the two sleuths with his latest mission for them; a large number of well-forged one-pound notes are in circulation and he wants them to track down the source. The West End seems to be the starting point for most of the notes that have been found (although some have come from across the channel) and the police are especially interested in the activities of a Major Laidlaw who is involved in racing circles and he and his French wife always seem to have a lot of money. Although it could be a coincidence, a large number of the notes emanated from a gambling club used by the Laidlaws and this, together with the racing, could be an ideal way of distributing the forgeries. Another friend of the Laidlaws is Lawrence St. Vincent (from A Pot of Tea above) and Marriot thinks he could introduce the Beresfords into the set.
Marriot leaves and Tommy and Tuppence make their plans to catch the head of the forgers, or 'The Crackler' as Tommy calls him, named after the sound that a rustled banknote makes.
The two are soon ensconced within the Laidlaw's circle of friends. As well as the Laidlaw's themselves, Mrs. Laidlaw's French father, M. Heroulade, is an object of suspicion. They observe how notes are passed by the Laidlaws to lay their bets and in among the wad of notes, there always seem to be some forgeries. Marguerite Laidlaw is a striking woman and has a string of admirers. Among them is a visiting wealthy American called Hank Ryder who tells Tommy that she is in fear of her husband. He's also been a victim of the forged notes as he tried to pay some into his bank that he'd received from his winnings and they were rejected over the counter.
The next night Tommy is at the gambling club that Marriot mentioned and Mrs. Laidlaw passes him several notes to exchange for one of a higher denomination. Among them are several forgeries. His immediate suspicions are directed to M. Heroulade but his attention is caught when he leaves the club and finds Hank Ryder drunk in the street outside. Within his slurred ramblings he tells Tommy how Mrs. Laidlaw took him on a treasure hunt which included a visit to Whitechapel where she "found" five hundred pounds. Tommy takes Ryder to the district and the exact house where they went to earlier. As the row of mean terraced dwellings look identical, Tommy chalks a small cross at the base of the back door before they enter. Ryder thinks he hears someone coming and goes back out to investigate. Tommy goes further into the house and finds the counterfeiting gang and The Crackler himself – Hank Ryder. He tells the captured Tommy that he has been suspicious of him from the start and that in case the chalk mark on the back door was a lead to Tommy's accomplices as to his whereabouts he has put similar marks on all the other doors. His satisfaction is cut short when Marriot and the police burst into the room and arrest the gang. Tommy tells Ryder that he was equally suspicious of him and so, when he was chalking the door, he also emptied a bottle of valerian on the ground, thus attracting all the neighbourhood cats to the smell. This was his pre-arranged sign for Albert who, on his orders, followed them to Whitechapel.
The Sunningdale MysteryEdit
Tommy takes Tuppence to lunch at an ABC shop where he decides to mimic the tastes and habits of "The Old Man in the Corner" with Tuppence playing the part of Polly Burton. To test his abilities as this detective he has brought along a cutting from a newspaper on the recent case of what is known as the Sunningdale Mystery.
The facts are that two men, Captain Anthony Sessle and Mr. Hollaby, business partners and both members of Sunningdale Golf Club, played a full round of golf on the course on a Wednesday and decided to play a few more holes before it went dark. As they approached the tee on the seventh hole, Hollaby saw Sessle talking to a mysterious woman in a brown coat. These two went off talking down a side path and after a moment Sessle reappeared. Something had upset him for his game fell apart and two holes later Sessle gave up and walked off alone, ostensibly to his bungalow home. The existence of the woman in brown, Sessle's temporary departure with her and his subsequent poor game were all witnessed by two other members who were on the previous hole and awaiting their turn.
The next morning, Sessle was found dead on the seventh tee, stabbed with a hatpin through the heart. The police found forensic evidence on the man which led them to trace a young girl called Doris Evans. She was arrested and told a story of meeting Sessle at a cinema. He invited her to his bungalow on a day when, as she subsequently found out, his wife and servants would be away. On the day in question, the man met her as he arrived home from the golf course. He behaved strangely and then, suggesting a stroll, he took her to the golf course. On the aforementioned seventh tee he suddenly became deranged and produced a revolver, wildly suggesting a suicide pact. Doris escaped his grasp and ran off. One further fact which has come to light is that Sessle and Hollaby's assurance business is in liquidation and the funds embezzled.
