So 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
First published in the UK, 1969
This edition Penguin Books
Source: Past Offences library
Final destination: A keeper