Sunday, June 12, 2016

The White Cottage Mystery - Margery Allingham

Golden age crime is very much on my mind right now, yesterday I went to Bodies From The Library yesterday at the British Library to listen to all sorts of people discuss it, and seeing as vintage crime is enjoying such a moment theres a tremendous choice of titles to enjoy. It doesn't do any harm that most of the covers have tremendous shelf appeal as well.

'The White Cottage Mystery' is a classic example of cover love - I saw it, wanted it, sensibly checked I didn't already have it, bought it, and because it was short managed to read it on yesterdays train journeys between London and Leicester.

Uninterrupted reading time is one of the pleasures of travelling by train (or as of later today, plane) and Allingham proved an agreeable companion. I read most of the Campion series in my late teens (after some TV adaptations) but haven't really revisited her since.

'The White Cottage Mystery' was her first detective story, originally published as a serial in the Daily Express in 1927 and published as a book a year later. The epilogue brings it up to 1927, but most of the action takes place around 1920.

It's a pleasing mystery; a deeply unpleasant man is shot and there are a handful of suspects all happy to say they wanted him dead, the problem for Chief Inspector Challenor is that though they all wanted to do it, it seems non of them actually did, so who does that leave?

The solution is interesting, dramatically it works really well, but I'd be interested to know if it would work practically without immediately giving away the culprit - not that it really matters. Much more important is that this was a rattling good read (complete with shadowy secret societys in the very best tradition) and that it's an opportunity to see what Allingham is doing at the beginning of her writing career. Here she's using some well worn devices but there are all sorts of interesting ideas bubbling under the surface. All in all a very enjoyable way to while away a couple of idle hours.


  1. How sensible of you to check that you didn't already own the book; I have, on more occasions than I should like to admit to, bought books already on my shelves.

    The dust cover is very appealing.

  2. I had cover love too & enjoyed it as a light read, especially the sections in France, but I thought it definitely showed it was a first piece of writing - the stereotypes began to grate on me after a while.

  3. I have this (as yet unread) on my kindle but now I have total real book cover lust...