Over their table, Tuppence counters that Doris would not have murdered the man as very few women nowadays use hatpins and that suggests that a man, not conversant with present fashions, committed the crime and tried to frame a woman. Tommy soon remembers that near to the seventh hole on the course is a small hut and the two talk about the possibility that the woman in brown could have been a man in disguise. This leads them to wonder who it could have been and, linked to a theory of Tuppence's that the embezzler of the company was not Sessle but Hollaby and his son, they speculate if the woman was Hollaby Junior, who is also connected with the assurance firm. They reconstruct the crime: Hollaby's son lures Sessle away in full view of the other two players on the course. He stabs him with a hatpin and hides the body in a hut, changing clothes with the dead man. The two witnesses on the course see at a distance the deterioration in his game and "Sessle" then goes to his bungalow where he meets Doris Evans as arranged and goes through a series of actions which lead to the innocent girl being arrested.
The Beresfords wonder how to convince the police of the plausibility of their theory but they have failed to spot Inspector Marriot at the next table. He has overheard the conversation and, already suspicious of the Hollaby's, promises to set enquiries in motion.
The House of Lurking DeathEdit
The Beresfords receive a professional visit from a smartly dressed young woman who introduces herself as Lois Hargreaves of Thurnly Grange, a house in the country. One week before, her household received a box of chocolates anonymously through the post. Not liking chocolates, she was the only one in the house who didn't sample the unexpected gift and consequently, she was the only one who wasn't taken ill afterwards. It has since been proven that the cause was arsenic poisoning and that this is the third occurrence in the area of such a gift and its after-effects. What perturbs Miss Hargreaves is that the paper in which the chocolates were wrapped was re-used from a previous parcel sent to the Grange, evidenced by a small doodle of three intertwined fish that she drew on it in a moment of abstraction after it had been used to wrap a parcel of silk stockings sent from London. The poisoner is therefore someone in her own home.
Miss Hargreaves is a rich heiress. She inherited her fortune from her aunt, a Lady Radclyffe, who post-deceased her husband, a self-made man. Lois lived with her aunt in her widowhood but she always made it clear to her niece that she intended to leave the bulk of her estate to Dennis Radclyffe, her late husband's nephew. However, when she had a violent quarrel with the young man she changed her will in favour of Lois who, in turn, has made a will leaving her money to Dennis. He lives at the Grange with her, as does Miss Logan, an old lady who is a distant cousin of Dennis and a former companion to Lady Radclyffe. The final member of the house, servants aside, is Mary Chilcott, an old schoolfriend of Lois. The servants are a cook and kitchenmaid, a parlourmaid called Esther and an elderly maid called Hannah.
The next day, by agreement with Lois, Tommy and Tuppence plan to travel down to the Grange but before they go they receive a shock – Lois is dead, killed by some unknown poison which also affected Dennis and Miss Logan who are both seriously ill. The cause is supposed to be fig paste in some sandwiches eaten by the three but not by Mary Chilcott who is unaffected. They meet Dr. Burton who is looking after the patients and who tells them that Dennis has now died as well but that he has not yet identified the poison used this time, however it was not arsenic. Investigating the matter, they discover that Dennis was out when the sandwiches were eaten for tea and it is supposed that he ate one on his return to the house. Tommy, however, finds that he was seen to drink a cocktail by one of the maids and manages to get hold of the glass before it is washed.
In speaking with everyone in the house, they meet Hannah, who appears to have undergone a religious mania, quoting scripture and bringing fire and brimstone on all concerned. She has in her possession a strange item – an old book by a man called Edward Logan on medicines and poisons which appears to have belonged to Miss Logan's father, a pioneer of serum therapeutics. They confirm this from the ill old lady, noting how she has a mass of small pinpricks on her arm.
They call at Dr. Burtons and find out that the poison has been identified as Ricin and, from the entry in Edward Logan's old book, deduce that Miss Logan is the murderer. The pinpricks on her arm are from injections of small amounts of the poison she has been giving herself to build up immunity. As Dennis' next of kin she would inherit once he and Lois were dead. The near-mad Hannah, having previously suspected Miss Logan when she saw her reading the book and smiling to herself, hears this accusation and bursts into Miss Logan's room and attacks her, starting a fire in the process. Tommy stifles the flames but the shock of this event causes Miss Logan to die of a heart attack. Dr. Burton confirms that the cocktail glass also contained traces of Ricin.
