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Group reads > March 2016 - Black Plumes by Margery Allingham

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message 1: by Judy (last edited Feb 29, 2016 10:50PM) (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8414 comments Mod
This thread is for discussion of our March group read, Black Plumes by Margery Allingham. As usual, please wait until the 15th to post major spoilers and use spoiler tags for them. Thanks!

I've now finished reading this and found I didn't remember anything at all from a previous read many years ago! I'm a long-time fan of Allingham and really like her style of writing, and I enjoyed this one, which is quite witty and quirky.

However, I wasn't impressed with the special-offer Kindle edition I bought, which had a lot of scanning errors - for instance, the word 'He' appears as 'lie' quite a few times, which is distinctly distracting! I wish I'd borrowed my Mum's old green Penguin instead. :)


message 2: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9418 comments Mod
This is my third Allingham and, while I did enjoy this, I also struggled with it. I cannot really put my finger on what it is that stops me really loving her books, but I am glad I tried a stand alone novel.


message 3: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8414 comments Mod
Glad you enjoyed it anyway, Susan, even if it didn't completely hook you! I'll admit I rather missed her series detective, Albert Campion, but one of the main characters in this one has a way of talking which is a bit similar to Campion, so there might be too much witty banter if he featured too.

I liked the setting, in and around an art gallery - artists seem to crop up quite a bit in Golden Age novels.


message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9418 comments Mod
Yes, the detective. I have to admit that the written accent was one of the things which really irritated me...


message 5: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8414 comments Mod
I found the cheery Scottish detective's way of speaking a bit hard to read at times too - he would probably come across better in an audiobook!

It's the artist, David, whose way of speaking is a bit like Albert's - very charming, although he is quite different as a character.


message 6: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9418 comments Mod
I think a few Golden Age authors indulged themselves with accents.


Jay-me (Janet)  | 164 comments I read this last month, although I have read several other books by Margery Allingham I hadn't read this one before.

Like Judy I found the same errors (lie and lie's for he and he's appeared countless times)
I also found it hard occasionally to work out what the Scottish detective was saying.
But overall I enjoyed the book.

I have the DVDs of the Campion TV series - I have just one left to watch.

(I also got the Lord Peter Wimsey DVDs with Ian Carmichael - the later ones are too expensive for me to buy!!! )


message 8: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 2553 comments Mod
I haven't started the book yet and bought the kindle special. Based on the comments, I've requested the audio from the library so I can compare. Accents are so much better heard than read. Thanks.


message 9: by Michelle (last edited Mar 01, 2016 07:10AM) (new)

Michelle (michelleae) | 257 comments Will write more when have about more time but for me it was the melodrama. Give me strength! If only they had not gone away at that point none of this may have happened. Oh the wind and weather tossing and tumbling and turning and wailing and being a bad metaphor for atmosphere I (Margery) cannot write properly. I did like it but the atmosphere needs a good kicking!

This was my first book by her, possibly my last...! My kindle copy was probably the same as Judy's and I had to translate lie to he a lot!


message 10: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (michelleae) | 257 comments Judy wrote: "I found the cheery Scottish detective's way of speaking a bit hard to read at times too - he would probably come across better in an audiobook!

It's the artist, David, whose way of speaking is a b..."


this was annoying I agree1


message 11: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 713 comments Even though I read it pretty recently, and I grant the malignant wind thing being a bit heavy-handed, I have been enjoying it. I think it’s realistic how people in the same family hide things from one another for reasons that loom large for themselves but don’t seem as significant to others. And the malignant wind is mostly filtered through Frances’s consciousness, so it could be read as her own surrogate for emotions she doesn’t know what to do with. The neurotic women of this era do tire me out, though.


message 12: by Karlyne (last edited Mar 01, 2016 12:00PM) (new)

Karlyne Landrum Abigail wrote: "Even though I read it pretty recently, and I grant the malignant wind thing being a bit heavy-handed, I have been enjoying it. I think it’s realistic how people in the same family hide things from ..."

