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Black Plumes

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  889 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
The slashing of a valuable painting at the renowned Ivory Gallery in London, followed by the murder of the proprietor's son-in-law, Robert, sets the stage for another finely tuned Allingham mystery. The proprietor's mother, 90-year-old Gabrielle Ivory, holds the key to the web of intrigue and danger that permeates the gallery.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published 1975 by Manor Books Inc. (first published 1940)
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Jan 22, 2016 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Golden Age mysteries, but have stalled before while trying to read the Campion books, so was keen to read this stand alone book. Published in 1940, it centres on a private art gallery, owned by the Ivory family. The elderly Mrs Gabrielle Ivory is the matriarch and, while her son, Meyrick, is away, the gallery is run by Robert Madrigal; who is married to Meyrick’s daughter, Phillida. There is also Phillida’s half sister, Frances, who feels that something is very wrong. Strange things have ...more
Feb 23, 2016 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a fan of the Albert Campion novels and have often revisited them, but hadn't read this standalone novel since I was a teenager. Published in 1940, it doesn't mention the war, but it is set in a London full of forebodings and rumours, so the atmosphere of the Blitz is not very distant. The story is set in and around a small art gallery and the home of the family who run it, 90-year-old matriarch Gabrielle Ivory and her descendants.

At the start of the book, there is shock when a painting in th
Abigail Bok
Feb 27, 2016 Abigail Bok rated it really liked it
Black Plumes is a murder mystery but does not feature Margery Allingham’s usual sleuth, Albert Campion (despite a mention of “Uncle Adolphus” that had my heart leaping with hope). So it lacks the bonus layer of interest that comes from following the development of a single character over many books and many years of his supposed life. Nevertheless, it was an absorbing mystery with many potential perps—and it fooled me, which doesn’t happen all that often! (view spoiler) ...more
Oct 21, 2015 Anwen rated it it was amazing
One of Allingham's best. What she does well is creat characterisation. What she does best, is deal in atmosphere. She is a wonderful ghost story writer (go find one of them if you don't believe me) and that ability to create atmosphere and tension with a few short words is found here in spades. The murder of a nervous wreck in an art gallery would not seem to provide much fodder for gothic tension and fear, however, both are found here in abundance. The willing suspension of disbelief in the rea ...more
Mar 11, 2016 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, british
My first non-Campion Allingham!

I am tempted to give this a higher rating because I did get a considerable amount of enjoyment from reading it. However, I did figure out both the who and the how; Allingham did manage to keep me second-guessing my choice but I thought that the guilty person was pretty obvious.
Margery Allingham is an author whose books I would love to enjoy but somehow they don't quite do it for me. I can appreciate she was a good writer and she creates some marvellous characters but somehow I just can't get to grips with her books and this one is no exception.

'Black Plumes' is a standalone novel which centres round the Ivory family and their prestigious art gallery. A spate of malicious incidents results in damage to a valuable painting but this is only the tip of the iceberg of what
Mar 14, 2017 Remus rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this - a proper old fashioned whodunnit.
Simon Mcleish
Apr 07, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in December 1999.

Allingham's novels which are not about Albert Campion tend to have a dark and eerie atmosphere. Black Plumes is one of the best of them, and is almost totally mystifying as a detective story. The point of view from which it is written is to a large extent responsible for this, because the central character is one of the witnesses, who has almost no idea of what is going on. Allingham uses Frances Ivory to convey something of the fear and conf
I read this book for the first time back in 1991 and reread it last night. It is one of my all time favorites because it captures England between the wars better than anything I've ever read. Allingham can sketch characters better than most and make them memorable. I'm fascinated with how she creates the interactions between the 90+ year old, formidable, Victorian, matriarch (Gabrielle Ivory) and her modern, twenty-something granddaughter (Frances Ivory). Best line ever when the two have differe ...more
Aug 09, 2012 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
I have 18 of Margery Allingham's books on my bookshelf, mostly the Campion novels which I read many years ago. Discovering this one, and remembering that I enjoyed the others I had read, I purchased this audiobook to accompany me as I worked at not-so-entertaining weed pulling in the garden. I enjoyed this story very much. Not only was the mystery a good one and characters well-drawn, but the author used a technique that gave this story a thriller quality. That is, she hints at events that are t ...more
Jan 24, 2011 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-british
This is my favourite book so far in 2012. It's a nice, tense, parlour-style mystery. Set in one house in London, there are murders committed and the family must deal with a police investigation and their suspicions of each other. It moved along nicely, the characters are interesting and the story is well-written. I particularly liked the main female lead; Frances Ivory and also the Scottish Police investigator, Inspector Bridie. Very well-done. This is my second Margery Allingham and I look forw ...more
Feb 13, 2016 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
One of a dated series but enjoyable nonetheless as a rapid escape read, and some of the similes, metaphors, and personifications are endearing.

