Let’s talk about poor impulse control, shall we? I again watched the second part of a new Tommy and Tuppence show. Again, it was a mistake. They’re dull, they’re bitchy, they’re not bright, and they’re following some impossibly convoluted plot that has little to do with the book. So, I read the book again. It must have been shortly before I started blogging I last read this. And memory was somewhat hazy. I did not remember them sneaking into some sort of military ball. And that’s because they didn’t. There was a major, but he was not named Khan and spoiler! he didn’t kill himself. I have often thought the plots of her thrillers are so bad that substituting a new one would be no loss, but the plot of N or M? isn’t so bad. Instead of a nebulous conspiracy, she had Nazis to write about because it was 1941. There’s a war on and T and T are anxious to do their bit, but everyone thinks they are too old. Until a Colonel comes along and tells Tommy about a search for a Fifth Columnitst (an expression meaning, in this case, home-grown Nazis) at a boarding house in Leahampton. Tommy is a good choice because none of the current people know who he is. Tuppence, of course, manages to join in. She’s not one to sit at home knitting balaclavas when there is spying to be done, so she too goes to Leahampton and knits balaclavas there.
At the boarding house, everyone is normal-seeming, but somehow suspicious just like in her usual detective stories. The owner with a mysterious background, the Irish woman who’s too observant, the invalid man and his waffling wife who previously spent a lot of time in Germany… and so on. Tommy and Tuppence fit right in and start investigating and they are charming and clever and good at what they do. The plot isn’t dull or confusing and there is no military ball. Despite Robert Barnard’s panning of it “The Beresfords contribute their intolerable high spirits to the war effort.” He sounds like a real cranky-boots. I enjoy their high spirits and it’s exactly what I miss in these abominable adaptations. Why didn’t they do it with Francesca Annis and James Warwick a few years ago?
Wikipedia mentions that Christie herself was investigated because she named the Major in the book Bletchley – like Bletchley Park – they were worried that she Knew Too Much. She didn’t. She named the Major after some place she was stuck on a train journey at some point. And that would be a good story to adapt, I think.