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Albert Campion #2

Mystery Mile

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Whether by bad luck or bad markmanship, four people have already died in place of Judge Lobbett, which leads the mild-mannered British detective, Albert Campion, on a complex investigation to find out why someone is trying to kill this American judge. Read by Francis Matthews. Book available.


First published January 1, 1930

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About the author

Margery Allingham

212 books472 followers
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 as Emmie Allingham. 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.

Soon after Margery's birth, the family left London for Essex. She returned to London in 1920 to attend the Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster), and met her future husband, Philip Youngman Carter. They married in 1928. He was her collaborator and designed the cover jackets for many of her books.

Margery's breakthrough came 1929 with the publication of her second novel, The Crime at Black Dudley . The novel introduced Albert Campion, although only as a minor character. After pressure from her American publishers, Margery brought Campion back for Mystery Mile and continued to use Campion as a character throughout her career.

After a battle with breast cancer, Margery died in 1966. Her husband finished her last novel, A Cargo of Eagles at her request, and published it in 1968.

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5 stars
1,462 (29%)
4 stars
1,847 (37%)
3 stars
1,279 (26%)
2 stars
264 (5%)
1 star
55 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 373 reviews
Profile Image for Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ .
796 reviews583 followers
February 10, 2018
This was my first Allingham & my expectations were maybe a bit high. This book is only number 2 in the series & apparently in the first book The Crime at Black Dudley Campion wasn't the lead detective. Campion is an appealing character & I can understand his creator falling for him (so to speak)

I just felt that though I enjoyed a lot of the dialogue & the book's sense of place, that for quite a short book it took a long time to get to the point. I didn't think Allingham played fair with all her clues. I didn't have any trouble guessing who was the villain. I also didn't have any trouble putting the book aside. It is extremely unusual for me to take nearly a week to finish a Golden Age mystery, so I really don't think I can rate this book higher than 3.5★
Profile Image for Zain.
1,372 reviews140 followers
August 19, 2021
So, What’s Important?

Albert Campion comes to the rescue when a judge and family are threatened by kidnappers.

Despite his best efforts, a murder occurs right under his nose, and the judge is spirited away.

And while all of this is happening, everybody seems to be pairing up for love and romance.

A mystery-romance is what this is.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,640 reviews598 followers
January 18, 2018
Although I love Golden Age mysteries, I have had a rocky relationship with Margery Allingham over the years. Having decided to give her another try and read the Campion series from the very beginning, I enjoyed, “The Crime at Black Dudley,” and decided to continue with “Mystery Mile.”

As with, “The Crime at Black Dudley,” we have another novel featuring sinister gangs and criminal masterminds. Judge Lobbett has found evidence pointing to the identify the criminal mastermind behind the deadly Simister gang. There have been several attempts on his life and now his son, Marlowe, and daughter, Isopel, have persuaded him to leave the States for England. However, it is soon apparent that leaving the country has not put him out of danger and Albert Campion foils an attempt on his life on board the ship, “Elephantine.” This leads Marlowe to track Campion down in London and for Judge Lobbett, and his family, to be spirited away to Mystery Mile and a country house owned by Giles and Biddy Paget.

This is an exciting, and fast moving, story. There are odd visitors, suspicious locals, tragic deaths and daring rescues. We get to meet Campion’s sidekick, Magersfontein Lugg, and there are also some romance, between the two young couples. I have found that reading this series from the beginning, even if I have been told that the early novels are not the best, has given me a good background to the characters. I am enjoying my forays into Allingham’s earlier work and hope to continue the series.
February 18, 2019
“The Black Dudley Murder” should have appealed to me but I disliked every aristocratic personage. The alluring detective I favoured, is not our series protagonist. Albert Campion lost marks upon his “Mystery Mile” entrance, for sacrificing a mouse! Electrical currents can be tested in boundless ways! All of a sudden, the atmosphere shifted to moody marshland amid two instantly-likeable families. Police bureaus and typical city locales are boring. I rallied over the switch from London to a veritably mysterious place.

Authors lose a star for killing an animal. Another star fizzled for a combination of factors. For one: flimsy motives and red herrings are not improved by author’s names. It doesn’t divulge anything to remark that every character who was glaringly out of place, was indeed out of place. When readers are eventually told why a pastor died, why a woman was kidnapped, why a retired judge was chased, and even why a syndicate perceived as evil existed; none of the reasons have any éclat. I can’t deem a motive strong, if I can think of many better way to achieve that purpose. The sole twist that does throw us for a loop is an outrage instead of a coup, because Albert took his friends on one merry chase for nothing.

