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Authors: Margery Allingham

The Tiger In the Smoke

BOOK: The Tiger In the Smoke
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CONTENTS

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Margery Allingham

Dedication

Title Page

Introduction

 
1.  Ghosts

 
2.  At Home

 
3.  The Spoor

 
4.  The Joker

 
5.  Brother Doll

 
6.  The Secret

 
7.  The Usurer

 
8.  The Spoor Again

 
9.  In the Forests of the Night

10. The Long Spoon

11. The Tiddington Plan

12. Official Action

13. The Custodian

14. The Discerning Heart

15. Poor People

16. Assignment

17. On the Staircase

18. The Wheel Turns

19. The Mystery of Sainte-Odile-sur-Mer

Also available in Vintage Murder Mysteries

More Vintage Murder Mysteries

Copyright

About the Book

Agatha Christie called her ‘a shining light'. Have you discovered Margery Allingham, the ‘true queen' of the classic murder mystery?

Jack Havoc, jail-breaker and knife artist, is on the loose on the streets of London once again. In the faded squares of shabby houses, in the furtive alleys and darkened pubs, the word is out that the Tiger is back in town, more vicious and cunning than ever.

It falls to private detective Albert Campion to pit his wits against the killer and hunt him down through the city's November smog before it is too late.

As urbane as Lord Wimsey … as ingenious as Poirot … Meet one of crime fiction's Great Detectives, Mr Albert Campion

About the Author

Margery Allingham was born in London in 1904. She attended the Perse School in Cambridge before returning to London to the Regent Street Polytechnic. Her father – author H.J. Allingham – encouraged her to write, and was delighted when her first story was published when she was thirteen in her aunt's magazine,
Mother and Home
.

Her first novel was published in 1923 when she was nineteen. In 1928 she published her first detective story,
The White Cottage Mystery
, which had been serialised in the
Daily Express
. The following year, in
The Crime at Black Dudley
, she introduced the character who was to become the hallmark of her writing – 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, such as
Hide My Eyes
and
The Tiger in the Smoke
, 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.

ALSO BY MARGERY ALLINGHAM
IN THE ALBERT CAMPION SERIES

The Crime at Black Dudley

Mystery Mile

Look to the Lady

Police at the Funeral

Sweet Danger

Death of a Ghost

Dancers in Mourning

The Case of the Late Pig

The Fashion in Shrouds

Mr Campion and Others

Black Plumes

Traitor's Purse

Coroner's Pidgin

The Casebook of Mr Campion

More Work for the Undertaker

The Beckoning Lady

Hide my Eyes

The China Governess

The Mind Readers

A Cargo of Eagles

VINTAGE MURDER MYSTERIES

With the sign of a human skull upon its back and a melancholy shriek emitted when disturbed, the Death's Head Hawkmoth has for centuries been a bringer of doom and an omen of death – which is why we chose it as the emblem for our Vintage Murder Mysteries.

Some say that its appearance in King George Ill's bedchamber pushed him into madness. Others believe that should its wings extinguish a candle by night, those nearby will be cursed with blindness. Indeed its very name,
Acherontia atropos
, delves into the most sinister realms of Greek mythology: Acheron, the River of Pain in the underworld, and Atropos, the Fate charged with severing the thread of life.

The perfect companion, then, for our Vintage Murder Mysteries sleuths, for whom sinister occurrences are never far away and murder is always just around the corner …

This book is for
SALLY REID

Only the most pleasant characters
in this book are portraits of living
people and the events here recorded
unfortunately never took place

Introduction

—

‘The ancient smell of evil, acrid and potent as the stench of fever, came creeping through the gentle house to him, defiling as it passed.'

THAT SENTENCE SETS
the tone of this masterpiece, Margery Allingham's finest book and one of the greatest crime thrillers ever written.
The Tiger in the Smoke
is not a plot-driven, easy-read detective story, as enjoyable as a cup of tea in an armchair by the fire, and slipping down just as pleasantly. It is very different, and far more serious. It does have a detective – Allingham's Albert Campion, plus an array of policemen from London's CID, and it does have quite a convoluted plot. But those are almost asides to this dark and often frightening book. At its heart is indeed ‘the ancient smell of evil' in the shape of ruthless murderer, Jack Havoc, and of the albino pack-leader Tiddy Doll. There are brutal, even gratuitous murders, by hideous knifing and beating, and we learn fairly quickly who committed them. But this is not a whodunit, it is a why-dunnit, a complex novel of character. It is also, at its core, about the essential Biblical, and specifically, the Miltonian, conflict between good and evil: the devil in the shape of Jack Havoc, and an angel, the saintly Canon Avril.

