ffb: Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

this is the 138th in my series of posts on forgotten or seldom read books

Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham, Carroll & Graf  1994 paperback, ISBN 0-7867-0441-1, first published in 1930, featuring Albert Campion, amateur Sleuth

“I’ll bet you fifty dollars, even money,” said the American who was sitting nearest the door in the opulent lounge of the homeward-bound Elephantine, “that that man over there is murdered in a fortnight.”

Mystery Mile by AllinghamThis is the second Campion novel and his early characteristics are nowhere more evident. The plot here isn’t much less bizarre than the protagonist. This may be the most unbelievable of the Campion novels but it is also a great deal of fun. The term “willing suspension of disbelief” comes to mind.

A series of attempts on the life of Judge Lobbett have resulted in the deaths of several other people instead. Judge Lobbett has been a thorn in the side of an international gang and the gang’s leader, the legendary and much feared “Simister”, wants him dead. It’s only a matter of time until one of these attempts succeeds so Lobbett decides to leave the States and travel to England where, presumably, he will find safety.

On the ship during the voyage Campion foils yet another attempt. The Judge’s son Marlowe determines to retain the services of the amateur detective to protect his father. The decision is made to take the Judge, his son and daughter to Mystery Mile, a country estate in Suffolk. Unfortunately Simister’s minions, and death, are not far behind.

The plot is incredible, much of the supporting cast fantastic as Campion battles the criminal mastermind. Campion’s multiple personas, countless contacts and the vacuity of his expression is repeatedly in evidence. There is a bizarre tint to some of the scenes in this book worthy of a George Chesbro Mongo book, and I found the denouement of the villain satisfying. Campion’s morose ex-con “assistant” Lugg is much in evidence in this book and he’s one of the things I like the best about it.

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More Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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16 Responses to ffb: Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

  1. I’ve not read anything by Allingham. Have heard the name but don’t know much else.

  2. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I read a half dozen of her books in the early 1970’s but this wasn’t one of them.

  3. Richard says:

    Charles, Allingham was one of the queens of golden age, along with Christie, Sayers, etc. In the early Campion books, like this one, she had not developed her sleuth into the fully rounded investigator he would become by the 4th and 5th books, but these early ones are fun anyway, if slightly silly.

  4. Richard says:

    Jeff, the early ones, as I said to Charles, are a bit silly.

  5. Julia Jones says:

    I’m Margery’s biographer so obviously have a bias. All I want to say is that the reason I really enjoyed writing about her was that her books are so varied and her development from the fun of Mystery Mile to the darkness of, say, Hide My Eyes, is (I think) extraordinary.

  6. I have a copy of MYSTERY MILE but haven’t read it yet. I need to move it closer to the top of the book stack. Julia Jones is right about Allingham’s books being varied. That’s one of their charms.

  7. Patti Abbott says:

    I read every one of them back in the seventies and enjoyed most of them. Of course, styles change and few of those early writers seem as brilliant today as they did in their time. Still they created the genre.

  8. Richard says:

    Julia, thank you for stopping buy, it’s wonderful to hear your opinion and to know you’re her biographer. This being one of the early books, I was prepared for the “silliness” of Campion in it, but enjoyed it (and Lugg) anyway, and have read on into the series. I have a real fondness for Traitor’s Purse.

  9. Richard says:

    George, good comment, and “charming” may be a good description of the early Campion books. Not for hard boiled or thriller readers, but a pleasing entertainment if you’re in the right mood.

  10. Richard says:

    Patti, I’ve read nearly all of them, though a few escaped me in the 1980s when I was reading them. I’ve found in rereading that I view them differently, less as puzzles and more as entertainments.

  11. Todd Mason says:

    Wow, the spammers have found you, Rick. I, too, have yet to read Campion, though I’ve seen at least on of the dramatic adaptations (don’t remember much about it, though). Interesting that she seems to have treated the character a bit like Leiber did Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, in having him not only change over time but perhaps reflect her own mood and life-stages…

  12. Richard says:

    Todd, I cleared those up. Surprised they got past my spam program. Campion can be an acquired taste, but I enjoy reading an Allingham now and then. I wouldn’t have thought of that comparison.

  13. neer says:

    There was a time when I liked Allingham but after reading two duds (Police at the Funeral, & The Crime at Dudley) kind of lost interest.

  14. Richard says:

    neer, my guess is that this second in the series wouldn’t have been a favorite, either. The mid-series books are the most enjoyable for most readers, I think.

  15. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very log comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t
    shkw up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Regardless, just wanted to say superb blog!

  16. Pingback: Women’s Mystery Month? Classic crime in the blogosphere: March 2014 | Past Offences Classic Crime Fiction

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