All throughout time spent with an entirely endearing cast, I did enjoy this novel immensely. I would have given four stars, if the crime portions had gelled. The red clue conveyed as ominously secretive, was superfluous. There were preposterous glitches, like a pastor not topping-up his qualifications in 50 years and preparing voluminous messages, without frankly naming criminals. Finally: synopsises should never declare that novels are about mystical things, like fairies, if they are not. However topnotch writing, characters, setting, and pace are definitely the products of masterful skill.
Profile Image for Fran.
48 reviews
June 21, 2010
I've heard ‘If you like Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, you'll love Marjory Allingham’ -- I do not love Marjory Allingham. Even if this Felony & Mayhem "Vintage" edition weren't studded with typographical errors, it would be an irritating read. Protagonist Albert Campion may be able to maintain dozens of aliases, but he is constantly making errors of the ‘not to worry, the evil gang can't possibly be on to us yet’ and ‘it's perfectly safe for the womenfolk to wander down to the village alone’ kind. The other characters just sort of blend together. Marlowe is young, foolish, ineffectual, and handsome. Giles is young, foolish, ineffectual, and stupid. Both Biddy and Isopel are young, distraught, and appealing. Then there are a bunch of Cockney associates. Campion follows in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes in the sense that both are clever but likely to solve the mystery after all the important people are dead.
Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,895 reviews197 followers
February 5, 2015
OK, I have an admission.

Margery Allingham clearly based bespectacled, fair-haired, and apparently silly Albert Campion, first introduced in The Crime at Black Dudley in 1929, on Lord Peter Wimsey — no matter how much I refused to admit it when I read Allingham’s debut novel. Supposedly, Campion was to be a parody of Lord Peter. I thoroughly enjoyed The Crime at Black Dudley, with its Simister syndicate and the English-house-party-gone-wrong plot, and I didn’t care whether the treatment was an homage or a ripoff or what.

But I’m ready to admit it now. Both are the deceptively foolish younger son of a peer who undertake a bit of sleuthing on the down-low. But — dare I admit it? — I actually prefer Albert Campion (actually, one of the many pseudonyms of a man actually named Sir Rudolph). Disinherited, liable to play fast and loose with the law, employing the only semi-reformed criminal Magersfontein Lugg as a less feudal version of Mervyn Bunter, Campion never stoops to Lord Peter’s constant moralizing and antediluvian ideas. What’s not to love?

Stubborn but honest Judge Crowdy Lobbett, targeted by the Simister gang, encounters Campion on a trans-Atlantic voyage to England. At the behest of Lobbett’s son, Campion takes the Lobbett family to the eponymous Mystery Mile, a backwater Suffolk hamlet, to keep them hidden. Needless to say, all does not go as planned (there wouldn’t be a novel otherwise, would there?), and readers will enjoy every page in this suspenseful novel in which the Lobbetts and Campion try to outwit the clever head of the gang, Simister himself. I had no idea of Simister’s secret identity until Alligham chose to reveal it, and the high-stakes ending will have readers glued to Mystery Mile late into the night.
Profile Image for Bruce Beckham.
Author 33 books405 followers
March 19, 2019
I listened to the audiobook.

This was my first Margery Allingham novel – although it is the second in her ‘Albert Campion’ series.

Published in 1930 it is an upper-middle-class romp peppered with caricatured crooks and half-witted yokels. Protagonist Albert Campion is a gentleman sleuth of some hidden disrepute, able to tap into a network of rather improbable underworld connections whenever the need arises.

The plot was solid if a little unimaginative, but a sequence of slightly peripheral adventures kept the pages turning. In a nutshell, Campion becomes charged with hiding a retired American judge from the clutches of a murderous international gang, apparently bent upon revenge. The action swings between late 1920s London and a country estate on the Suffolk coast – in the isolated village of Mystery Mile.

I enjoyed the upbeat tone of voice, enhanced by the superb narration of Francis Matthews (he of ‘Paul Temple’ and ‘Captain Scarlet’ fame) that brought colour and distinctiveness to each of the characters. Indeed, a combination of charm and mischief lent a certain cosiness to the tale, making me think that, no matter how much hot water Campion got into, things would turn out well in the end.