The neurotic women of any time period, including ours, tire me out! I think Frances' wind signified her own confusion, too. It was probably just a plain ol' breeze to everybody else.

I haven't found any print mistakes in my old paperback, so I'm glad I have it. On a side note, it has a skull on the cover, and when my husband saw it on the coffee table last night, he said, "Whew, those Black Plums must be deadly!"


message 13: by Judy (last edited Mar 01, 2016 02:19PM) (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8414 comments Mod
Must admit I'd forgotten all about the wind until reading these comments, but, yes, it certainly contributes to the atmosphere! Just struck me reading this thread, I don't think the war is mentioned in the book (unless I've forgotten that too...), but the tension and mood of fear would have been very topical in 1940, when it was published.

Although a lot of Golden Age books are set in country houses, I've been surprised to realise how many seem to be set in London, as this one is. I suppose this is really right at the end of the Golden Age proper if you regard that as being between the wars.

Abigail, I quite fancy the thought of eating black plums, though not deadly ones. :)


message 14: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1292 comments I listened to this about a year ago, I think, on a long distance car trip. I really liked it.

I did get the Kindle special but haven't started it yet. Wondering if it is too soon to re-read it.


message 15: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 170 comments I am bothered by books that throw the names of all kinds of characters at you right at the beginning and that's what this one did. The first chapter was confusing but it is getting better.


message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 540 comments I seem to be odd man out at the moment. I'm not very far in, just at the discovery of the body, but it isn't grabbing me yet. Doesn't seem, so far, up to what I expect from Allingham. But there's time and hope yet.


message 17: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9418 comments Mod
You are not the odd man out, as I also struggled with this. I am glad I tried it, but just can't get on with Allingham's novels.

London does come up a lot in Golden Age novels, I agree. I suppose authors wanted to move away from the country house mystery - so many did that as a first book if you think about it; including Allingham. Sayers used London in her first mystery though.


message 18: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8414 comments Mod
Susan, although I did like this book, I think the Campion novels are her best - I have a feeling you might like the best of those, such as Look to the Lady, Sweet Danger and Traitor's Purse, which I love just as much as Wimsey. I decided not to go for a Campion nomination though because I think they are best read in order.


message 19: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8414 comments Mod
Betsy, I agree about the character names at first - I found that a bit confusing too, and in a Kindle book it isn't easy to turn back and check who someone is. I'm just reading another book which has even more names in it early on!


message 20: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 592 comments Sandy wrote: "I haven't started the book yet and bought the kindle special. Based on the comments, I've requested the audio from the library so I can compare. Accents are so much better heard than read. Thanks."

Oh that is a good idea! I have the paperback but I might see if my library has an audiobook edition.


message 21: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9418 comments Mod
Judy, the read the first Campion (which everyone agrees is not her best) as I like to read a series in order. I later read a later one in another group and it made no sense to me really, as I think I had rejoined near the end of the series.

I did like the idea of a private art gallery - that just seems so self indulgent!


message 22: by Diane (new)

Diane | 62 comments I've been listening to the audiobook but can't get passed the first half hour. It's boring me to death, haha.


message 23: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1292 comments Diane wrote: "I've been listening to the audiobook but can't get passed the first half hour. It's boring me to death, haha."

I was probably stuck in the car with no other books on Overdrive.


message 24: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 540 comments Diane wrote: "I've been listening to the audiobook but can't get passed the first half hour. It's boring me to death, haha."

I started in on the audiobook and found it incredibly confusing and boring, so I switched to the book (found a cheap used copy) and it's better that way.


message 25: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9418 comments Mod
I find I struggle to remember what I have heard, in an audiobook, although I don't have that issue while reading. It is quite odd, as I do like audiobooks sometimes - also podcasts about books (such as Books and Authors) are great while driving.


message 26: by Diane (new)

Diane | 62 comments Susan wrote: "I find I struggle to remember what I have heard, in an audiobook, although I don't have that issue while reading. It is quite odd, as I do like audiobooks sometimes - also podcasts about books (suc..."

