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The Man in the Brown Suit (1924) – Agatha Christie | First Edition Identification Guide

Agatha Christie - Man in the Brown Suit 1924 UK
Man in the Brown Suit 1924 UK

The Man in the Brown Suit is a work of detective fiction by British writer Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by The Bodley Head on 22 August 1924 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. The character Colonel Race is introduced in this novel. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6) and the US edition at $2.00.

Anne Beddingfeld is on her own and ready for adventures when one comes her way. She sees a man die in a tube station and picks up a piece of paper dropped nearby. The message on the paper leads her to South Africa as she fits more pieces of the puzzle together about the death she witnessed. There is a murder in England the next day, and the murderer attempts to kill her on the ship en route to Cape Town.

The setting for the early chapters is London. Later chapters are set in Cape Town, Bulawayo, and on a fictional island in the Zambezi. The plot involves an agent provocateur who wants to retire, and has eliminated his former agents.

Like The Secret Adversary, The Man in the Brown Suit is less a novel of pure detection than it is a thriller typical of its period. It follows the adventures of Anne Beddingfeld who witnesses a man killed in an Underground station and the man whose appearance frightened him, as she becomes involved in a world of diamond thieves, murderers, and political intrigue in this tale set in South Africa. Colonel Race makes his first appearance in the novel; he later appears in Cards on the Table, Sparkling Cyanide, and Death on the Nile.

Plot Summary


Poirot boards Le Train Bleu, bound for the French Riviera. So does Katherine Grey, who is having her first winter out of England, after recently receiving a relatively large inheritance. On board the train Grey meets Ruth Kettering, an American heiress leaving her unhappy marriage to meet her lover. The next morning, though, Ruth is found dead in her compartment, a victim of strangulation.
The famous ruby, “Heart of Fire”, which had recently been given to Ruth by her father, is discovered to be missing. Ruth’s father, the American millionaire Rufus Van Aldin, and his secretary, Major Knighton, persuade Poirot to take on the case. Ruth’s maid, Ada Mason, says that she saw a man in Ruth’s compartment but could not see who he was. The police suspect that Ruth’s lover, the Comte de la Roche, killed her and stole the ruby, but Poirot does not think that the Comte is guilty. He is suspicious of Ruth’s husband, Derek Kettering, who was on the same train but claims not to have seen Ruth. Katherine says that she saw Derek enter Ruth’s compartment. Further suspicion is thrown on Derek when a cigarette case with the letter “K” is found there.
Poirot investigates and finds out that the murder and the jewel theft might not be connected, as the famous jewel thief “The Marquis” is connected to the crime. Eventually, the avaricious Mirelle, who was on the train with Derek — with whom she had been having an affair but, now spurned, is seeking revenge against him — tells Poirot she saw Derek leave Ruth’s compartment around the time the murder would have taken place. Derek is then arrested. Everyone is convinced the case is solved, but Poirot is not sure. He does more investigating and learns more information, talking to his friends and to Katherine, eventually coming to the truth.
He asks Van Aldin and Knighton to come with him on the Blue Train to recreate the murder. He tells them that Ada Mason is really Kitty Kidd, a renowned male impersonator and actress. Katherine saw what she thought was a boy getting off the train, but it was really Mason. Poirot realised that Mason was the only person who saw anyone with Ruth in the compartment, so this could have been a lie. He reveals that the murderer and Mason’s accomplice is Knighton, who is really the ruthless “Marquis”. He also says that the cigarette case with the K on it does not stand for ‘Kettering’, but for ‘Knighton’. Since Knighton was supposedly in Paris, no one would have suspected him. Derek did go into the compartment to talk to Ruth once he saw she was on the train, but he left when he saw she was asleep. The police arrest Knighton and the case is closed.

Publication history

  • 1924, John Lane (The Bodley Head), 22 August 1924, Hardcover, 312 pp
  • 1924, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1924, Hardcover, 275 pp
  • 1949, Dell Books (New York), 1949, Paperback, (Dell number 319 [mapback]), 223 pp
  • 1953, Pan Books, 1953, Paperback, (Pan number 250), 190 pp
  • 1958, Pan Books, Paperback, (Great Pan G176)

Following completion in late 1923,The Man in the Brown Suit was first serialised in the London Evening News under the title Anne the Adventurous. It ran in fifty instalments from Thursday, 29 November 1923 to Monday, 28 January 1924. There were slight amendments to the text, either to make sense of the openings of an instalment (e.g. changing “She then…” to “Anne then…”), or omitting small sentences or words. The main change was in the chapter divisions. The published book has 36 chapters whereas the serialisation has only 28 chapters.

The US serialisation was in the Blue Book magazine in three instalments from September (Volume 39, Issue 5) to November 1924 (Volume 40, Issue 1) with each issue containing an uncredited illustration.

The Man in the Brown Suit – First Edition Book Identification Guide

The books are listed in the order of publication. While the majority of Agatha Christie’s books were first published in the UK. There are many titles that were first published in the US. The title of the book may differs from the UK edition in some cases.

YearTitlePublisherFirst edition/printing identification points
1924The Man in the Brown SuitThe Bodley Head, London , [1924]First edition. "First Published in 1924" stated on the copyright page. Decorative tan cloth, lettered in brown. Price 7/6.
1924The Man in the Brown SuitDodd, Mead & Co, NY. 1924First American edition. Date on the title & copyright page matches. No statement of later printings. Brown cloth, lettered in black. Price $ 1.75.

Note about Book Club Editions (BCE) and reprints:

UK: You can see statements of later reprint dates or of book club on the copyright page.

US: The US reprint publishers usually use the same sheets as the first edition and are harder to identify by looking at the title page or the copyright page. One may identify a BCE by looking at the DJ, which doesn’t have a price on top of the front flap and a “Book Club Edition” imprint at the bottom. If the dust jacked is clipped at both the top/bottom of the front flap. You can safely assume it’s a BCE . If the book is missing the dust jacket. Later BCE editions can be identified by its plain boards, while first printings are issued in quarter cloth.

Please refer to the gallery for detailed images of true first edition bindings and dust jackets.

The Man in the Brown Suit – First Edition Dust Jacket Identification Guide

First edition bindings and various dust jacket printings identification.


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