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The Secret of Chimneys    by Agatha Christie order for
Secret of Chimneys
by Agatha Christie
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2001 (1925)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Most mystery readers are familiar with Agatha Christie's characters Hercule Poirot (genius master of 'the little grey cells') and Miss Jane Marple, that deceptively fluffy incarnation of everyone's favourite maiden aunt. Fewer perhaps are aware that Christie wrote some wonderfully dashing mystery-adventures featuring enthusiastic amateur sleuths who threw themselves whole-heartedly into danger and adventure. Most of these evoke a time period that modern readers can never know first-hand, the 1920s and 30s.

The Secret of Chimneys is vintage Christie. Anthony Cade, gentleman adventurer and jack of many trades, agrees to deliver the posthumous memoir of Count Stylptitch to his publisher, and also to hand over some letters to a lady named Virginia Revel. Various groups are after the memoirs, and some are willing to resort to murder to obtain them. The letters are a mission of mercy. It is evident that Mrs. Revel is being blackmailed. Cade's friend Jimmy, into whose hands the letters have fallen, is anxious to relieve the lady of the apprehension she must be feeling.

Attempts are made on the manuscript. During one of them the letters are stolen. When Cade meets Virginia Revel, she denies that the letters are hers and enlists his help to conceal a corpse. It is perfectly in keeping with the situation that she should propose such a course of action to a perfect stranger, and that he should agree. The action moves on to the stately estate of Chimneys, where Cade finds himself in a maelstrom of intrigue, as secret dealings are being negotiated between the British government and the head of a Balkan state. On hand are a variety of guests, ranging from a stuffy English politician to the madcap daughter of the lord of Chimneys. All this, in addition to the complications arising from the manuscript and the blackmail letters.

Christie's romp is great fun. The lively characters and the madcap plot and action belong to a different time period. Other authors have attempted such retro tales, but Christie's have the authentic flavour of one familiar with the era. So sit back, relax, and prepare to join the roller-coaster ride.

Editor's Note: This has long been my favorite of Agatha Christie's books, and I also highly recommend her Tommy and Tuppence mysteries, wish there were more of them!

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