Authors: Margery Allingham
Albert Campion sets
out to plumb the secrets of Saltey, an ancient hamlet on the Essex marshes. Once the haunt of smugglers, now it hides a secret rich and mysterious enough to trap all who enter â and someone in the village is willing to terrorise, murder and raise the very devil to keep that secret to themselves.
was born in London in 1904. She attended the Perse School in Cambridge before returning to London to the Regent Street Polytechnic. Her father â author H. J. Allingham â encouraged her to write, and was delighted when she contributed to her aunt's cinematic magazine,
The Picture Show
, at the age of eight.
Her first novel was published when she was seventeen. In 1928 she published her first detective story,
The White Cottage Mystery
, which had been serialised in the
The following year, in
The Crime at Black Dudley
, she introduced the character who was to become the hallmark of her writing â Albert Campion. Her novels heralded the more sophisticated suspense genre: characterised by her intuitive intelligence, extraordinary energy and accurate observation, they vary from the grave to the openly satirical, whilst never losing sight of the basic rules of the classic detective tale. Famous for her London thrillers, she has been compared to Dickens in her evocation of the city's shady underworld.
In 1927 she married the artist, journalist and editor Philip Youngman Carter. They divided their time between their Bloomsbury flat and an old house in the village of Tolleshunt D'Arcy in Essex. Margery Allingham died in 1966.
The Crime at Black Dudley
Look to the Lady
Police at the Funeral
Death of a Ghost
Dancers in Mourning
Flowers for the Judge
The Case of the Late Pig
Mr Campion and Others
The Fashion in Shrouds
The Casebook of Mr Campion
More Work for the Undertaker
The Tiger in the Smoke
The Beckoning Lady
Hide My Eyes
The China Governess
The Mind Readers
Crime and Mr Campion
The Return of Mr Campion
Mr Campion's Quarry
Mr Campion's Lucky Day
This book was left unfinished by Margery Allingham at the time of her death in June 1966. It has been completed by her husband Youngman Carter who had been her partner for nearly forty years and had helped to hatch many of her plots. The whole fabric of this story had been mapped out long before her death and the book has been finished by him at her specific request.
All the characters are fictitious and no reference to any person, living or dead, is intended.
The estuary, the village of Saltey, the Rattey river and the âback road' to London will not be found on any official map.
âBy this time the road was full of passengers, everyone furnish'd with no small appetite. Citizens in crowd, upon pads, hackneys and hunters, all upon the titup, as if he who rid not at a gallop was to forfeit his horse. Some spurred on with speed and cheerfulness, as if they never intended to come back again. Some rode double, some single. Every now and then a lady drop'd from her pillion, and another from her side-saddle, some showing the milky way to bliss to the company, which, tho' it made them blush, made us merry.
âHorses, coaches, carts, waggons and tumbrils fill'd the road, as if the whole town had been going to encamp; all occupy'd by men, women and children, rich, poor, gentle and simple, having all travelling conveniences suitable to their quality. In this order did we march, like Aaron's proselytes to worship the calf, till we came to the newrais'd fabric call'd Mobs Hole, in Wanstead Parish, where the beast was to be eaten.'
The London Spy
by Ned Ward
THE RAIN WAS
falling in a sweet relentless fashion as it does in spring in London and it was all very peaceful and pleasant if uncompromisingly wet. The voice in the car echoed the unhurried pace of the afternoon.
âI found this absurd place Saltey, you're so interested in, perfectly enchanting in an off-beat sort of way but I'm damned if I can tell you quite why.'
It was a young man talking to a middle-aged one. He was not being completely disingenuous, for subsequent generations seldom are with each other, but at least he was playing scrupulously fair.
âI realise that the whole townshipâor as you'd say, villageâpretends to be deeply and secretly wicked, which is naÃ¯ve and kind of endearing. I wish I had more to report on it,' he went on, âbut unfortunately its modern life appears to be almost entirely vegetable. If you were interested in its history I could do better. I'm very sure a full scale archaeological dig there would pay off, for one thing. But the living inhabitants are not exactly go ahead except for the couple at the pub who are working like hellâor at least the woman isâto get a little tourist trade.'
