“What is your Christian Name? Answer N or M” – Book of Common Prayers
First published in 1941, “N or M” was set in the contemporary backdrop of World War II and tells the story of espionage and invasion by Germany into Britain.
|Book Title||:||N or M|
|Publisher||:||William Morrow Paperbacks (April 17, 2012)|
|# of Pages||:||256|
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This is the third book featuring Tommy and Tuppence. In “The Secret Adversary” (1922) they were two young things just coming out of the World War I and seeking means to a decent life. They found love in each other and we met the happily married couple again in “Partners in Crime” (1929). They are middle aged now, and although according to them, they have still got it, they are considered unfit for regular war duties. The generation next is up and running things. Their own children are serving in armed forces and do not think that their parents should have anything to do with the war apart from filing papers and knitting sweaters.
But Mr. Carter does not agree with this. He is retired now but he advises his friend Captain Grant to employ Tommy and Tuppence in active espionage at Leahampton. Captain Grant arrives at the Beresfords’ place and offers an undercover job to Tommy with a condition that he can disclose no information even to Tuppence. The agency has reliable information that Germany has stationed two of its most capable spies at Leahampton to convert it into an invasion point when time came. Tommy accepts and arrives as a typical middle-aged Englishman Mr. Meadowes at ‘Sans Soucie’. He meets other inmates of the house including Mrs. Blenkensop, calmly knitting. She is a widow –after marrying twice- and has three boys, all employed in armed forces at strategic locations, and she also happens to be Tuppence. Tommy survives the shock and keeps his cover somehow.
Next morning he learns how Tuppence did some sleuthing on her own. She could not bear to be left out of the whole thing and as Tommy later puts it to Captain Grant, they are used to go into things together. And, so the chase begins. Tommy and Tuppence versus “N” and “M“. Yes, these are the code names of the fifth columnist spies – N is male, M is female. As Tommy and Tuppence one by one go through each inmate and try to eliminate suspects, it appears that instead of getting anywhere they are just getting more entangled into the net.
The haughty and bitter landlady Mrs. Perenna, her rebellious daughter Sheila, a monster of a woman Mrs. O’Rourke, retired Major Bletchley, a young German refugee Mr. Von Deinim, an elderly couple Mr. And Mrs. Cayley, Mrs Minton, young Mrs. Sprot and her infant daughter Betty – they all appear to act suspiciously at one point of time or another. Not to mention Commander Haydock – A neighbour who keeps boasting about how he discovered a german spy centre in the house where he livs and drove them away. Matters become more confusing as a foreigner lady is seen sneaking around Sans Soucie and finally abducts little Betty. Instead of calling the police in, they chase her and in the heat of the moment Mrs. Sprot shoots her. She is however considered not guilty as she was just trying to save her little girl.
A lucky trip (literally) finally makes everything click in Tommy’s brain. But, the villains realise this and capture him. A young man shows up claiming to be Tuppence’s daughter Deborah’s friend and manages to lure her away on a suicidal mission. So, ?Tommy and Tuppence are separated and both are in mortal danger.
Although they knew what they were getting into when they accepted the job, did they foresee this failure?
Will their luck hold up as usual? Or is it the lat adventure for them and a huge misfortune for their country?