The Unbreakable AlibiEdit
Tommy and Tuppence's latest client is a personable, rich but slightly dense young man called Mr. Montgomery Jones. He has met an Australian girl called Una Drake who he has fallen violently in love with. Talking of their mutual love of detective stories, she has made a bet with him that he cannot break an alibi she has set up for herself. She has agreed that if he wins he can ask her for anything he likes and it is his intention to ask her for her hand in marriage. Knowing full well that he is not known for his intelligence, Montgomery Jones asks the Beresfords to take on the task for him.
The alibi is that on the previous Tuesday Miss Drake dined at a Soho restaurant, saw a West End show and then had supper with a Mr. le Marchant at the Savoy Hotel. At the same time, she also stayed the night at the Castle Hotel in Torquay and returned to London the next morning. Armed with a photograph of Miss Drake and the knowledge of the methods of Inspector French, Tommy and Tuppence interview Mr. le Marchant who confirms that he was with the young lady for part of the evening in question. He also states that Miss Drake made an oblique comment to being in Devonshire at the same time, which he considers strange since a friend of his was at the Castle Hotel and did indeed think that he saw her there. The two then investigate the Soho restaurant (where a positive identification of the girl is not forthcoming) and then travel to Torquay where they find plenty of evidence that Miss Drake was in the hotel throughout the night and also travelled to the resort at a time compatible with her also being in London. Their final questioning is back in London of some people who saw her at the Savoy and also of her flatmate and charwoman who both attest that she spent the night in her own bed.
Working all evening on trying to puzzle out the problem, the Beresfords confess that they are stumped. Sleeping on the problem, the next morning Tuppence awakes to a flash on inspiration and sends off a cable to test her idea. Later that day she returns to their office with the solution – Una has a twin sister who, the cable to Australia has confirmed – arrived in England the day before the events in question. The fun-loving sisters thought the stunt would be an amusing joke to play on Montgomery Jones.
The Clergyman's Daughter / The Red HouseEdit
It is just before Christmas when a young lady called Monica Deane calls at the Blunt's agency. She and her impoverished, invalid, widowed mother inherited a house from a well-off sister of her father's some time back. They also expected to inherit some money to go with the house but to their surprise there was little forthcoming. They didn't want to sell the house as it provided plenty of room for them compared to their small flat and they had plans to open it to paying guests to supplement their income. All went well for a time until they started to have strange occurrences with pictures falling off walls and crockery being smashed when no one was in the room – a poltergeist, which scared all their guests and their income away. A Dr. O'Neill from a Society for Physical Research has visited them and has offered to buy the house from them to continue his investigations. Monica however is certain that he is also younger man in disguise who previously made them an offer for the house. The only other resident in the house now is Crockett, an elderly maid of Monica's aunt who has a younger nephew of whom she is very proud.
Tommy and Tuppence travel to the "Red House" and begin their investigations, harbouring suspicions that the old lady has hidden money in the building which would account for the remainder of her fortune being missing. Tommy makes a visit to the local bank and manages to the find out from the manager that the aunt did indeed withdraw all of her money some time before she died. Under the guise of potential buyers, they explore the house and Monica gives them various papers of her aunt's. Before they can investigate these further, they hear a crash and find a jug and basin broken in a room overhead. They quickly interview Crockett and notice that she is out of breath. Mentioning to her that they intend to buy the house, Monica receives a message soon afterwards from "Dr. O'Neill" that his own offer has increased – it is obvious that the old maid is the one creating "disturbances" and that the "Doctor" is her nephew trying to get the house in order that he can investigate himself the location of the missing fortune.
Tommy and Tuppence look over the papers and realise that one of them contains a puzzle anagram. They work it out and the solution is "potatoes". Another of the papers, on the theme of recipes, refers to the trick of burying new potatoes in a tin to keep them fresh for the winter and they realise that this is their lead. They question the gardener to see if the old lady ever used this technique and find out that she did. They dig in the spot and find several tins of potatoes and, in one of the tins, a bag containing two hundred pounds in gold sovereigns, twenty thousand pounds in banknotes and a string of expensive pearls. Monica Deane and her mother will have their fortune and she and the Beresfords will be each able to celebrate a happy Christmas.
The Ambassador's BootsEdit
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.
