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Book of the Month

Book of the Month: The Man in the Brown Suit

3rd April 2017

Pretty, young Anne Beddingfield has come to London looking for adventure. But adventure finds her when a strange-smelling man falls off an Underground platform and is electrocuted on the rails. The police verdict is accidental death. But who was the man in the brown suit who examined the body before running away? Armed with only one cryptic clue, Anne is determined to track him down and bring the mysterious killer to justice.

April’s Book of the Month is Agatha Christie’s fourth novel, The Man in the Brown Suit, which follows a young girl who heads to London looking for an adventure, and soon enough ends up on an ocean voyage heading to Africa. The story was published in the UK and US in 1924, two years after Christie’s trip on The Grand Tour which saw Christie travel around the world visiting South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Canada.

Agatha and her first husband Archie were invited to join the British Empire Exhibition Tour by the Assistant general manager Belcher, who encouraged Christie to write a story and include him as one of her characters. At his request, one of the characters, Sir Eustace Pedler, was initially characterised on Belcher. This was the only time that Christie attempted to base a character on a friend of hers.

Christie drafted the story whilst in South Africa, drawing on experiences gained on The Grand Tour; later finishing the book when she was back in England. Unlike her earliest stories featuring Hercule Poirot, The Man in the Brown Suit was more of a thriller than a detective story; as were two of her later novels in the 1920s – The Secret of Chimneys and The Seven Dials Mystery. The heroine of the story, Anne Beddingfield, was imagined by her creator as a happy, brave, young woman, who started out to seek an adventure.

As suggested by Belcher, Christie had originally titled the story after his house, The Mystery of the Mill House, but rechristened it The Man in the Brown Suit for publication with The Bodley Head. The Evening News offered a substantial sum of money for the serial rights to the story, and renamed it once again; this time to Anna the Adventuress.

Encouraged by Archie, Christie spent the money earnt from The Evening News serialisation on her first car; a rare commodity to own in the 1920's. In An Autobiography, Christie references the car stating, “the two things that have excited me most in my life was my car: my grey bottle-nosed Morris Cowley. The second was dining with the Queen at Buckingham Palace about forty years later.”

Did you know?

Colonel Race makes his first appearance in The Man in the Brown Suit; later appearing in Cards on the Table, Sparkling Cyanide, and Death on the Nile.

Discover more about The Man in the Brown Suit here.