"The sound was sharp and spiteful, so that the silence between the two women within became momentarily shocked, as if it had received some gratuitous if trivial insult."

"They were laughing again as they stepped into the street, and the fitful wind plucked at their sleeves and threw warm, soft rain in their eyes tormenting them, beseeching their
Jul 17, 2016 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Non-series Allingham from before she started getting too baroque and unreadable. So the story moves well and the characters feel (mostly) real. But the detective is rather one-note (ugh the dialect) and the entire story suffers by being mostly from Frances's point of view. Frances is kind of boring. You miss Albert Campion.
Catherine Hill
Sep 26, 2007 Catherine Hill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This is one of my favorite rereads just for the characters. Allingham lived in a time when the old ladies who had been presented at Victorias court were still an active force. This book is a vivid portrayal of one such strong-willed lady and upper class English life in the 1920s. ...more
Mar 05, 2017 Meade rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tend to like classic mysteries as bedtime reads. This was my first Allingham, and I would dare to say that I enjoyed it more than the typical Agatha Christie; the characters seemed a little fuller and quirkier - though still fairly one dimensional. This was a stand-alone novel, so I'm not sure if I will like her Campion series as much, but will definitely have to try them.
Mar 02, 2017 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frances feels uneasy about what is going on in her family gallery while her father is away. Her brother-in-law, Robert, is in charge and seems to be under the thumb of the unsavory Henry Lucar. She goes to consult her grandmother, Gabrielle, who is 90. She returns to a slashed painting and confrontation. Soon afterwards Robert is found dead. The police start their investigation. Will Frances' fears be realized? And who is Godolphin?
Carol Berkman
Feb 24, 2017 Carol Berkman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my favorite Allingham

Really quite good but too many contrivances and without the dry humor and social insights of other books by her.
The slashing of a valuable painting at the renowned Ivory Gallery in London, followed by the murder of the proprietor's son-in-law, Robert, sets the stage for another finely tuned Allingham mystery. The proprietor's mother, 90-year-old Gabrielle Ivory, holds the key to the web of intrigue and danger that permeates the gallery.

Downloaded from Audible, read by Francis Matthews.

This is the first non Campion book I've read/listened to. For once it's told from the point of view of one of the witnesse
Ellen Seltz
May 12, 2014 Ellen Seltz rated it really liked it
I began this book eagerly anticipating the arrival of Mr. Campion. However, Miss Allingham weaves her tale so skillfully that by the time I realized he was not going to show up, I didn't miss him.

The novel takes a somewhat unusual point of view - in a typical mystery plot, our heroine would actually be a minor character with a secret that befuddles the plot. She is not directly involved in the crime, nor does she do any detecting. She is a sympathetic ingenue who travels the story as an emotiona
Jan 20, 2014 Ann rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, anglophilia
This book is best described as an atmospheric thriller. All the action centers on two adjacent houses in a fancy part of London in the 1930s. One house is the private residence of the Ivory family; their painting gallery business is housed next door. The story starts when Frances appeals to her formidable grandmother Gabrielle, a Victorian relic, with the complaint that her brother-in-law, Roger, wants her to marry his unspeakable business partner, Lucar. In the absence of her father, who's out ...more
Fenella Tipton
May 06, 2016 Fenella Tipton rated it really liked it
Stately post-war mystery captured by the youngest and eldest members of an upper class family

Another classic and delightful Allingham book, this one without her detective Campion. Instead narrated by the charming young Frances trying to tell her regal grandmother that the family gallery is going off the rails fast. The chapter culminates with a dramatic scene featuring a slashed painting and a seemingly simple argument.

Why is Frances' brother-in-law so furious when she turns down his friend, an
Nancy Oakes
While the director of the Ivory Art Gallery has been out of the country, someone has been vanadalizing the gallery. As if that weren't enough, someone's gone and killed the acting director, Mr. Robert Madrigal, the director's son-in-law. With a long list of suspects, the police certainly have their hands full, especially when another dead body turns up.