I anticipate discovering more of his escapades.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
January 11, 2014
Didn't expect to read this book so soon or all in one go, but I was having trouble sleeping, so I figured, why not? It's very obviously a cousin of Sayers' Lord Peter (Campion could, in fact, be Peter's cousin), although in a more satirical vein. Albert Campion is a pretty close analogue of Peter Wimsey, complete with a number of idiosyncrasies, and Lugg (although of a decidedly more criminal bent than Bunter) shares some characteristics with Lord Peter's man.

It's still fun, even though it's more or less mocking one of my favourite series in many ways -- it manages to be a story on its own, too. It didn't involve me emotionally, but I did read it straight through, in one go, so there's that going for it. I did find the mystery a little bit disjointed/incoherent: it helped that I'd read a summary somewhere before, but some of the events seemed pretty random.

Overall, I enjoyed it enough that I might pick up more, but not enough that I'm going to be in a hurry. Allingham was a capable writer, but Campion's not interesting enough to me to follow him compulsively.
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,922 reviews730 followers
March 8, 2008
Would I recommend it? Yes. Whether or not you've read the first one doesn't matter in this book -- from here on out, though, you'll want to make sure you read the series in order (from what I remember). Not a cozy, exactly, but if you like British mysteries, you'll like it. Campion is somewhat enigmatic, but here, unlike in the first mystery of the series, he's pretty much on his own. Still holding on to that silly exterior, his character is a bit more developed in this novel.

The story opens on board an ocean liner going back to England from the US. On this ship is someone quite special: a man who has narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Simister gang many times, after repeated attempts. While on board, another attempt is made, and Campion decides he needs to take this man and his family under his protective wing at a remote village on the coast known as Mystery Mile.

I love golden-age mysteries, and although to some they may seem quite dated, to me that's part of their charm. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this well-done mystery while you're having a nice cup of tea.
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,511 reviews454 followers
June 16, 2016
This is my second time reading Allingham and apparently a second mystery for this particular character. Every mystery writer has a detective and Allingham has Alfred Campion, a slightly ludicrous, though highly amusing character who, according to his business card, has no time for cases that are vulgar or plebeian. This was a sort of quaint or cozy mystery and for some reason it just didn't work for me. For all its charm of bygone era, the story felt too muddy and only maintained my interest just enough to see what happens at the end, but not really caring about the outcome. I'm not sure how much of it is the book's fault, there is a chance I just wasn't in the mood for it. It was a perfectly decent read and pleasantly quick one at that, but didn't really entice or invited to check out more Campion mysteries. Thanks Netgalley.
31 reviews
November 14, 2011
I am in a classic mystery phase. I have been reading Ngaio Marsh (Inspector Alleyn), listening to Agatha Christie in the car and have just started on Margerty Allingham's Albert Campion. I read the first book in the series (in which Campion plays a minor role) a month or so ago and now I have just read Mystery Mile. I enjoyed it very much. I know that some people find Campion's silly persona annoying but I don't. I like that he hides his intellect and abilities, constantly causing people to underestimate him. To me it makes the moments when he is serious more poignant because they contrast sharply with his usual style. I read these books for the atmosphere, humor and quirky characters. I like following the detectives through time and seeing how their lives evolve. The mystery is secondary to me. I almost never guess who it is because I spend less time paying attention to the clues and more to the people and their relationships. I am looking forward to starting the next book in this series tonight . . .
Profile Image for Jo Berry ☀️.
242 reviews5 followers
April 29, 2023
This is much better than the first book in the Campion series, although Campion is still quite annoying and the writing style continues to feel fussy and confusing. Sometimes I slightly lose the thread of what’s going on.

Like another reviewer, I didn’t like the death of the mouse in the first chapter at the hands of Campion himself. It was a cold thing to do and makes it hard for the reader to like the main character. Allingham should have thought of something better. But overall, this is an interesting cosy crime story with a good ending.

