The Allingham Casebook (Margery Allingham)

By Margery Allingham

First published: UK, Chatto & Windus, 1969


Contents

  • Tall Story
  • Three is a Lucky Number
  • The Villa Marie Celeste
  • The Psychologist
  • Little Miss Know-All
  • One Morning They’ll Hang Him
  • The Lieabout
  • Face Value
  • Evidence in Camera
  • Joke Over
  • The Lying-in-State
  • The Pro and the Con
  • Is There a Doctor in the House?
  • The Borderline Case
  • They Never Get Caught
  • The Mind’s Eye Mystery
  • Mum Knows Best
  • The Snapdragon and the C.I.D.

My review

A rather uneven posthumous collection of short stories, in which the quality has nothing to do with the presence of Mr. Campion or not.  It is true that the two best stories in the collection, a tight little puzzle called “One Morning They’ll Hang Him” and a classic of the false alibi entitled “The Border-line Case,” feature Campion, but several of the worst are also Campion tales.  “Mum Knows Best” and “Joke Over” are slight and forgettable affairs.

Nor does length have anything to do with the quality.  “Tall Story,” the very short short that opens the collection, is just long enough to be interesting, and is quite amusing and ingenious; while “The Snapdragon and the CID,” a variation on “The Border-line Case,” handles its complex plot successfully without recourse to obscurantism.

“The Pro and the Con,” a very early Campion tale, similar to those collected in Mr. Campion and Others, is a most amusing tale about a confidence trick; it is a thriller but more solid (i.e., less consciously “artistic”) than many of the later tales.

On the other hand, three much longer Campion tales are far from successful.  “The Villa Marie Celeste” has an intriguing situation (ordinary couple vanish without trace from suburban home), but the solution is disappointing.

“Little Miss Know-all” concerns the theft of a mink from a watched flat, hardly a crime to excite the reader, and, from the humdrum nature of its solution, hardly one to excite the author either.

“Face Value” is too opaque to be successful; there is apparently some ingenuity in the account of murder and impersonation, but circumlocution and obfuscation impede coherence and comprehension, and several questions are left dangling at the end: who is the woman at Brabbington?  Why does Sir Theo behave as he does?