In celebration of the 125th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie the BBC have brought Christie’s crime-fighting husband-and-wife duo Tommy and Tuppence Beresford to Sunday nights.
With a strong cast led by David Walliams, playing Tommy, and Jessica Raine, playing Tuppence, Partners In Crime is a six-part series, adapting two of Christie’s stories, The Secret Adversary and N or M? This isn’t classic detective drama, but an espionage caper, where married couple Tommy and Tuppence find themselves as a fish-out-of-water detective duo mixed up in a dangerous mystery.
The first episode, part one of three of The Secret Adversary written by Zinnie Harris, opens in Paris in 1952 with Tommy and Tuppence boarding a London-bound train. Tommy is transporting precious cargo of a small box containing a Queen bee, to begin his entrepreneurial endeavour as a beekeeper, and Tuppence is carrying everything else. This opening image neatly sums up their married life, setting up the order that will be shaken by their adventures to follow.
Before the train has even left the station, as Tommy and Tuppence comfortably bicker and Tuppence eagerly tucks into Dorothy L. Sayers’ ‘Strong Poison’, a chance encounter with an agitated woman, Jane Finn, and an unknown murder, begins Tommy and Tuppence’s heroes journey to find out what happened.
The rest of the episode is set in 1950’s London, with a backdrop of remaining World War II bombsites and a bruised city in the nursery years of the Cold War. This is one of the most apparent changes from Christie’s original 1920s story. Transposing the action to the Cold War of the 1950s has given the story an interesting new dimension, as Tommy and Tuppence’s marriage is already established and there’s an even greater sense of hunger for adventure-seeking Tuppence to be involved in something bigger than just her domestic life.
As Tommy, David Walliams brings a subtlety to the gung-ho and a bit left-footed husband, making an awkward anti-hero very watchable. But it’s Tuppence who is the real delight, and the driving force of the episode. Played brilliantly by Jessica Raine (Call The Midwife) Tuppence is inquisitive, intelligent, audacious and sparky, whilst retaining vulnerability despite her brave face. Tuppence’s curiosity in wanting to know what exactly happened on the train and trace the missing Jane Finn is what leads her and Tommy to be hired by Tommy’s Uncle and Third Floor bigwig, Major Anthony Carter.
Carter, played by the unusually not-bumbling James Fleet, has insider info that Jane Finn was carrying a secret recording that will reveal the identity of a legendary Soviet assassin, believed to be plotting a strike on England. Despite Carter’s attempts to keep them out of it, Tommy and Tuppence quickly find themselves embroiled in the assassin’s gang. It’s high stakes and heightened drama, as the two amateur sleuths embark on an adventure that neither one seem quite prepared for.
In true Christie style this opening episode has danger, mystery and humour, laced with a cosiness that makes it perfect Sunday night viewing. Plot-wise there’s spying, secrets, bombs and baddies – an unfolding mystery with strong central characters you want to spend time with and enough mysterious peripheral characters to leave you guessing who, what, where and why?
The end of the episode sees Tommy and Tuppence separated and both in a seriously dangerous fix of their own, making you sure to tune in next week to find out where Jane Finn has disappeared to and what the mysterious item she hid in the Queen bee’s box on the train at the start of the episode really is. But most of all you leave the first episode wanting more so that you can go along with Tuppence and Tommy for the ride. Anyone with a sense of adventure can’t help be hooked.
Did you tune in for Partners In Crime episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Catch episode 2 on BBC1 at 9pm on Sunday 2nd August!