The Man Who Was No. 16Edit
Mr. Carter congratulates the Beresfords on their successes at the agency but he gives them a warning that Moscow has become suspicious of the failure to hear from their agents and that they have despatched a man to investigate. The agent is known to them, having caused them problems in the past, but he is master of disguise and linguistics. He is also the deviser of the "No. 16" code and they expect him to turn up at Blunts although he has never met the real Theodore Blunt and doesn't know that Tommy has been impersonating him. The Beresfords are given other known codes to watch out for and are asked to cooperate as much as they can with "No. 16" to help Carter get to him.
The two go back to the agency where they find that too many leaves have been torn from a calendar and that it shows the date as Sunday the sixteenth, six days hence. Albert tells them that could only have been done by a client who waited for some time for them that morning – a hospital nurse.
After a short while, another client is shown in - a fair, bearded man who goes by the name of Prince Vladiroffsky who starts to use the codes communicated to them by Mr. Carter. Upon being questioned, the Beresfords tell him that treachery is afoot. "No. 16" assumes that Tuppence is an agent known as "Marise" and suggests that she lunch with him at the Blitz hotel and that they then meet Tommy later on at Headquarters. They leave and Tommy communicates with Mr. Carter whose men have been listening into the conversation in the office. Going to the Blitz, the "Prince" and Tuppence dine, served by waiters some of whom are policemen in disguise. They then go up in the lifts to the "Prince"'s suite but when they fail to appear some time later, the lift boy tells Tommy and Mr. Carter that he took them to a different floor instead. They have been spotted going into the room of a Mrs. Van Snyder of Detroit and, breaking into this room, they find the room's occupant bound and gagged. "No. 16" took Tuppence through into an adjoining room booked by an invalid French man and his nurse (more agents of No. 16) and made his escape that way with Tuppence as a hostage, drugged and disguised as the invalid.
Tommy is distraught at the thought of what might be happening to Tuppence. Albert tries to cheer him up, reminding him of Tuppence's resourcefulness. In talking to Albert, Tommy is struck by an idea and races back to the Blitz where he and one of Carter's men go back to Mrs. Van Snyder's room. They find the lady still there, recovering on the bed. Under the bolster on the bed, Tommy finds Tuppence – he realised that there wasn't enough time to bind and gag Mrs. Van Snyder, drug Tuppence and disguise her as a Frenchman. Therefore she must still have been in the room and, remembering the bolster as a hiding place from childhood games, saw that as the only place she could be. He also unmasks "No. 16" – Mrs. Van Snyder in disguise.
Tuppence quickly recovers and the two decide to give up the agency, for no other reason that, as a delighted Tommy is informed, Tuppence is expecting a baby.
Literary significance and receptionEdit
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."
References or AllusionsEdit
References to other worksEdit
- The reference regarding the Gentleman dressed in Newspaper character as being from the Lewis Carroll Alice books is mistaken in that the character who appears in chapter three of Through the Looking-Glass is described as being dressed in white paper only. However John Tenniel's illustration (right) in the book of the character reminded many contemporary readers of Benjamin Disraeli and there has been speculation if this was a comment upon his constant presence in newspaper columns.William Empson in his 1935 book Some Versions of Pastoral referred to "Disraeli dressed in Newspapers".
- In The House of Lurking Death, Hannah quotes a series of religious and personal threats. Direct quotes from the Bible and their sources are:
- • From Psalm 18: " I will follow upon mine enemies and overtake them, neither will I turn again till I have destroyed them"
- • From the Gospel of John, 3:8 " The wind bloweth where it listeth"
- • From Psalm 1: " The ungodly shall perish"
- • From Psalm 37: " But the wicked shall perish"
"The fire of the Lord shall consume them" is not a direct quote but resembles numerous lines throughout the Bible.
- Tommy's final line to Tuppence at the end of The House of Lurking Death ("'It is a great advantage to be intelligent and not to look it") is a quote from A. E. W. Mason's story At the Villa Rose (In the Christie story, Tommy assumes the roles of Mason's detective, M. Hanaud).
- In The Ambassador's Boots, 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 reference to Bee-keeping and Vegetable Marrow-growing in The Man Who Was No. 16 are humorous allusions to the retirement plans of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.
References to actual history, geography and current scienceEdit
- In A Fairy in the Flat, Tommy and Tuppence look at a blemish on a photograph, the shape of which resembles a fairy and Tuppence suggests writing to Conan Doyle about it. This is a reference to the Cottingley Fairies. This was a media cause célèbre of the early 1920s and surrounded five photographs taken by two girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, in Cottingley, West Yorkshire which supposedly showed fairies at the bottom of their garden. Conan Doyle believed the photographs were real and wrote a famous article about the incident which appeared in the November 1920 issue of the Strand Magazine.
