The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie

The Man in the Brown Suit was Agatha Christie’s fourth published novel, a light thriller first appearing in 1924. As a crime writer, she was at that time still finding her feet, but the book nevertheless remains an enjoyable read to this day. It is also interesting to note that the key twist in the book anticipates the much more famous trick solution to The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, published in 1926.

This copy is of special interest not only because of the inscription from Christie, but also because of the letter which accompanies it. The background to the inscription is that Christie recruited a ‘mother’s help’ called Miss White to assist with looking after her only child, Rosalind. The little girl contracted the name of the newcomer to ‘Site’, and that is how she became known in the family. In An Autobiography, Christie describes Site with much affection (‘From the moment which brought Site into our family, our luck seemed to change for the better’) and records how startled she was to discover that the girl was only 17 years old when first recruited: she seemed older and much more mature than a callow teenager. At about this time – in 1923 – Christie was putting the finishing touches to The Mystery of the Mill House, later re-titled The Man in the Brown Suit. After three years working for the Christies, Site decided to move on. For the author, ‘it was a great blow when Site left us’ to pursue her career in the Embassy in Brussels.

This copy of the book is the American first edition, published by Dodd, Mead in 1924. It is inscribed to ‘Site’, and the nurse kept with it a warmly worded letter of reference, dated 12 January 1932, which Christie (now re-married, and signing herself ‘Agatha Mallowan’) wrote from her Torquay home, strongly recommending her services to a prospective employer.