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.”
This 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