The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery AllinghamThe Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham
Series: Albert Campion #14
Published by Carroll & Graf Publishers on June 1, 1995
Source: Purchased
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 232
Format: Paperback
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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.

About Margery Allingham

Margery Allingham

Margery Louise Allingham (May 20, 1904 – June 30, 1966) was born in Ealing, London 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. 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.


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