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Partners in Crime episode 4 review

It’s the second half of the Partners in Crime series and the start of a new Agatha Christie adventure: N or M? This mystery, featuring crime-fighting husband and wife duo Tommy and Tuppence, is adapted for the small screen by Claire Wilson, and the first instalment has a classic espionage opening.

An unknown man is disturbed at night by a phone ringing. “It’s Gilbert”, the man answers, as a mystery voice out of the receiver replies, “they’re coming.” The man reveals a key from his pocket and rushes out, swiftly seen moving a precious machine in his RAF vehicle from a military base. On a road cloaked in darkness he’s stopped. A blonde woman with a gun appears. The mystery begins.

In London, we’re back with Tommy and Tuppence, played fondly by David Walliams and Jessica Raine. The part-time sleuths are en route to Tommy’s Uncle Carter to run a new business idea past him – the rather comically coined wig specialists Beresford Barnets. But Carter has other ideas.

Carter works in military intelligence and needs a “nobody” to collect a message from a secret agent. He’s decided Tommy’s the man for the job. But he mustn’t tell Tuppence.

Somewhat reluctantly, Tommy takes on the task and is forced to let Tuppence in on his mission. With Tuppence on the case they quickly track down their secret agent and hear the precious message: “Tell Carter there’s a spy in the house, they’ve taken Gilbert. It’s N”… Or did he say M?

Immediately we’re hooked into Christie’s world and happy to join the hapless duo on another crime adventure. Despite death and dastardly deeds at play, there’s an overall energy and positivity throughout that makes for an enticing and entertaining watch.

Delivering his message to Carter, Carter fills Tommy in. Gilbert’s a British scientist working on a top-secret prototype for a nuclear bomb, both Gilbert and the bomb are missing. The perpetrator is staying at the San Souci guesthouse and N… or is it M? is most likely their Soviet superspy code name. Tommy must travel in disguise to the guesthouse and find the guest. The only proviso is again he can’t tell Tuppence.

Partners in Crime episode 4

Rather neatly, N or M? mirrors The Secret Adversary, as Tommy is back undercover tracking down a missing person – as is Tuppence, who, dismayed at being left out of whatever Tommy’s up to, gets to the guesthouse first and immerses herself amongst the suspects in her own disguise. Cue bickering, jealousy and competition by the undercover pair.

This espionage charade creates a playful and witty tension between our two heroes, as they wrestle against each other while trying not to blow their cover. Both David Walliams and Jessica Raine seem to be hitting their stride with their performances, and appear much more of a unit in this story, despite their opposition.

Claire Wilson’s dialogue is sharp and punchy, as witty and characterful as Zinnie Harris’ take on The Secret Adversary, and she pulls through many established themes to make the pair of stories feel cohesive as a package.

The array of characters in the Sans Souci guesthouse provides a suitable number of suspects for our crime fighters. There’s Mr and Mrs Minton, married psychologists, Veronika Urbanowicz, the polish maid, Carl Denim, the son of a publican, and the blonde and extremely flirtatious Mrs Sprot, who is married but travelling alone, and definitely doesn’t go un-noticed by Tommy – or Tuppence. All guests are under the watchful eye of Irish proprietress Sheila Perenna. Tommy and Tuppence are immersed in a lively whodunit.

Last but by no means least there’s the very suspicious Major Khan, who rouses Tuppence’s suspicions so much she hides in his wardrobe to scope out potential superspy dealings. But when her not-so-covert hiding place is discovered, Tuppence finds herself in a very dangerous position indeed.

This leaves it on a suitable cliffhanger fitting of any crime caper. With enough unanswered questions, and a willingness for Tuppence to overcome the suspicious Major Khan, there’s plenty of reasons to look forward to tuning in next week.

Did you tune in for Partners In Crime episode 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Don’t miss episode 5 on BBC1 at 9pm on Sunday 23rd August.

Isla Gray

Isla is a screenwriter and playwright who writes for television and theatre, as well as online for BBC, ITV and The Huffington Post. She’s a drama obsessive who watches far too much television and loves a good plot twist.

Follow Isla on Twitter.

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