âIs she having any luck?'
The lighter voice of Mr Albert Campion betrayed interest. He had curled his long body in the passenger seat of the Lotus Elan and seemed anxious to talk.
The driver shook his head. âA littleâat weekends. The natives themselves don't respond to anything which looks new or difficult, however profitable. Their great interest is the contents of each other's wills. They sit around speculating for
hours and there's a grand frustration scene every time one gets published.'
âAn end will come to that, in due course,' said Mr Campion. âMark my words.'
âYou're telling me!' The driver laughed and slid down behind the wheel in an attempt to get a better view through the railings of the public gardens beside which they were parked. âAre we sitting here in the middle of London waiting for someone? Or do you just feel that this is the quietest place to talk?'
âIt has its advantages.' Campion surveyed the deserted scene with satisfaction. Lunch time was over and the streams of office workers had been sucked back into the tall buildings for another few hours before the next mass exodus. Although the Lotus was in one of the busiest parts of the town, between the University and the Oxford Street shopping centre, there was for the moment hardly a pedestrian in sight and the other cars parked regimentally at their meters were empty.
Mortimer Kelsey, Morty to his friends and the other members of his faculty at Vere University, Constance, New Jersey, appeared a happy man. A great deal about Britain struck him as funny after nearly a year's residence, but he was also deeply attracted by its ancient spell. Both the elegant car body and his casual clothes, conscious efforts in understatement without dullness, were custom built. His haircut was long for one country and short for the other and managed to make him look mildly distinguished. This was fair, for he was already a marked man among the newest crop of historians and he was one of that army of Western scholars who have discovered so much more about the cities of the old world than their inhabitants dream there is to know. He was in his mid-twenties, a good looking youngster with well shaped, compact bones, a deeply scored face which already showed signs of the notable scholar he would appear in later years.
He was lucky not to appear offensively intellectualâwhich is to say not at allâand he was not conceited although the
pundits expected interesting results from the piece of original research on which he was now engaged. His father was American, his mother English: both families unfashionably well endowed. Mr Campion had met him through his own son Rupert who was now working for an honours degree at Harvard.
The two men although very different in age had a good deal in common. Albert Campion, too, was tall and fair but he was over-thin and the careful veil of affable vacuity which had begun, like his large spectacles, as a protection and had become a second skin, had robbed him of good looks, whereas Morty's thick light brown hair had a wave in it and there was nothing bleak or colourless about his grey eyes.
In his own apologetic way Mr Campion was a celebrated figure. In his time he had performed a number of services for a great many causes. He was a negotiator and an unraveller of knots and there were still people who suspected, because of his war time activities, that he had a cloak and a dagger somewhere concealed. Those who disliked him complained that he seemed negligible until it was just too late.
At the moment he was looking out at the patch of rain-soaked London green which formed the centre of Killowen Square. The downpour which had persisted all morning was getting lighter but the air was soft as if there might be more rain to come.
âIf I should want you to go back to Saltey for a while, could you manage it?' he asked suddenly.
âI was hoping you'd say that. When will you know?' Morty's eagerness seemed a little surprising, even to himself, for he coloured faintly. âIt's got something,' he said defensively.
The older man continued to look out at the garden. The prospect was not imposing. Four wet asphalt paths met in the centre of a roundel of grass and the dripping plane trees in their scant shrouds of new green looked sparse and sodden. The only ornamental feature of the place was a tiny Victorian bandstand perched among regimented tulips. Constructed of
florid cast iron work, it was white painted, gay as a sunshade and just as silly on a rainy day. Mr Campion glanced over the empty garden to the immense wall of the buildings beyond.
âThat over-stuffed contraption squatting under the new skyscraper is Lugg's favourite hotel,' he remarked. âYou saw him down there, of course? He considers the old Ottoman is “quite the article”, which is his highest praise. In my father's day the valets there always ironed the laces when they cleaned the boots and a rope ladder was kept under every bed in case of fire. How is Lugg?'