N or M referat

N or M?


Agatha Christie


I.      Biography of Agatha Christie

II.     Content of the novel

III.    Major Aspect

IV.     Comment

V.      References

I. Biography of Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie (née Miller) was born in 1890 in Devon, England as the

youngest of three children in a conservative family. Agatha never went

to a school, but was taught at home by a governess. To express her

feelings as a child she started playing music and, later in life,

writing. In the first World War she worked as a nurse. She was married

twice, the first marriage was divorced, because her husband fell in

love with another woman. Her first detective novel 'The Mysterious

Affair at Styles' was published in 1920. The leading actor was Hercule

Poirot, a retired Belgian police officer, who also featured more than

30 other novels. Miss Jane Marple, an elderly spinster, was another

famous character in twelve novels. All together she wrote 66 novels,

numerous short stories and screenplays, and a series of romantic

novels. Agatha sold over two billion copies of her books and is

therefor the world's best selling author. Her work has been translated

into more than a hundred languages. She always tried to avoid the

public eye, which became more difficult as her fame grew. In 1971 she

achieved Britain's highest honour, when she was made a Dame of the

British Empire. Her last novel was written in 1973, when she was 82

years old. She died 1976 in Berkshire, England.

II. Content of the novel

The novel 'N or M?' (written in 1941), taking place during the second

World War, is about a couple called Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, who

are called by the British Secret Service to capture one of Hitler's

most dangerous agents, either called N or M. The action takes place in

a boarding house at a seaside resort in South England. Under the

pseudonym Mr. Meadows (Tommy) and Mrs. Blenkensop (Tuppence)

pretending not to know each other, they try to find out, by the help

of long conversations with the other guests and by many rumours which

are spread round, who acts normal and doesn't pretend to be another

person and who is an undercover agent. The majority of the guests

suspect a German refugee and the proprietness of the house Mrs.

Perenna to be spies. But those prejudices change, when a 'strange

woman' appears, kidnapping a baby (also guest with its mother called

Mrs. Sprot) and then, after a chase, gets shot by the baby's mother,

which seems quite strange to Tuppence. So her attention turns to Mrs.

Sprot. By accident Tommy finds out, that a houseowner called Haydock,

who lives nearby, is a spy. Haydock lets Tommy capture and locks him

up in his cellar. Later, to leave no tracks behind, the thieves want

to throw Tom over board from a ship on high sea. Now Tuppence is alone

with her job to do. An old friend of the couple called Albert comes to

help them. Albert discovers Tommy in the cellar, but, because of

tactical reasons (to catch the spies red-handed), leaves him there and

observes the place. Tuppence too runs into a trap set by Haydock,

because he expects that Tuppence knows too much about his 'work'.

Haydock threatens Tuppence with a weapon to tell him the truth and

dares to shoot her, but a friend, who followed her, shoots Haydock

first. By a stroke of genius Tuppence clears up one mystery after

another and the spies ,,N and M' are locked up.

III.    Major aspect

a) Characterisation of the major actors and actresses

Thomas Beresford alias Mr. Meadowes:

The first part of the elderly husband-and-wife team is Thomas or Tommy

Beresford. He does often talk about the good old times, when he was

younger and had a job. It is hard to realize for him, that he is

getting middle-aged, but when he is offered this new job, his self-

confidence gets strengthend. Tommy is an amateur in this field, but

this is really needed.

Prudence 'Tuppence' Beresford alias Mrs. Blenkensop:

Like Tommy Tuppence wants to do something else than only knitting in

her free time. She is clever by having three pseudonym sons, because

she thinks: 'And I rather fancy the sons may come in useful.' (p.22).

Another smart quality of hers is to observe people's faces when

talking about spies or Fifth Columnists. She also keeps a cool head

when the baby is kidnapped: 'We must put ourselves in their places.'

(p.126). She does the major work in this novel.

Mrs. Perenna:

The proprietress of the boarding house Sans Souci is Mrs. Perenna. For

Tom she is ',quite a handsome woman in her way.' (p.16). Not to

attrac attention she changed her name to Perenna to start a new life,

because her husband was shot as a traitor. Owning a boarding house is

a good camouflage for her. Mrs. Perenna does not want the police at

her house 'The police? They'll be no good.' (p.124). She is afraid of

being imprisoned, because 'She was mixed up in some I.R.A.

activities,' (p.224).