The book seemed to drone on and on -- Allingham is very into her characters and she seems to have done them to death here. Her characterization
Sam Reaves
Mar 30, 2014 Sam Reaves rated it liked it
For my money Margery Allingham became, advancing beyond the frivolousness of her early books, the most interesting writer of the "Golden Age" British mystery queens; her prose was controlled and expressive, her evocation of personal and social quirks keen, and her plots and settings offbeat and intriguing. Black Plumes is a stand-alone not featuring her series detective Albert Campion; instead we get a grizzled Scots detective from the metropolitan police, investigating a couple of high-society ...more
Jan C
Apr 13, 2014 Jan C rated it really liked it
Great. I picked this up at the library last week prior to a trip to North Carolina. The miles flew by. I didn't know whether this was a Campion story or not. But I took the risk of reading out of order. Not a problem because it wasn't a Campion story.

Fascinating tale about a family involved in an art gallery. Early on a painting is slashed and the unpleasant Robert Madrigal agrees to pay for the repair because the painter was pretty peeved. Then it appears that Madrigal is trying to force his h
Laura Gurrin
Aug 23, 2010 Laura Gurrin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
This is a delightful pre-WWII English mystery novel, with bodies in cupboards, devious fiances, and a whipping wind that lends just the right edge to the creepy atmosphere. The feel of the book is so perfectly autumnal that I kept wanting to put it down and save it for reading in brisk October - but that would have meant not reading it right away! The characters are indeed characters - from the narrator, Frances, a young woman drawn into a complicated web of lies, to her grandmother Gabrielle, w ...more
Apr 05, 2008 Dfordoom rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
Margery Allingham’s Black Plumes, published in 1940, is interesting among classic English detective stories in that the detective in the story is an ordinary police detective, and he plays a rather minor role in the story. The book concerns the murder of a partner in an exclusive art gallery in London. The plot is one of the more far-fetched that I’ve come across, but interesting. It also involves missing explorers in the Himalayas. It’s the first Allingham book that I’ve read. It didn’t grab me ...more
Sep 10, 2007 Cindy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: vintage mystery fans
Shelves: mysteries, freebies
Just a warning--Campion does not appear in this book. But it is a good, solid mystery with a lot going for it.

The action centers around the Ivory's art gallery, where a series of malicious pranks are causing problems. When a valuable painting is slashed right before an opening, things really come to a head.

There's a pretend engagement, a man come back from the dead, an unscrupulous business manager, and finally, a murder. The ending is very exciting. My only complaints are that the policeman in
Jul 29, 2016 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
This is a stand alone mystery from Margery Allingham which does not feature her famous detective, Campion. Despite missing him, I had so much fun reading this story which is full of atmosphere and well drawn characters, from the Victorian era grandmother to her granddaughter who is trying to hold together the family gallery business despite all the efforts of her brother-in-law who seems to be trying to run it into the ground in the absence of her father. Reading this reminds me of how much more ...more
Jun 02, 2016 Sandie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
A Marjorie Allingham novel that did NOT involve Albert Campion. Instead Inspector Bridie solves the case with the help of others. A family has a famous art gallery next door to their house and strange things are happening at the gallery and to the art. And then there is a murder of the step son that is managing the gallery. The husband is away on business and the wife is ill. Their daughter comes home from school to help solve the problem with an artist friend. Good, predictable Allingham.
Mark Wilson
Fine mystery, bad Kindle edition

Margery Allingham wrote brilliant mysteries, with beautiful writing and closely-observed characters. This edition (which I'm guessing is an OCR effort from some public-domain version) is unfortunately full of consistent errors. Examples: whenever a sentence starts with "He", this is given as "lie"! Also, whenever a paragraph ends with closing quotes, these are actually shown at the beginning of the NEXT paragraph, which is disconcerting.
Anyway, puzzling out what t
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Aka Maxwell March.

Margery Louise Allingham was born in Ealing, London in 1904 to a family of writers. Her father, Herbert John Allingham, was editor of The Christian Globe and The New London Journal, while her mother wrote stories for women's magazines. Margery's aunt, Maud Hughes, also ran a magazine. Margery earned her first fee at the age of eight, for a story printed in her aunt's magazine.

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“It was a little skirmish across a century.” 7 likes
“A great deal has been written about the forthrightness of the moderns shocking the Victorians, but there is no shock like the one which the forthrightness of the Victorians can give a modern.” 3 likes
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