N or M? A 1940 boarding house

In his Postscript of 6 October 1940, J.B. Priestley reflected on hotels.  Many hotels and other establishments in beautiful parts of Britain had no room for those on urgent war work or homeless, traumatised Blitz survivors, who might benefit from a visit to the country or the seaside.   They were full of the sort of people who had nothing particular to do.

Since reading this Postscript, I’ve been on the look-out for stories or accounts about people staying in these places to see how they match up to Priestley’s discoveries.  Agatha Christie’s 1941 thriller N or M is set in a boarding house during the era of the Postscripts, featuring characters illustrating Priestley’s comments.  Tommy and Tuppence, an ebullient couple who appear in several of her thrillers, go undercover to “Sans Souci” to track down a Nazi spy.  The boarders include a mother and child escaping London, a German refugee, an idle hypochondriac with no interests in life except his own health, his put-upon wife, a fretful spinster  …  I usually find T & T rather annoying – the stories in which they feature are not my favourite Christies – but in this one the 1940 atmosphere, the paranoia and sense of menace over-ride this.


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