Series: Albert Campion #14
Published by Carroll & Graf Publishers on June 1, 1995
Genres: Vintage Mystery
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A fog is creeping through the weary streets of London—so too are whispers that the Tiger is back in town, undetected by the law, untroubled by morals. And the rumors are true: Jack Havoc, charismatic outlaw, knife-wielding killer, and ingenious jail-breaker, is on the loose once again.
As Havoc stalks the smog-cloaked alleyways of the city, it falls to Albert Campion to hunt down the fugitive and put a stop to his rampage—before it’s too late . . .
The Tiger in the Smoke is an intelligent crime novel set just a few years after World War II. It’s a tough time in London. Many people are quite poor and many ex-servicemen are having a difficult time. London is also being plagued by a pea-soup fog, which lends a darkness and opaqueness to many scenes in the story. The story starts with Meg, who is soon to be married, has been receiving photos showing, in theory, her husband, who was presumed killed in the war, walking around modern-day London. She calls on Campion to help her. At first, the mystery seems to be who is planning on blackmailing her, but soon it becomes more of a thriller than a mystery. We know who the bad guy is: Havoc, an escaped convict, a psychopath. The man sending Meg the photos had been one of his lackeys. Now, it becomes a race for the detectives to catch him before there are more deaths.
Campion is more of a secondary character here, advising and introducing, but in the background of the investigation. Most of the scenes feature Luke, the main detective, and Levett, Meg’s fiance, who is smart, calm man. Meg’s father, Canon Avril, was my favorite character. He’s an intelligent and clear-headed clergyman, but his point of view is off from most peoples. The best scene in the book is a conversation in the church between Avril and Havoc. Avril is the only person who doesn’t believe Havoc is beyond redemption, and the conversation has interesting consequences, both for the men and the plot.
The story unfolds slowly until we are eventually given the motive, a motive that goes back to the war, to a group of men who were involved in a clandestine and violent special operation that bound them together and gave them a dream to pursue.
Allingham gives her characters history, depth, motives, and a rationale for their actions. There are some times when characters put themselves in danger, whether purposefully or not, but their actions make sense for who they are.
There is a lot of action but also thoughtfulness. It works well as a stand-alone too.