Major Bletchley:

For Commander Haydock Bletchley is 'a painfully prosaic chap - typical

Army. Bit set in his ideas , an Army life' (p.148) and that is

totally true. He would die for his country and wants to intern all

refugees who come to ,,his country'. After telling a joke Tom finds

out, that a sense of humour is not Bletchley's strong suit (compare to

p. 26). He speaks out boldly what he thinks ,,The fair widow's annoyed

about it. Thought she'd got her hooks into him.' (p.166) and for this

statement gets bleated by Mrs. Minton.

Mr. Carl von Deinim:

Deinim is a young man, very stiff, fair-haired and has got blue eyes.

He works in a chemical research laboratory and because he is a refugee

from Germany he arouses attention in this time of war at Sans Souci.

Bletchley thinks that he is suspicious and a Nazi, because he is not a

Jew and came to England just a month before the War broke out. Mr.

Grant (friend of the former Chief of the Intelligence) is also

interested in him, but finds out, that Deinim is exactly what he says

he is. At the end of the novel Deinim clears up, that he is not Carl

von Deinim. He ' took his name for reasons of my own.' (p. 229)

Mr. and Mrs. Cayley:

The marriage of the middle-aged couple is like a dictatorship. Mrs.

Cayley is like a ,,servant' who does everything for her husband. It

seems that she has no other aim in life than to minister Mr. Cayley.

Bletchley calls him' a kind of walking chemist's shop.' (p.40) and

for Tom Mr. Cayley seems to be' a genuine hypochondrical invalid.'

(p.45). Mr. Cayley stays at Sans Souci for absolute relaxation, but

that is impossible for him, because Mrs. Sprot's baby is too loud.

Sheila Perenna:

The Mrs. Perennas daughter ''s an attractive girl' (p.42), but

sometimes a little bit queer, because she hardly speaks to anyone.

Also Tom discovers her attraction and vitality. 'She was the kind of

gin, that a man might easily lose his head over.' (p.57). Sheila hates

the war and the connected patriotism. She loves Carl von Deinim and is

very upset when he is locked up because he is suspected of being a


Strange Woman alias Vanda Polonska:

Vanda is a penniless, poorly dressed Polish refugee, who entered the

country soon after the outbreak of the war. She is between 40 and 50

years old and the real mother of Mrs. Sprot's baby Betty. Entering the

country she agrees to let Mrs. Sprot adopt Betty, but after a while

she wants her back. She kidnaps her and gets shot by Mrs. Sprot.

b)Behaviour (camouflage) of Mrs. Sprot alias 'M' as a spy


Mrs. Sprot pretends to be a young, bored mother. She pretends to have

a husband who misses her and who sent her and the baby Betty away to a

safe place, where are no air raids. Tuppence excludes her of being a

spy, because she has a child with her 'It's not the kind of thing

you'd bring a child into. I know. You'd keep a child out of it'

(p.63), but nobody knows that it is not her child, but an adopted

child just to fulfil her ,,work-needs' to be an innocent character.

'She felt a queer sense of relief at the domestic atmosphere'

(p.70) feels Tuppence when she comes into Mrs. Sprot's room 'All so

normal, so reassuring, so every-day' (p. 71) She lets her feelings

judge about a person and sometimes this is quite a big mistake.


A negative point of a 'real' mother-behaviour is when Mrs. Sprot makes

a trip to London and leaves Betty at home. She searches for somebody

to look after Betty although she hardly knows anything about the

guests. To carry a gun and then to shoot a person, is also not typical

for a normal loving mother. And this point arouses Tuppence's



If you are an agent trying to catch spies do not trust anybody!

IV. Comment

The novel 'N or M?' is a typical mystery book by Agatha Christie. She

rises the tension within the book very strongly and after a climax,

when Commander Haydock gets killed, lets the agents Tuppence and her

partner Tommy dear up the case. I found it quite interesting, that

nearly everyone suspected Carl v. Deinim to be a spy, because he was a

German refugee. Sheila Perenna was the only one, who believed in the

innocence of Mr. Deinim.

The name of the boarding house 'Sans Souci' is, for me, a little bit

ironic. I suppose that in this war-time nobody is without sorrows, for

example what will happen in future or will I still be alive after the

war. The guests only show a laid on kind of carelessness.

All in all I can only recommend this mystery novel to everyone who is

interested in the field of chasing a spy.

V. References

Biography:      Internet - http ://www.MysteryNet.com/

Book:   Agatha Christie - 'N or M?'

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