- In The Case of the Missing Lady, Tommy refers to a concert at the Queen's Hall that he and Tuppence should attend. This hall, built in 1893 was destroyed in an air raid in World War II. It is most famous for being the first home of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts.
- In Blindman's Buff and The Man Who Was No. 16, the Blitz Hotel is a play on words on London's Ritz Hotel. Christie uses the same location (and the same name for it) in the 1925 novel The Secret of Chimneys.
- In The House of Lurking Death, Lois Hargreaves admits to a habit of doodling a design of three intertwined fish. This design was used on the set of the collected works of Christie begun by William Collins in 1967 (but never completed) and this was approved by Christie in the spring of 1966 in discussions with the publishers. Although stated by some that the doodle was also a habit shared by Christie, it was apparently spotted by her in the bazaars of Baalbek when she visited there in the 1930s. The same design was used in the title sequence of the television series' Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime (see below) and Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1980).
Film, TV or theatrical adaptationsEdit
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 adaptationEdit
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 Niggers, this was the first adaptation of a Christie book for radio in the UK.
- Main article: Partners in Crime (1953 radio series)
1983 television adaptationEdit
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
- 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 storiesEdit
All of the stories in Partners in Crime first appeared in magazines between 1923 and 1928, principally The Sketch magazine. For publication in book form, 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 are as follows:
- The First Wish: First published in issue 226 of The Grand Magazine in December 1923. This formed the basis for chapters 20 and 21 of the book - The Clergyman's Daughter / The Red House. The story was illustrated by Arthur Ferrier.
- Publicity: First published in issue 1652 of The Sketch on September 24, 1924. This formed the basis for chapters 1 and 2 of the book - A Fairy in the Flat / A Pot of Tea. This was the first in a sequence of twelve consecutive stories Christie wrote for The Sketch which appeared under the subtitle of Tommy and Tuppence.
- The Affair of the Pink Pearl: First published in issue 1653 of The Sketch on October 1, 1924. This formed the basis for chapters 3 and 4 of the book which uses the same chapter title.
- Finessing the King: First published in issue 1654 of The Sketch on October 8, 1924. This formed the basis for chapters 7 and 8 of the book - Finessing the King / The Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper.
- The Case of the Missing Lady: First published in issue 1655 of The Sketch on October 15, 1924. This formed the basis for chapter 9 of the book which uses the same chapter title.
- The Case of the Sinister Stranger: First published in issue 1656 of The Sketch on October 22, 1924. This formed the basis for chapters 5 and 6 of the book which use the slightly amended title of The Adventure of the Sinister Stranger.
- The Sunninghall Mystery: First published in issue 1657 of The Sketch on October 29, 1924. This formed the basis for chapters 15 and 16 of the book which use the slightly amended title of The Sunningdale Mystery.
- The House of Lurking Death: First published in issue 1658 of The Sketch on November 5, 1924. This formed the basis for chapters 17 and 18 of the book which use the same chapter title.
- The Matter of the Ambassador's Boots: First published in issue 1659 of The Sketch on November 12, 1924. This formed the basis for chapter 22 of the book which uses the shortened title of The Ambassador's Boots.
- The Affair of the Forged Notes: First published in issue 1660 of The Sketch on November 19, 1924. This formed the basis for chapters 13 and 14 of the book using the different title of The Crackler.
- Blindman's Buff: First published in issue 1661 of The Sketch on November 26, 1924. This formed the basis for chapter 10 of the book which uses the same chapter title.
- The Man in the Mist: First published in issue 1662 of The Sketch on December 3, 1924. This formed the basis for chapters 11 and 12 of the book which uses the same chapter title.
- The Man who was Number Sixteen: First published in issue 1663 of The Sketch on December 10, 1924. This formed the basis for chapter 23 of the book which uses the same chapter title and was also the final story Christie ever wrote for The Sketch.
After a gap of four years a final story, The Unbreakable Alibi, appeared in Holly Leaves, the annual Christmas special of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in December, 1928. This formed the basis for chapter 19 of the book.
As with most of Christie's short story collections, this book carried no dedication.
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.
- 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)