The Secret Adversary (1922)

Cast of Characters

Jane Finn
Prudence (Tuppence) Cowley
Thomas (Tommy) Beresford
Mr. Whittington
Mr. Brown
Julius P. Hersheimmer
Mr. A. Carter
Marguerite Vandemeyer
Sir James Peel Edgerton
Dr. Hall

The Plot

Aboard the sinking ocean liner Lusitania, a man approaches an eighteen year old American girl, explains that he has some secret papers that must be saved, and asks her to take them because of "women and children first." If they both survive, he will place an advertisement in the personal column of the Times; if the ad does not appear, she is to personally deliver the packet to the American ambassador. The girl's name is Jane Finn.

Several years later, Miss Prudence Cowley (known to her friends as Tuppence) runs into an old friend, Tommy Beresford, whom she has not seen for five years. They are both jobless and nearly penniless after being released from their wartime positions. They pool their money for a lunch where they decide to form a partnership, "Young Adventurers, Ltd." and place an ad in the Times: "Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused."

After leaving the restaurant Tuppence is followed by a man who overheard her talk with Tommy. The man says he has a proposition for her and asks her to come to his office the next day. When Tuppence shows up at the Esthonia Glassware Co, Mr. Whittington offers her a job -- go to a spa in Paris and pretend to be an American woman. Whittington asks Tuppence her name, and being a little suspicious she pulls a name from out of the air. "Jane Finn," she replies. Whittington is startled and believes that Tuppence has been toying with him. Jane Finn is the girl he wanted her to impersonate. What Whittington doesn't know is that Tuppence heard this name the day before from Tommy, who had overheard Whittington and an accomplice say it. Tommy only mentioned it because he thought it was a strange name.

Whittington accuses Tuppence of blackmail and asks her if "Rita" has been talking. Before he can get an answer his assistant, Mr. Brown, interrupts to say Whittington has an important phone message. Tuppence is given some money and asked to return the next day.

When she returns with Tommy the next day, the office is closed. The company has moved out. Wanting to investigate further, the two place a second ad in the Times: "Wanted, any information respecting Jane Finn. Apply Y.A."

There are two replies to the second ad asking the Young Adventurers to visit the writers. One is from an American millionaire, Julius P. Hersheimmer, who claims that Jane Finn is his cousin and that he is trying to locate her. The second reply is from a Mr. A. Carter who Tommy recognizes from his war days as an official with the British secret service. When it is obvious that Tommy knows who he really is, Mr. Carter explains the truth about Miss Finn.

Mr. Carter tells Tuppence and Tommy the story of Jane Finn and the Lusitania and adds that she never surfaced after being rescued. He also tells them that the document she is carrying, though no longer valid, could be used by revolutionists to promote political unrest. It appears that neither side has the document or knows who Miss Finn is, but one thing is sure: the opposition is led by a master criminal named "Brown" who is able to remain in the background. Whittington is actually only an accomplice; the man posing as his assistant is really the brains of the operation.

At the end of their conversation Mr. Carter recruits the Young Adventurers to help look for Jane Finn. None of his other operatives have had any success and he believes that Tuppence and Tommy may get lucky. After a little research, they discover that a woman named Marguerite Vandemeyer is a survivor of the Lusitania -- and also the Rita mentioned by Whittington. Tuppence becomes her parlormaid with a cover story supplied by Mr. Carter.

In the meantime, Tommy finds Whittington with a man named Boris. After enlisting the help of Julus Hersheimmer, Tommy and Julius trail the two men. Tommy follows Boris to a house where he is able to spy on a secret meeting. He overhears references to revolution, Mr. Brown, Jane Finn, and the secret document. But he is captured and held prisoner. Later, Boris appears as a guest at Rita's house, along with Sir James Peel Edgerton, an M.P. who gains Tuppence's trust by suggesting that working for Rita is not a good arrangement.

Julius has followed Whittington to a private hospital in Bournemouth, where he falls out of a tree while climbing to look in a second floor window. Julius awakens to find himself being cared for by a Dr. Hall. The doctor tells him that Whittington has already left, so Julius returns to London and meets with Tuppence.

Concerned at not hearing from Tommy, Tuppence convinces Julius that they should go to Sir James and tell him the whole story. Sir James suggests that they all go to Mrs. Vandemeyer's home later that evening and confront her with the facts and recover Tommy.

Tuppence arrives at Rita's house early and discovers Rita packing to leave. While Tuppence is confronting Rita about Jane Finn, Julius and Sir James walk in and Mrs. Vandemeyer faints. Rita is given some brandy to calm her and then, complaining of heart trouble, she goes to sleep. Sir James suggests that in the morning they call Dr. Hall, who happens to be a friend of his, and place Rita in his care. With that the three adventurers set up a watch, but in the morning Rita Vandemeyer is found dead from an overdose of chloral. The adventurers talk with Dr. Hall and learn that Rita came to him in the summer of 1915 and asked him to treat her niece, who is suffering from amnesia. Unfortunately the young woman, Jane Finn, is no longer under his care.

Meanwhile, Tommy stays alive by giving his captors clever answers to their questions and by making references to Mr. Brown. He is being held in a windowless room with a heavy door. He decides to take a picture off the wall and knock his jailer unconscious with the frame and escape. He is not able to do this however because his next meal is brought by a French girl named Annette. Fortunately, Tommy is able to make an escape with Annette's help.

Tommy goes to Mr. Carter. They must find Jane and the document soon because Labor Day is fast approaching, and a Russian official, Kramenin, is visiting England and must be planning to use the document to prompt a revolt.

Fortunately for Tuppence and Tommy, Mr. Brown has made one tiny mistake that will allow them to catch him. But who is he? And, who is Jane Finn?