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Coroner's Pidgin (The Albert Campion Mysteries)
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Albert Campion group/buddy reads > Coroner's Pidgin (1945) - SPOILER Thread

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Susan | 10032 comments Mod
Welcome to our May/June 2020 buddy read of Coroner's Pidgin, the 12th Albert Campion novel, published in 1945 and also known by the alternative title of 'Pearls Before Swine.'

In the waning days of World War II Albert Campion has returned from Europe on leave. His intent is a quick stopover in his old London flat and then to take a train into the country to be with his wife Amanda and a child he only knows from letters. Unfortunately, he surprises Lugg and Lady Carados, the mother of his close friend Johnny, carrying a corpse into his rooms.

An unwilling Campion becomes involved in, not only solving the murder, but also the disappearance of some well-known art treasures.

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 821 comments I loved it wholeheartedly. On this round of reading it has surpassed Tiger in the Smoke as my favorite Albert Campion novel. I thought it was a seamless marriage of mystery, setting, and emotional journey. The poignancy of his return to a London that he has been risking his life to defend, only to find it a wreck of its former self and his former associates similarly shattered, was moving to me and added a lot of intensity to the story. And the ending was so satisfying, and not overdone!

My review here:

Frances (francesab) | 384 comments I agree-this was a great combination of interesting characters and further a look at how people interact with each other and how little tight-knit communities can be a wonderful thing OR they can turn on each other in the worst way.

I did think that Carados' mother was going to be heavily involved in some way, like the aristocrats who supported Hitler in WW2, but I guess not!

message 4: by Jill (last edited May 16, 2020 05:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2066 comments I thought it high-lighted the difference between the treatment of the the wealthy upper class, and those not so fortunate.
I did find it a bit confusing at the beginning, and had to check I hadn't skipped a page.

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 821 comments I didn't suspect the dowager marchioness because she seemed like a type Allingham has an affection for. Suspected the secretary right along, perhaps from memories of a long-ago reading, but had forgotten about her husband.

You're right, Frances, there was something claustrophobic about the Carados hangers-on, clinging to their lost lives in a bombed-out house. Quite macabre!

I wonder how readers in England felt about this book at the time. The politics were so rah-rah-our-team, bordering on jingoistic, during the war, and this seems like a pretty steely-eyed critique of the costs of war and the flaws in knee-jerk patriotism. I was really moved by the passages that touched on what was lost and how people were changed in spite of themselves by the carnage, as well as the little things they clung to in an attempt to hang on to their humanity--like Lugg with the pig and his little scullery hidey-hole.

Susan | 10032 comments Mod
I found it interesting the way the Bright Young Things were compared to the young people of that period, as well. I agree that there were a lot of politics hiding in this novel, but done deftly, with a light touch and with the understanding that readers would 'get it.'

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 821 comments I think I envy Allingham's light touch more than anything. I always feel so much pressure to make double-sure the reader gets what I'm getting at, and I know it's a mistake while I'm doing it but can't pull back. Her attitude is so confident, and it challenges you to follow sometimes but you feel flattered and proud when you do. I guess I'm the retriever puppy of writers and she's the Maine coon cat.

Susan | 10032 comments Mod
I think this is a problem with many modern writers, Abigail, and a reason why I enjoy GA authors. They feel free to chuck in some quotes, French or Latin, without caring whether readers get them or not. Even if I don't get them, I get the meaning, usually and, when I was a child and embarking on such books for the same time, I just glossed over them and moved on. Now, there is a feeling the reader needs to have everything explained. I blame creative writing classes for much of this- a personal dislike of mine and one of the reasons, I feel, why so many books now are so formulaic...

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 768 comments I often see criticism on Goodreads, that the book has too much foreign language stuff in it (Dorothy Dunnett comes in for a lot of stick for this ...), or that it uses words the reader is not familiar with.

