Margery Allingham: The Allingham Case-book

Allingham_Case_BookSo I was all set to submit this for the #1947book challenge, when I noticed that rather than Mr Campion’s Casebook (1947), I had been reading The Allingham Case-book (1969). Still, that’s no bad thing if you like her short stories.


The diffident detective Albert Campion appears in around half of the eighteen stories in this collection. There are murderers professional and amateur, confidence tricksters, sadists, burglars and police aplenty – mainly the magnetic Inspector Charlie Luke. In ‘Tall Story’ we find out how Luke’s height helped him get his first job in the C.I.D. ‘The Case of the Villa Marie Celeste’ has him consulting Campion about the mysterious disappearance of an ordinary young couple living in a neighbourly suburban street. ‘Little Miss Know-All’ pits Luke and Campion against a quiz-show champion who claims to have lost her fur coat. ‘Joke Over’ has Luke looking for a missing novelties supplier who appears to have gone to lunch in the fourth dimension. We even get to meet Luke’s old mum.

Other police friends also show up. Stanislaus Oates grandly gives Campion the credit for solving an impossible crime in ‘The Border Line Case’. In ‘One Morning They’ll Hang Him’ Campion is consulted by another policeman, the punctilious DDI Kenny, in the matter of a shell-shocked veteran, his new wife, and his recently murdered aunt.

Other stories are one-shots. ‘Three is a Lucky Number’ sees a serial killer get his comeuppance. ‘The Psychologist’ shows Allingham’s flair for London characters at full stretch in a tale of Soho restaurateurs. One story, ‘Face Value’ completely foxed me – I read the ending twice but still didn’t follow. If anybody understood it can they let me know?

Along the way, Allingham gives us some pen portraits:

Chippy is a thin rag of a man with a surprisingly large square head in which, somewhere low down in front, has been inserted the bright predatory face of an evil child.

She was smart enough to look at but you felt her skin was stretched over solid brass.

She also employs a surprising range of voices – a precise and self-important businessman in ‘Face Value’, a fussy and snobbish newspaper man in ‘Evidence in Camera’, a hard-working fashion designer in ‘The Psychologist’, a young-and-in-love child psychologist in ‘The Mind’s Eye Mystery’. But in almost every story some of her understanding of people shines through:

There are people who can stand debt the same way that some men can stand drink. It may undermine their constitutions but it does not make them openly shabby.

Believes he’s God?’ Campion suggested.
Kenny shook his head. ‘ She doesn’t care if he isn’t,’ he said sadly.

A very good collection.


The Allingham Case-Book
Margery Allingham
First published in the UK, 1969
This edition Penguin Books
222 pages
ISBN: 9780140231526
Source: Past Offences library
Final destination: A keeper

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
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4 Responses to Margery Allingham: The Allingham Case-book

  1. richmonde says:

    Baffles me too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bev Hankins says:

    I don’t think I’ve read any of Allingham’s short stories–so far all I’ve done are novels. I need to fix that….

    Like

  3. Philip says:

    My conclusion is that Sir Theo understands fully what has happened. His wartime dalliance with the woman presented as Mrs Parish reignites his pleasure in her company. He really hasn’t forgotten her and has no wish to see her charged in a murder case. His subsequent actions are entirely to cover her. Parish and she are to take their chances in South America, rather than in the Old Bailey.

    Campion knows that Sir Theo is covering up. His statement (of Sir Theo’s memory for faces) is “A great natural gift, Sir Theo – but it’s not your only one you know” refers to Sir Theo successfully lying for the woman’s sake.

    Which brings us to the flower shop girl. Parish is rumoured to have had affairs with shopgirls (and others). What more natural than this is the same woman he saw on the night of the murder? The one thing that is wrong is the hair colour; but that is suspiciously black, the blackest Sir Theo has seen on a European. Dyed perhaps? Everything else about her appearance and manner is changeable. But not her movement, the quickness of her step, the brightness in the eyes, subsequently kept downcast when she sees who has entered her shop. Campion remarks that he doesn’t expect Sir Theo to see her again, anticipating she will flee with Parish.

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  4. Philip says:

    “His wartime dalliance with the woman presented as Mrs Parish reignites his pleasure in her company”. Posting too late at night: 30 years time difference so not literally his paramour! But the resemblance – it’s the face he has never forgotten – and his own writing of the pleasure of feeling her hands in his, the glow in her face and the shine in her eyes confirm the infatuation. Everything else still follows.

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