The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
Narrator: Simon Jones
Series: Superintendent Battle #1
Published by Audible Studios on April 6, 2021 (first published June 1, 1925)
Source: Audible Plus
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Length: 7 hrs 50 mins
Pages: 348
Format: Audiobook
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three-half-stars

A bit of adventure and quick cash is all that good-natured drifter Anthony Cade is looking for when he accepts a messenger job from an old friend. It sounds so simple: deliver the provocative memoirs of a recently deceased European count to a London publisher. Little did Anthony suspect that a simple errand to deliver the manuscript on behalf of his friend would drop him right in the middle of an international conspiracy, and he begins to realize that it has placed him in serious danger. Why were Count Stylptich's memoirs so important? And what was "King Victor" really after? The parcel holds more than scandalous royal secrets - because it contains a stash of letters that suggest blackmail. Someone would stop at nothing to prevent the monarchy being restored in faraway Herzoslovakia.

Wherever ravishing Virginia Revel went, death seemed sure to follow. First her husband died. The next to perish was a foreign prince whose ruthless power was matched by his scandalous passions. Then a bungling blackmailer followed them into the grave. Murder, blackmail, stolen letters, and a fabulous missing jewel: all under the not always co-operative eyes of Scotland Yard and the Surete. All threads lead to Chimneys, one of England's historic country house estates, where a master murderer mingled with the aristocratic guests. Virginia could turn to only one person to prove her innocence and end her nightmare, and she could only pray that she had not put her life into the hands of the man who was out to take it....

The Secret of Chimneys is one of Christie’s earlier works and she tends to not be at her best when her books wander off into international politics and intrigue. However, I found this one surprisingly funny and enjoyable, even if a little far-fetched. Anthony Cade agrees to take on two jobs for his friend James McGrath. Anthony heads for London to deliver the draft of a memoir to a publisher, and to return letters to the woman who wrote them. In England, politician George Lomax persuades Lord Caterham to host a house party at Chimneys. George’s cousin Virginia Revel is invited, as is Hiram Fish, a collector of first edition books, along with the principals in a political scheme to restore the monarchy in Herzoslovakia – while assuring that newly discovered oil there will be handled by a British syndicate. Then, a member of the house party is killed.

House party mysteries are probably my favorites. I like the small circle of suspects, the tension of knowing a murderer is living in the same house as you, the knowledge that almost anything you say can be overheard. Even if the plot itself was a bit unbelievable, the characters were interesting with their various secrets and motives. I liked Anthony as our detective. Anthony is light-hearted, amusing, and observant, and I’m glad that he got his happy ending, even if it was a bit contrived. Yes, it’s a Battle book, but we don’t actually see him doing much of the work.

I always enjoy Christie books, even those that are not her best.

About Agatha Christie

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller; 15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976) was an English crime novelist, short story writer and playwright. She is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, particularly those revolving around her fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. She also wrote the world’s longest-running play, a murder mystery, The Mousetrap, and six romances under the name Mary Westmacott. In 1971 she was elevated to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her contribution to literature.

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4 Comments

    • I’m going to have to read the middle two Battle books though. Neither of the ones I’ve read have really featured him and I’m wondering if they’re all like that.

  • I also love house party mysteries so this has always been a favorite although I realize I have not reread it for many years, so it must not be one I own. Battle is in Cards on the Table, which I reread recently and there is more about him than I expected.

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