Janet and John books used words the reader was not familiar with - that's how we expand our vocabulary. With Kindle it is exceptionally easy to look up a word, but even as a child we could turn to a dictionary, if you couldn't make it out from context, as Susan says.

The current generation does seem to want to be spoonfed.

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 821 comments I so agree! I love finding just the right word for things, and using it, but people do balk. I try always to contextualize the word so readers can just plow through, but in language and plot twists alike, people seem to hate being surprised by the unfamiliar. It's as if they resent not being coddled, or flattered by the feeling that they already know everything they need to know in the world.

One of the reasons I enjoy Michael Innes so much, especially in his alter ego J. I. M. Stewart, is that he uses over-the-top rafts of words I don't know! I've stopped nominating him here because only a couple of people appear to enjoy him, so I just go off and reread him on my own. I do emerge for Allingham or Sayers, though.

And speaking of Dunnett, Rosina, are her Dolly books too far out of period? It has been ages since I read those.

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 768 comments I have just finished Lament for a MakerLament for a Maker, where half the reviews deplore the sections written in Scots. Have you tried Iain Pears' art history books - starting with The Raphael Affair? Not Golden Age, but in much the same vein as the Appleby books.

I don't think the Dolly books are quite Golden Age detective stories - although they might be just on the edge. I've re-read a couple of them recently.

message 12: by Jill (last edited May 18, 2020 07:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2066 comments I do so agree with you and Rosina about the vocabulary. I love to find new words, and when I can try to bring them into a conversation, so that I can fix them into my memory. I'm not keen on rambling though, I mean by using several words where one or two will suffice,

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 821 comments Yes, I like Iain Pears as well!

Frances (francesab) | 384 comments Interesting thread-reminds me of how publishers felt they had to "translate" the Harry Potter books into "American" English-Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone became Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the American market, things like bin had to be translated to trash and jumper to sweater.

One of the joys for me as a Canadian child in the 60's was reading books from England and realizing that there were differences in our English, which represented that there were differences in our culture as well. I think North American children would have been every bit as capable today of figuring out these differences and that would have been a little bit of extra magic for them.

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 821 comments I was blessed with a guardian who gave me British children's fiction in British editions, so that when I went to school (we were in California) I had to learn American vocabulary and usage almost like a different language.

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 768 comments What I find really irritating are books (historical novels are prone to this) where every strange word is followed by its definition, or preceded by it. It jars!

"She was dressed in a black woollen dress or stola, a long crimson mantle, her palla covered her hair as she emerged from the tablinum, the reception room."

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 821 comments Arg, yes! I just read an otherwise delightful novel, Ayesha at Last, set in an expat Indian-Muslim community in Toronto, that felt compelled to explain like that in the early going. So awkward!

message 18: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8974 comments Mod
I really enjoyed this book, although I did find some of the twists of the plot a bit difficult to follow at times, not helped by listening on audible - but I just didn't worry about it too much and enjoyed the ride.

I know I'd read it before, but the only part I really remembered, apart from the sweet ending with Amanda and their son, was the taxi ride with no handles on the inside doors and the taxi going the wrong way - strange how sometimes a particular section of a book sticks in the mind.

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 821 comments I loved the ending, too. And the taxi ride is very memorable--that would be such a scary moment, and Campion takes it in stride like a true hero!

message 20: by Judy (last edited May 22, 2020 06:14AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8974 comments Mod
Abigail wrote: "I didn't suspect the dowager marchioness because she seemed like a type Allingham has an affection for. Suspected the secretary right along, perhaps from memories of a long-ago reading, but had for..."

I completely failed to suspect the secretary, but I thought the dowager was just too batty to be involved.

Did anybody think Johnny Carados really was guilty of something? I became increasingly convinced he was implicated in some way, and that he was going to redeem himself by dying at the end - I was pleased to be wrong.

I should have realised it wasn't very likely that a heroic pilot would turn out to be tied up with the enemy in any way, and especially so in a novel written in wartime. Great comments about the portrayal of the war, Abigail - I will go over and read your full review now.

