Anne Beddingfeld is a young woman trapped in the dull countryside of England with her anthropologist father. Her longing for bright lights and adventure is realized when her father dies, but her impulsive trip to London segues into an impulsive voyage on a steamship to Africa in pursuit of a man she thinks she saw commit a murder (the titular man in the brown suit). She’s caught up in a series of increasingly improbable events both on board the ship and later in South Africa, and survives more or less in spite of herself.
This is one of Dame Agatha’s earliest novels — I think it was her fourth — and it shows. The plot contains the twists and turns we came to expect from a typical Christie mystery, but it’s rough around the edges and doesn’t always hold together on close scrutiny. That the first problem. The second is not Christie’s fault, but mine. One of the main suspects in this adventure is a man I first encountered in a couple of Hercule Poirot mysteries, written much later. Because he was on the side of the angels (or rather the funny little Belgian with the mustaches) in those, I knew he couldn’t be a murderer here. That’s just the kind of thing that happens if you don’t stick to strict chronological order, kids.
I read this now to fulfill the first prompt (read a book inspired by Christie’s travel) in the 2022 reading challenge sponsored by Christie’s official website.