Mystery Mile

My second book for the Flashback Challenge is Mystery Mile. This was the first Margery Allingham I ever read, it must be 25 years ago - I remember borrowing it from the small library in my Hall of Residence at university. Oddly although I read this much longer ago than The Moving Toyshop I actually remembered it much more clearly.

The second of her novels featuring the amateur sleuth Albert Campion, has a wonderful sense of place, and the Suffolk countryside, and to a lesser extent the London slums, are integral to the plot. Mystery Mile is a good "Campion" to start with - it's fanciful without being too eccentric. It's unusual in detective fiction to find the murders happening off stage, and to a large extent they are peripheral to the main plot. This does mean that rather having one central crime or crimes that the whole plot revolves around there are several interconnected subplots, which does, I think, make the overall novel not one of Ms Allingham's most coherent. Nevertheless it was enjoyable, and although not my favourite Campion was good to re-read again.

Margery Allingham is often seen as the third in the trio of the great writers of the golden age of detective fiction along with Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Allingham is very different however, she is a great crime writer, but her novels are novels which happen to have crime in them, rather than being "crime novels". So, for example, she might write a noir novel, or a comic novel, or a spy thriller, all featuring Albert Campion, in which to a certain extent crime is incidental to the genre. In this way she defies description much more than the other two authors of the great trio. This can sometimes make for slightly uncomfortable reading, you never know quite what to expect with a Margery Allingham. But at her best - she was sublime.


Aarti said…
Your post really makes me want to read Allingham! I have never heard of her, though I really like her contemporaries. I like that you say her books feature crime as an aside, not as the main storyline. I'll certainly look into this author.

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