Saturday, November 6, 2021


Five Books does "The Best Wartime Mystery Books." The war is World War II. I've read, and have possessed, two of them, and am familiar with the author of a third, Michael Gilbert. The familiar ones are Agatha Christie's N or M?, one of the Tommy and Tuppence novels, pretty lighthearted, and Margery Allingham’s Traitor’s Purse (1941). A friend introduced me to Allingham while I was still pretty young and her books remain favorites.
.... It features her regular detective Albert Campion, who she’d been writing about since the late 1920s. He’s in, I think, at least ten books through the 1920s and 1930s. At the beginning, she’s writing him as almost a parody of an aristocratic amateur sleuth. He’s very silly. That slowly morphs into him becoming a more serious, rounded character. His silliness becomes a facade that he puts on when he doesn’t want people to realize that he’s actually very astute.

What’s so interesting about this book is that she completely formally deconstructs the detective novel as people have known it to date. It begins with Campion waking up in hospital with total amnesia. He doesn’t know who he is, or where he is, or why he’s there. He’s had an accident, he’s suffered a head injury, and he has no idea what’s going on. But he just has this overwhelming feeling that there’s something he’s supposed to be doing — something really important. He doesn’t know what it is. He has to piece together his own identity, and the case that he must be working on, from what he overhears other people saying and from contextual clues, and from who comes to see him in hospital. He’s solving the mystery of himself at the same time as trying to solve a wartime mystery. ....

...J.K. Rowling has also cited Allingham as her favourite of all the Golden Age crime writers. Allingham wasn’t content to just churn out books in the same old classic mould. She was always trying to do something a bit different each time. .... (more)
Five Books: "The Best Wartime Mystery Books."

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