I sometimes have the same problem with audio but also really enjoy listening to them. I've found that the reader can make a big difference and, for the most part, I save the light, fun books for audio. But really, for me anyway, the reader is important.
I have read studies that have shown that students retain more when they read paper text books than ebooks. I wonder if that holds true for audio also,


message 27: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 170 comments I just finished this one. Will be interested in specific comments about the book after March 15.


message 28: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8414 comments Mod
What does anyone think of the characterisation in this? I liked the portrayal of David, who seems very much a Golden Age character, with his charming/lazy way of speaking rather in the mould of Campion.

I also like the old lady, Gabrielle Ivory, and thought the way her memory and personality fluctuate is well done. But I don't think the other characters will stick in my mind as much as these two.


message 29: by Betsy (last edited Mar 06, 2016 07:27PM) (new)

Betsy | 170 comments I agree about David and Gabrielle Ivory, but I also found Inspector Bridie, as I read more, extremely irritating. I like police procedural books, but this was strange. You didn't hear much from him and then all of a sudden he was there telling you what happened.


message 30: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 592 comments I just started last night so I am avoiding the comments so far. I will be back and will read the full thread once I finish.

So far (I have just finished Chapter 10), I have a guess or two about who might have done it but no evidence yet.


message 31: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 170 comments If you have gotten that far, you're doing well. It was kind of slow at the beginning, but gets better. I haven't read much Margery Allingham, but she seems to go slow at the beginning when she doesn't have a murder to make the narrative flow. I'm not in favor of spending oodles and boodles of pages describing all the characters in glorious details. I like to get to the action.


message 32: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 592 comments Well my guess turned out to be correct but Allingham did keep me wondering about some of the red herrings for a long time.

Now off to read everyone's comments...


message 33: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 592 comments Susan wrote: "Yes, the detective. I have to admit that the written accent was one of the things which really irritated me..."

I don't like written accents in general (one reason that I hated Dickens' Hard Times) but this one was easy to read so it didn't bother me.

Karlyne wrote: "I haven't found any print mistakes in my old paperback, so I'm glad I have it. On a side note, it has a skull on the cover, and when my husband saw it on the coffee table last night, he said, "Whew, those Black Plums must be deadly!" ..."

My old 1960 paperback only had one typo that I noticed (an "of" which should have been an "oh").

Love the remark about the deadly plums! :-)


message 34: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9418 comments Mod
Well done for guessing correctly, Leslie. :)


message 35: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 592 comments Thanks Susan -- normally I am quite poor at figuring out who did it so I was pleased!


message 36: by Damaskcat (last edited Mar 16, 2016 01:52AM) (new)

Damaskcat | 186 comments I finished listening to this last night and I can report that the Inspector's speech is even worse in audio book though Francis Matthews does read well.

I think it was the melodrama which I didn't like and some of the characters were just so irritating - Frances and Philippa especially. David was all right and I liked Gabrielle Ivory. I thought the family dynamics were good but the book as a whole just didn't do it for me.


message 37: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9418 comments Mod
I find it hard to imagine the Inspector's speech was worse in audio form, Damaskcat, but I believe you!


message 38: by Damaskcat (new)

Damaskcat | 186 comments Susan wrote: "I find it hard to imagine the Inspector's speech was worse in audio form, Damaskcat, but I believe you!"

I read some of the book and listened to the rest and it was definitely worse!!


message 39: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 170 comments I definitely agree about Philippa. She is the stereotype woman of that era that is so fragile that she has to avoid all reality and take to her bed with all of her illnesses. I can't think why any man would marry her, but then the two she chose definitely prove that she got what she deserves.


message 40: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum Betsy wrote: "I definitely agree about Philippa. She is the stereotype woman of that era that is so fragile that she has to avoid all reality and take to her bed with all of her illnesses. I can't think why any ..."

