Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Pearls before Swine: Margery Allingham

I am rereading the Albert Campion series by Margery Allingham in order, although I have been tempted to skip over a few of the books and move on to Tiger in the Smoke. For some reason I had the impression I wasn't going to like this book that much (even though I am a huge fan of the series), but as soon as I started reading I was again under the spell of Allingham's writing.

As the novel starts, we know that Albert Campion, returned to London from a long wartime assignment, is taking a bath in preparation for catching a train to the country. But we also know that two people have brought a dead body into his London flat and laid it on his bed and we suspect that this will delay his train trip. We soon find out that the two people carrying the dead body are Mr. Lugg, Campion's manservant, and Lady Carados, elderly mother of John, Marquess of Carados, now a war hero. They found the body in Lord Carados' bed, and they don't want it to be found there.


This book is like the previous book in the series, Traitor's Purse. The reader doesn't know for a good portion of the story exactly what is going on, and neither does Albert Campion. He stays in London out of loyalty to Lord Carados, but he is aggravated that he is expected to stay and help with the investigation, when all the facts are not shared with him. The situation can be confusing, thus I would not recommend this book as an entry point to the series. But for me, the slow reveal of the full situation and the pulling together of the various mysteries was rewarding and entertaining.

I especially enjoyed this for the setting of wartime London, at the end of the war. Lord Carados' mansion is livable and is housing a good number of his friends, but has been damaged by the bombing. The other three homes on the square where he lives have much worse damage. Lugg is an ambulance driver during the Blitz, and Lady Carados runs a voluntary canteen in the square.

I usually read these books equally for the mystery and the characters and their stories, but this time the plot was admittedly very hard to follow. In a review of a previous book, Flowers for the Judge, I noted: "Margery Allingham's plots are sometimes fantastical; there are weird, eccentric characters, who seem to be in the book for no reason." There is also often an element of romance as a side plot. And, as usual, I enjoyed the whole experience, quirky characters and all.

This book was originally published in the UK as Coroner's Pidgin. See the review at Past Offences.


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Publisher:  Bantam, 1984. Orig. pub. 1945.
Length:     216 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Albert Campion
Setting:    UK, mostly London
Genre:      Mystery
Source:    I purchased my copy. 

13 comments:

  1. Tracy, you write such wonderful reviews! Very nice. I liked this one too, though not quite as much as Traitor's Purse. Like you, the "slow reveal" keeps me turning pages, rather than closing the book. Looking forward to your next Allingham review.

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    1. Thanks, Rick. I struggled with this review, sometimes it is hard to convey what I like about a book. It had been a year since I had read a book by Allingham, I won't wait so long for the next one.

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  2. Allingham really did have a skilled writing style, didn't she, Tracy? I'd be in a hurry to get to Tiger in the Smoke, too, but I'm very glad you included this one, too.

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    1. Margot, I thought I had read all of the books by Allingham when I was younger, but I remember nothing about Tiger in the Smoke, so that may be one I missed.

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  3. I haven't read this one and it sounds right up my street. Thanks for mentioning the change of title.

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    1. Hope you find a copy and enjoy it, Katrina. I do understand why books sometimes have different titles but it makes for confusion.

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  4. I really enjoy her books, and have a few. But they are sometimes hard to find as are others of that era.

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    1. You are right, Gram, books like this from the 1950s and before are often hard to find. I do like the older editions when I find them, though.

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  5. You and Yvette sold me on trying the Albert Campions, Tracy, and I read Hide My Eyes, and complained that Campion was little more than a name mentioned occasionally in the narrative. Then you two told me Traitor's Purse would clear up some of that mystery, and you were right. I loved it. And now you're re-awakened my interest in reading more by Allingham. A fine writer, my memory tells me.

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    1. I do love Allingham's writing, Mathew. Campion is sort of in the background in a lot of this book, and the story is very complex, but worth it, in my opinion.

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  6. Now, you threw me there Tracy! I thought 'what, an Allingham book I don't know?' -but actually of course I know it as Coroner's Pidgin, thanks for solving that one for me. Not my favourite of hers, but they all work for me.

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    1. I have read several prior to this book that I liked better overall, Moira, but Allingham writes so well and the characters are so interesting (if not all realistic) that I like them all. I have not gone back to some of the earliest books in the Campion series yet.

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  7. Not tried her yet, probably just going to read Tiger in the Smoke but who knows when?

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