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 821 comments I din't think Carados was guilty either, and the notion that he would kill himself over the guilt of someone associated with him, or a false accusation, or whatever it was that motivated him, was just too preux chevalier for me and convinced me I will never understand the ways of aristocrats.

I had thought Ricky Silva might be the guilty party because of his excessive devotion to pretty things and because in this era it's so often the gay person who's the bad guy doomed to die. Fooled me again, Margery!

Sandy | 2794 comments Mod
By the time I finished this I absolutely loved it. The plot was much too convoluted for me, or Campion, to understand what was going on, then Allingham tied it all together. I really like her portrayal of Campion with his eagerness to get back to his family, and Lugg with his devotion to his pig. I assume the pig is destined to be bacon and hope Lugg can get her into a breeding program.

As much as I suspected anyone, it was the couple who lived in the house, probably because they seemed the most competent.

I was very afraid Johnny would die, but not because I thought he was guilty of anything but because he was so worn down. And, he expected to die as well as that was why he was going to marry the sweet young thing. So glad he came back to his actress.

The ending with Campion and his family was touching, with his son already measuring footprints.

Wonderful story.

message 23: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick | 110 comments I thoroughly enjoyed this. I particularly enjoyed the towards-the-end-of-the-wartime-London atmosphere and the way everything tied together at the end. Once I knew the secretary was married I could only see Bush fitting the bill and logically being the mastermind.

I think P.D. James is particularly keen on expanding our vocabulary.

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 768 comments Nick wrote: "I think P.D. James is particularly keen on expanding our vocabulary."

Readers in the days when Coroner's Pidgen was written were, I think, more used to a wide vocabulary, or at least prepared to do the heavy lifting of looking up strange words in a dictionary. Even people who had left school at 14 (my parents) read widely and intelligently.

message 25: by Nick (last edited Jun 08, 2020 02:35PM) (new) - added it

Nick | 110 comments Rosina - Reader’s Digest always had a section called “It pays to enrich your word vocabulary”. This obviously means enriching one’s life rather than one’s bank balance. Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” teaches us that we live our lives in the context of interpreted sense data. I think part of this is the subtleties of meaning we associate with the words we use in association with experience. For example, we experience autumn with our brain processing the light received by our eyes to produce the qualia of rich autumnal colours etc.. But the sound, the feel and the associations of words we might use to reflect upon that experience, e.g. “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, enrich that experience. So a wider range of words has the potential to enrich our life.
However, I think there is a caveat: The enrichment comes from the enhanced, subtle associations of meaning. This is necessarily developed by words being used in a variety of contexts, so that their meaning is deepened. A one off obscure word used by P.D. James doesn’t really achieve this. It’s when this enlarged vocabulary becomes used in a variety of contexts that it’s meaning is deepened by the associations that are made. True enrichment comes from an expanded and deepened vocabulary in this way. Thus reading a variety of literature where we come across such vocabulary is what really enriches. As we age and aspects of our life (perhaps) deteriorate, this is one way in which our life can become ever richer.

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 768 comments An enriched vocabulary allows one both to understand the nuances of others' writing, and to choose the mot juste for one's one speech or writings. It is why we can look at a Thesaurus, and choose just the word we want from a plethora of almost-synonyms - and why that choice will be appreciated by others, with its nuances.

But I think you mean Allingham, not James ...

message 27: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick | 110 comments Rosina - I completely agree. But of course that communication of nuance depends upon the words conveying that nuance having the same nuanced meaning for writer and reader, which in turn depends upon those words having been encountered in the same/similar contexts and thus with the same/similar associated meanings.

(I did mean James rather than Allingham in the context of my original comment which added to the discussion of Allingham’s vocabulary that James seems to enjoy enhancing our vocabulary, but I could equally have referred to Allingham when making my point.)

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