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REALJimBob

Fortysomething, photographer slacker, working in IT, living in Greenwich; failed polymath; drinks and eats too much, reads too little...

The Man in the Brown Suit  - Agatha Christie Sometimes it's easy to get distracted reading [a:Agatha Christie|123715|Agatha Christie|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1321738793p2/123715.jpg]. You get used to the idea that she's the creator of Poirot, of Marple, even of Tommy and Tuppence. Those characters can almost become more important than the novel itself, and when you read a Christie that doesn't have the distraction of a famous detective creation you can be surprised by just how good Christie can be. To be fair, those other novels with Poirot in are pretty good too but this one struck me that I was just enjoying [b:The Man in the Brown Suit|12034587|The Man in the Brown Suit (Colonel Race, #1)|Agatha Christie|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1337094995s/12034587.jpg|995869] on it's own single-novel merits than with say a Poirot where I'm in part enjoying revisiting the characters she's created.

Anne Beddingfield is a woman of spirit. When she witnesses a man falling in front of a train on the Underground she suspects there's more to what, at first glance, appears to be just a tragic accident. Before we know it, she's into full-on adventuress mode and booking cruises and train journeys and chasing down various suspects. At various times she suspects pretty much everybody in the cast of course, so we're left none the wiser. You assume Colonel Race is in the clear – in part because Anne suspects him too much but mostly because he goes on to appear in a couple of later Poirots as a supporting character (although, this is Christie, even that doesn't give him a free pass) – and Mrs. Blair who seems to be having far too much fun helping Anne to be the baddy. Anne's narrative is interspersed with extracts from Sir Eustace's diary, which is a clever idea allowing Christie to provide extra information outside of Anne's direct experience.

All the characters – apart from Colonel Race – appear to be exaggerated for comedic effect. Anne is super spunky; Mrs. Blair is the rich widow (although she's still married she spends so much time apart from her husband she may as well be) who wants to adopt Anne; Sir Eustace is a somewhat pervy older bachelor writing his memoirs; the put upon suspect of the police – the titular man in the brown suit – is rugged, handsome and difficult, etc. and so on. They're mostly silly, but not too overdone. Characters get to appear and disappear in various disguises, even changing gender, and everybody is fooled. But it works, like Superman and his glasses. As a final cherry on the top, the novel features a nicely clever bit of unreliable narration which I always enjoy.