However, I would recommend you watch the BBC tv series of Campion which fixes a lot of the faults in the books. There’s no dead mouse in the tv version (the scriptwriter came up with something better) and Campion is characterised as suave and eccentric, rather than cold and irritating. It’s much more pleasing all round.
Profile Image for Greg.
1,801 reviews18 followers
March 10, 2020
BOOK 59 - 1930
An improvement on Allingham's first Albert Campion story.
CAST - 4: Campion enters this second in the series very early in the story and takes the lead, as opposed to being a secondary character of sorts in "Crime at Black Dudley." He's very eccentric, sometimes silly, and even electrocutes a mouse in the opening chapter. (There is a reason.) The rector says of A.C., "If I know anything about Albert, he'll arrive on a broomstick." Judge Crowdy Lobbett is a 'dangerous old fellow' and is the intended victim of a series of attempts on his life: these attempts are called the "Misfire Murders of New York". The Lobbet family hop on a ship, the 'Elephantine' for England, hoping to escape the murder attempts. Then there is Ali Ferguson Barber, or "The Turk". Satsuma is a Japanese magician, although oddly very tall and dark-skinned. So what's up with that? Simister is either a person or group after the Judge. A Reverend Swithin Cush, a Mr Anthony Datchett, Palmist and others make for an unusual cast.
ATMOSPHERE - 4:A cruise ship, the village of Mystery Mile, an odd story about "Seven Whistlers", a maze, a Manor House (...hidden in the thick belt of elms...long, low, many-gabled...built around 1500...In the library, round the fireplace with the deep-set chimney seat, the squire and his sister were entertaining the rector...) , a blue suitcase full of children's books and more contribute to a unique atmosphere. I liked that Allingham provides to us a map of Mystery Mile.
CRIME - 4: Cush may or may not have killed himself. Nothing terribly unique there. But the Judge does find a method to absolutely disappear off the face of the earth after entering the aforementioned maze. Plus, more crimes occur.
INVESTIGATION - 2: A.C. is so odd some of his questions seem senseless. He can be funny, certainly, but his investigation is more of a send-up of the genre. Often, he just checks out of the picture. Allingham alludes to some kind of supernatural evil but there isn't a payoff. And late in the story we get this line: "Magersfontein Lugg an' me 'has been pals for some years." Oddity for the sake of odd.
RESOLUTION - 2: Over-complicated for me. And, again, I had the feeling Allingham was indeed authoring a send-up. It's all a bit melodramatic. "Sounds like a bit o' the Decameron to me...without the fun as you might say." I didn't believe a character here would be familiar with Decameron stories and how some of them might have played out here.
SUMMARY - 3.2 stars overall. A much better novel than "Dudley". This mystery is a fast, fun read.
Profile Image for Val.
2,425 reviews77 followers
October 26, 2017
I enjoyed the atmospheric "Tiger in the Smoke" by the same author, but not this one as much. This is more plot driven, there is a mystery, a criminal mastermind, an unexplained (until the end) suicide, some suspicious foreigners and quite a lot of action, but it was curiously lacking in suspense despite all that. It did not help that I found Albert Campion irritating and the rest of the characters shallow.
Profile Image for Daniel Myatt.
588 reviews46 followers
May 27, 2020
A good read but a few of the chapters just seemed unnecessary (in my opinion) why get the "girl" kidnapped half way through the book? It added nothing to the adventure or the mystery of the main story!

I still enjoyed it, I just find Margery Allingham does like to write a lot if words when less would be more 😏
Profile Image for Jill Hutchinson.
1,459 reviews105 followers
September 12, 2011
Allingham's Campion books may be an acquired taste as some readers are put off by the main character's "silly ass" persona while others find him endearing. I am somewhere in the middle.......this is the second in the long running series and Campion is still a fatuous twit who is hard to take seriously although outward appearances hide his true character. But I enjoyed this little mystery about a unknown master-mind criminal who employs a world wide network of minions to do his bidding. In this case he has targeted a judge who holds the key to his identity and it is Campion's job to find out the answer and protect the judge from certain death. It becomes obvious that Campion is not exactly who he portrays himself to be and this puzzle continues through all the books in the series.....but that is only an aside in this story set in the Mystery Mile, a fog shrouded salt marsh where the majority of the action occurs. A little humor, a little mystery and a little romance makes this an entertaining entry in the series.
Profile Image for Kristen.
2,205 reviews50 followers
August 22, 2013
This is the second book in the Albert Campion series. They are okay, and the characters are fun, the story itself really didn't hold my interest.

I listened to this on audiobook, and the narrator was excellent, giving each character a unique voice, so that was definitely a plus. However, I found that while I enjoyed the characters and the flavour and humour they brought, I was very easily distracted from the murder mystery.

I might pick up others in this series if I needed an audiobook for commuting, but the series isn't good enough that I would go out of my way to make sure to read all of them. It's an okay series.
Profile Image for Jan C.
1,015 reviews110 followers
November 25, 2011
While reading this one. I found out that dear Albert was only a featured character in the first book. The Crime at Black Dudley. I enjoyed that one. As I also enjoyed this one.