There are not many crime novels more genuinely frightening and fewer that can be read and re-read without boredom. Pick up most detective novels by Golden Age writers – Allingham was one of the best of those – wondering if you have read it before, and within a few pages, if you discover that you have, you will cast it aside. You know who did it, why and how, and you could not be less interested in finding out all over again. One of the marks of a good novel of any kind, is that it yields more with each re-reading. The workings of the plot of
The Tiger in the Smoke
, once known are known for good and another reading simply kick-starts the memory. It is everything else that bears the weight of several readings.

Margery Allingham, like Dickens, was a London-lover, and kept a flat there even when she lived mainly in an Essex village. Like Dickens, and many writers before and after her, she enjoyed simply walking about the city, looking, listening, taking in. She sat in tea-shops or on benches or in churchyards, and people gravitated to her and then they talked. She undoubtedly lent a sympathetic ear but the writer in her was working away all the time, storing phrases, conversations, details. Secrets. London worked its way into the heart of many of her books, and especially into
The Tiger in the Smoke
. It became a character, just as it is in Dickens's
Bleak House
or
Our Mutual Friend
or
Little Dorrit
. Its ways and weathers, its courts and alleyways and squares and hidden side-streets, affected those who lived and worked among them, and helped to form them. Even the policemen in this thriller have their patch of London woven through them and the view they take of life and crime. They know it back to front, as Allingham did. Only then could she weave and enmesh her book and its characters with the city in the confident way she does.

The London of
Tiger
is the London of light and dark in many senses – the good and evil men and women, their souls and their deeds, are mirrored by the two faces of the city. Canon Avril's vicarage is warm, comfortable and comforting, an oasis of muddled and challenged but essentially happy extended family life, as well as the place where church mingles with domesticity and is the homely background to the vicar's own, slightly eccentric brand of holiness and spirituality. And then there is the other London, where a rag-tag street band of ex-soldiers and vagrants live in a bleak cellar when they are not wandering the streets playing a cacophony of instruments and where they go in fear of their leader, the albino Tiddy Doll. There are the dark side-alleys where a man can be trapped and murdered, the soul-less public houses where people meet swiftly and secretly, and the great railway stations, filled with the noise and steam of trains and passengers spilling from them, where a small-time criminal is masquerading as a dead army officer for purposes which are unclear – not least to him. Overall, there is the fog, a Dickensian ‘London Particular', spreading like a stain, insinuating itself into every crack and crevice, muffling and blinding and confusing, making the work of the police hunting a murderer twice as hard. The fog is sinister and frightening. And anything may happen in it and be concealed, secrets, evil deeds, swift, cunning movements. The fog gets into nostrils and lungs and eyes – and in some strange way, into hearts and minds, too. It is more, far more, than merely a tiresome feature of winter weather in the great city.

In real life, criminals are rarely very interesting and certainly, unless they are of the charming-psychopath type, rarely intriguing or attractive – but detective fiction usually benefits from having a murderer who exerts a terrible fascination, and in no book of Margery Allingham's is it more true than this one. The setting is so powerful, and many of the subsidiary characters so idiosyncratic and interesting, that the central character of the villain has to make a very strong impact. Jack Havoc stands up to everything. He is her most repellent, dangerous, evil, and unusual killer, a man with a wounding childhood, and a strange past history, without emotion or empathy or conscience, and yet not entirely without humanity, cold-blooded, shocking, brutal, and yet perhaps, just perhaps, redeemable. Canon Avril believes so, as he believes is true of every human being, and in the magnificent scene in which he finally comes face to face with Havoc in the dark church, the battle between the two men, the great Miltonic battle, all but proves him right.

But if Havoc is an outstanding creation, the street band – almost a single character – is Allingham's stroke of genius. At a first reading, we may fail to notice them as they are slipped in here and there, heard from a distance, or from somewhere inside, as they march past with their hideous noise, which could never be dignified with the name of music, and the clatter of their collecting tins. They are part of the London street scene and din. They go past the pub in the fog, close to the alley in which Havoc's first victim lies dead, and turn up among the stalls and shoppers of the foggy little street market, on their way to the cellar they call home. Gradually, it dawns on us that this is no bit of local colour, and the moment we come close to the band, and especially to the poor doomed dwarf, and to hang-leader, we receive the full, shocking implication of their presence and purpose. Tiddy Doll, the albino leader, is a grotesque villain worthy of a James Bond novel, with cunning but no intelligence, and a sadistic anticipation of any potential for violence, especially if it takes the form of torture. Jack Havoc is a ruthless and efficient murderer, who uses his knife swiftly and expertly, to kill. He is not especially stimulated by inflicting pain for its own sake and perhaps, for that reason only, he is a better man than his inferior and minion, Tiddy.

BOOK: The Tiger In the Smoke
13.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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