The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham
So how are we all doing?
I ask this question, because here in the Uk it has been an emotional and strange week. People have carried on with their business as normal, shops have been open and businesses operating. We have chatted with neighbours, enjoyed exercise classes and spoken with loved ones. But there is an element of something lost.
The TV is filled with scenes of pomp and pageantry, we see soldiers standing guard around the coffin of someone who meant a lot, and represented different things to different people. I find myself close to tears sometimes for no reason, our favourite soap operas all mark the occasion and on Monday, as a nation we close down the country for a bit to say goodbye.
This week saw the publication of 'The Bullet That Missed' by Richard Osman (I've already got my copy!). Mr Osman sends out a newsletter, sometimes with a quiz or a competition or to let us know how his writing is going. But this week, he forewent all of that to say, and I'm paraphrasing here, it's ok to be in mourning and for life to continue. To still laugh, see friends, think about a nice piece of cake and a good book. He ends by saying 'however you're feeling, I promise you won't be the only one'.
And so, below is the review I originally was going to publish today, but just wanted to chat first and say I hope you're all ok.
One of the best things about Autumn is the moment when you realise there is a chill in the air. This might be a frosty morning, or just a hint of it being an extra cold day. Lorelai Gilmore in Stars Hollow was able to smell snow, but I swear I am able to sniff Autumn out. It's all bonfires, cool air and is usually followed by the urge to put on a pair of knitted bed-socks and complete a jigsaw. It also turns me to cosy crime, or should I say atmospheric crime and none come more atmospheric than The Tiger in the Smoke.
A fog is creeping through he weary streets of London. So too are whispers that the Tiger is back in town, undetected by the law, untroubled by the law, untroubled by morals. And the rumours 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 is too late...
I've kept coming across Margery Allingham in the marvellous British Crime Classics Series. A series of novels and collections of short stories in which Allingham's stories often make an appearance and are often the stand out story. Allingham's detective is Albert Campion and the novel is set much later that I realised., in post Second World War Britain. But there is more of a Victorian feel to this novel, with a sprinkling of Dickens' Oliver Twist. Think twisting streets, a maze of passageways and a street gang much akin to Fagin's boys.
The plot starts slowly, a young woman shortly to be married starts to receive recent photos of her long-dead husband. She enlists the help of Albert Campion to investigate, while her fiance is also undertaking his own investigation. During which he encounters and is subsequently kidnapped by a street gang who used to run with murderous criminal Jack Havoc.
Campion is a good detective, confident and thorough, slightly adventurous. The novel feels definitely one of class and a comment about the class system. campion's confidence comes ready made from his status as a member of the upper classes.
But it is the atmosphere of London that is the star of the show here. The thick pea-soup fog becoming a character as much as Campion and his family. We really do get a feel for the 1950s London, with fog to mask the streets, the street gang is allowed to conduct their business.
This was a good introduction to Margery Allingham and Albert Campion for me, and I do intend to read more.