Both have the same criminals - the Simister crowd.

I had it partially solved. Right guy but didn't know his position.
Profile Image for Eleanor.
510 reviews49 followers
September 25, 2021
Better than her first book, "The Crime at Black Dudley", but heavily reliant on a deus ex machina. I do hope Albert Campion calms down in later books: he's just too witty for words and would drive me crazy if I ever met him!
689 reviews5 followers
March 13, 2017
I do adore Albert Campion. This was a reread for me and just as enjoyable the second time around. Can't recommend this series enough!
Profile Image for Barbara.
390 reviews24 followers
July 6, 2017
This was fun. I especially enjoyed Albert Campion's quirky personality and speech style, although I didn't understand some of his allusions and vocabulary. Will definitely read more Campions.
Profile Image for Mandy Dimins.
349 reviews23 followers
May 12, 2022
3.5/5. All together a fun mystery-adventure that is just a bit marred by some dialogue with overwrought accents from the English countryside and casual racism, although the latter is pretty typical of this time period and genre so I generally close both eyes though it still sometimes got a bit uncomfortable to read.

Although Margery Allingham is frequently spoken of together with the other golden age mystery writers, I’m beginning to find her works to be bordering more on adventure rather than strictly cosy mysteries in the style of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. For one thing, Allingham doesn’t actually give you hints along the way like Christie and Sayers often do. The solution can come up out of left field, so if you’re the sort of reader who enjoys solving mysteries along with the detective in the novel, Allingham’s works probably aren’t for you. Luckily though I like to cruise along and only make casual deductions along the way so the lack of hints didn’t really bother me much.

The mystery in this one was slightly better than average, although not particularly fantastic or memorable. I did enjoy the whole thing about someone seeming to bring death to the people around him because he is being pursued by a notorious, anonymous criminal mastermind. There were a few red herrings around the place, however, and I thought that the resolution could have been neater with more threads tying in to the main conclusion instead of just having been dead ends all along.

Albert Campion is not exactly a favourite detective for me right now. He feels a bit like a younger version of Lord Peter Wimsey from Sayers’s novels but also without as much character. Sometimes his random bursts of humour can get a bit annoying (as it is to the other characters), especially when it can be so random. Sherlock Holmes can sometimes do the same thing where he says something oddly humourous and seemingly random, but which is shown to have some connection with the mystery at hand eventually. Not so much with Campion. He does have those Holmesian moments where a random question or statement is important, but just as often it also seems like he’s being random for the sake of it.

My enjoyment of this one was a bit marred by some blatant xenophobia and racism in the story. Again, this is not unusual for a book of this time period, but it was still uncomfortable to read. Spoilers for the whole book:

Overall, if you can stomach the casual xenophobia and racism that’s fairly common in a work from this era, this is not a bad read for people who are already fans of golden age mystery novels and also perhaps for people who want to get into it and would like to have more action and adventure instead of your usual armchair-detecting or solving mysteries within a closed house.
Profile Image for Pamela.
1,302 reviews
February 14, 2018
After several attempts on his life, Judge Lobbett engages the help of unconventional amateur detective Albert Campion. The judge has been engaged in the fight against the criminal activities of the Simister gang, and believes they have followed him to England. Campion arranges for the Judge and his family to take refuge in the Suffolk village of Mystery Mile, but strange visitors and a sudden death mean that he has to use all his ingenuity to keep the family out of danger.

Enjoyable mystery/thriller with an engaging mixture of fun and menace. As we would expect from a Golden Age novel, there is no graphic violence but the reader is in no doubt that these are real criminals who don't mess about. Against them is pitted the ebullient Campion, who shows glimpses of his true character behind his 'silly ass' persona and intriguing hints of a hidden past. The story also introduces Campion's assistant, Magersfontein Lugg, and there is a cast of interesting secondary characters, especially among the villagers who get involved in the plot.

This was a well written story with a satisfying ending that tied up the loose ends. Campion is one of my favourite Golden Age detectives for his hidden depths, and I am thoroughly enjoying rereading a series that I first encountered over 40 years ago.
Profile Image for ☯Emily  Ginder.
580 reviews99 followers
June 10, 2021
This is my first Albert Campion detective novel and I found it rather confusing with all the cant phrases. It certainly would not be classified as a cozy, and based on this book alone, I would not consider the author in the same league as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, even though all three are considered Queens of Crime. Perhaps the later books in the series would change my opinion.
Profile Image for Dave.
1,121 reviews28 followers
February 13, 2022
This one is where Campion is given another dimension—he starts off the silly ass of the first book, but, during the adventures of this one, he mostly reveals the silliness as a put-on. Not much of a solvable mystery here—instead you get hidden secrets, a Napoleon of crime, a misty marshy island with an old manor and maze, and death by mud. And Lugg shows up, too. Even better in this rereading.