She might be a stereotype of the age, but I've known a few in this age, too......


message 41: by Jessica (new)

Jessica | 351 comments Thanks Betsy! You were absolutely right that the book takes a turn for the better after chapter 10. I had been stuck there for over a week, but your comment motivated me to pick the book up again, and voila! I finished in 2 days.

I wouldn't say the book redeemed itself in the second half, but it did improve to "a pleasant enough read". I didn't much care for the characters, or the atmosphere nor the conclusion. Would like to read another book by her though for comparison.


message 42: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8414 comments Mod
I've written my review of this one up now, slightly belatedly. I've avoided spoilers.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 43: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 2553 comments Mod
Not my favorite, but pleasant enough. The old grandmother is definitely my favorite character; When she is sharp she is amazingly so - I loved her explanation, at the end, for telegraphing her son. The artist hero, David, rather grated on me. I listened (mostly - had back up kindle to make sure I got the character straight) and thought if I heard Frances called "ducky" one more time I would just scream. Perhaps it was short for "duchess", his other nickname for her? I, unlike some others' comments, enjoyed the detective's over-the-top Scottish accent. It was hard for me to understand when reading, so glad I heard it first.


message 44: by Michelle (last edited Mar 22, 2016 03:32PM) (new)

Michelle (michelleae) | 257 comments I think ducky is a pet name like sweetie or love. Annoying and a bit dated.

Accents and use of are interesting, sometimes necessary but here I saw no reason whatsoever to make the detective Scottish. Just to enable the author to write in a different way, I can't see what it added here other than to make us pay close attention to what he said and less attention to wh he may be hanging around In the shed!


message 45: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 592 comments Ducky is definitely a pet name -- very British! It is like people in the American south saying honey.


message 46: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8414 comments Mod
Sandy, "ducky" used to be an endearment in the UK though it's not used much nowadays - I think it tends to be more of a put-down if you do hear it. I think "ducky" tended to be more upper class and "duck" more working class.

Duchess is a separate endearment, I think, and sometimes used to get abbreviated to "Dutch" - my grandfather used to call my grandmother "Dutch" as a sort of joke, taken from a Cockney song.

I just had a look to see if I could find anything online about the history of both these terms but afraid I drew a blank. Anyway, I've gone off at a bit of a tangent here, but I quite enjoyed David#s way of speaking - I think I'd probably have enjoyed the Scottish detective more if I'd listened to him too.


message 47: by Damaskcat (last edited Mar 23, 2016 03:24AM) (new)

Damaskcat | 186 comments Sandy wrote: "Not my favorite, but pleasant enough. The old grandmother is definitely my favorite character; When she is sharp she is amazingly so - I loved her explanation, at the end, for telegraphing her son...."

'ducky' is a term of endearment which was much in favour round about the time the book was published. 'Duck' or 'My Duck' is a something you hear a lot where I live in Lincolnshire.

A fictional character of the same era as Black Plumes who used ducky a lot was Fleur Forsyte - later Fleur Mont - Soames Forsyte's daughter in John Glasworthy's Forsyte Saga.


Hilary (A Wytch's Book Review) (knyttwytch) Ducky or Ducks is still used in Nottinghamshire, but yes more middle class/lower class than upper class


message 49: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9418 comments Mod
Yes, I have a friend from Leicester who uses 'Ducky', but it is certainly not a term that I have heard in London. It does seem to be a Midlands expression and, as Judy so rightly points out, has a more 'working class' feel - so that David did perhaps use it in a more condescending way (I agree, it annoyed me, but most of the speech in the whole book did!).


message 50: by Judy (last edited Mar 24, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8414 comments Mod
I must admit I'd thought 'duck' or 'ducks' was more working class, and 'ducky' more upper class - kind of like 'old bean' etc! But sounds as if there isn't really as much of a distinction between the two as I thought... very interesting to learn more.

I rather enjoyed the way David talks, like referring to himself as "the old man" - I find him very charming, but perhaps you have to fall under the spell. :)


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