The Tiger in the Smoke

by Margery Allingham

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This is only my second Allingham and is reputed to be her best work.

Based on this I may not go to any extraordinary effort to find any more of this author’s works.

The beginning was quite wonderful where we are introduced to the widowed Meg and her new swain Geoffrey.

Allingham in a little note before the book begins says she means London is “The Smoke.” But it certainly feels like the “pea-souper” fogs are The Smoke and it becomes almost another character in this book which is set just after World War Two.

Wonderful characters are introduced and there are many vividly written descriptive scenes, but some plot details don’t make much sense and there are long periods where the story drags. I didn’t have any trouble putting this book aside for days.Above all even Meg’s dead husband treats her like a child and, in a letter assumes she will always be a child – so patronising

A promising idea let down by an untidy execution.

6 thoughts on “The Tiger in the Smoke”

  1. If you‘re familiar with the series it *is* a great book, but I‘m not surprised that it‘s basically inaccessible if read as a first or second experience with Allingham — it‘s not a good book to start with, not least because she assumes familiarity with her work to such an extent that those who are not won‘t even notice the plethora of in-series references (let alone make sense of those that they do notice). Personally I prefer other Golden Age mystery series to Allingham‘s, but I‘m still sorry to hear you got off with a bad start with it. A better book to introduce the series (and Allingham‘s writing) — and see whether it works for you — might be „Police at the Funeral“, which is basically a standard country house mystery, or „The Case of the Late Pig“ (ditto, though it‘s unusual for the series in that it‘s the only book written from Campion‘s perspective).

    Outside the Campion realm, there are also a number of short stories (included in classic mystery anthologies) that I rather like; in fact, I think the short story was Allingham‘s true literary form. As you noted, she had a great way of creating atmosphere — and in the short form, also of building up to a surprise conclusion / reversal in the way that a mystery short story typically requires. There‘s a bit of O. Henry to many of her short stories in both atmosphere and ending.

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    1. Hi Themis
      Thanks for your message.
      I have an anthology of short stories that I am hoping to read next month. The Allingham story is “The Same to Us” & it is very short – only 5 pages long. Maybe I will like her short stories better!

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      1. I had to think a bit whether I‘ve read this one … though I believe I have; if I‘m right, the most notable feature of this particular story is its (at the very least implicit) comment on the casual racism of 1930s English society.
        Which one is the anthology you‘re planning to read — one of the entries in the „Bodies in the Library“ series edited by Tony Medawar? If memory serves, that just may be where I‘ve come across this particular story, too. (And speaking of classic mystery anthologies, there are also two very neat little Christmas mysteries by Allingham included in the BLCC Christmas anthologies edited by Martin Edwards („On Christmas Day in the Morning“ in the last one, „A Surprise for Christmas an Other Stories“ and „The Man With the Sack“ IIRC in „Crimson Snow“).
        One of my favorite short stories by her, though, is a non-Campion story; an inverted mystery-style take on the (true crime) „brides in the bath“ case. (I‘m going to have to look up the title of this one.) It‘s got a deliciously evil final twist. 😈

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