Be sure to get an edition with a map!
Profile Image for Tuesdayschild.
714 reviews11 followers
November 13, 2021
audiobook, narrated by Francis Matthews, 4 stars.
I think this is one of the more interesting Campion mysteries, plenty of red herrings and bad guys. After the case is tied up Margery Allingham gives the book a rather abstract ending, perhaps as encouragement to read the next mystery?
Profile Image for Kirsten .
1,589 reviews255 followers
September 13, 2022
This is my 2nd Campion book and I'm really getting into them. You learn a little more about Campion in each book. He is a very different detective for the Golden Age. He is a secret agent, part detective, and part toff. He reminds me a little of Nick Charles of The Thin Man because of all his criminal friends.

The best part of this book is when they plan to break into the criminal gang's lair. The banter between the different criminals and the more respectable members of the gang is hilarious!!

What larks!
1,254 reviews28 followers
June 3, 2020
Enter Stage Right: Magersfontein Lugg

This second in Allingham's Albert Campion series is much better than the first, but you'll have to be patient. In the first chapter (on board an ocean liner) Campion does his silly girly-man act. Then he pulls up his socks and acts fairly rational for the rest of the book. Whimsical and spouting far too much 1920's slang, but bearable.

Sadly, the author continued to build her stories around improbable international gangs and master criminals. A retired American judge has sentenced many of the Simister gang to prison and now he has a clue as to the identity of the mastermind himself. Needless to say, the criminals are determined to kill him and Campion is trying to stop them. As soon as the ship lands in England, he hustles Judge Lobbett and his family down to a remote country estate owned by his young friends, the Pagets.

There's a lovely cast of characters in this one. The judge is a fine old fellow, although as obstinate as a pair of mules. His son is handsome and intelligent. His daughter is beautiful and devoted. The Pagets (a likable brother and sister) struggle to keep up their ancestral home and care for the village tenants in spite of onerous taxation and bad economic conditions.

Allingham's books highlight the fact that, traditionally, the powerful families of England were country people. They were descendants of big land-owners important to the monarchy because they paid "homage" (i.e. money) in exchange for titles and royal concessions. And their numerous agricultural laborers fought the king's wars. Even in the early 20th century, most of them remained basically rural dwellers.

All four of the young people are appealing and (naturally) they proceed to fall in love with each other immediately. Allingham liked to throw in a bit of romance, but was too sensible to waste much time on it. The elderly village vicar is a grand old man and the villagers and servants are hilarious. Plus, there's a comic Turkish art appraiser who latched onto the Lobbetts on the ship and refuses to disappear. There's nothing the English upper class enjoys more than laughing at a foreigner, so Mr. Barber is allowed to hang around.

The Simister gang has spies everywhere and soon there's a suspicious suicide and then a disappearance and then a kidnapping. Allingham always pulled out all the stops to keep her readers from getting bored. And the mysterious brains behind the gang isn't just your ordinary mastermind, but a shadowy figure who's been operating for DECADES. Is Simister immortal?

The best part of the book is the appearance of former burglar Lugg, who will serve as Campion's housekeeper/sparring partner/sidekick for the rest of the series. Lugg is one of the most consistently entertaining characters ever invented and constantly surprises us with his unexpected talents. In this book, he's backed up by Knapp whose background is very similar and who proves to be a wily strategist and a good man in a fight. Which is fortunate, because Campion and his friends must invade one of the Simister gang's strongholds to free one of their own and the Simister Gang aren't playing with cigar coupons.

Which brings me to an interesting point. Allingham's mysteries are now categorized as "cozy" but there's some surprisingly violent scenes. Her detective may be a gentleman, but the criminals he comes up against are tough guys. Robbery, extortion, and blackmail is their business and (like all competent professionals) they go about it as quietly as possible. But if thwarted, they don't hesitate to kill, maim, or torture.

It's a good book and shows Allingham becoming confident enough to deviate from stock characters and plots and develop her strikingly original talent. She was a fine writer and we're lucky she tried the mystery genre and stuck to it. And she only gets better as the series goes on.

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