Title: The Tiger in the Smoke (Albert Campion #14)
Author: Margery Allingham
Published on: first published in 1952
Genre: Crime and Mystery
Meg Elginbrodde, a young war widow whose husband – Martin, was presumed dead, has been receiving photographs that suggest that Martin is still alive. As a thick fog that reduces visibility to hardly a meter engulfs the city of London, Meg meets her cousin, the detective Albert Campion, and Inspector Charles Luke, at the train station to meet the individual who claims to be her late husband. Meg recognizes the man as her husband but he flees. As he is caught, he claims that his name is Duds, a small-time criminal, who has somehow obtained Martin’s coat. Duds is arrested but soon released without charge.
Geoffrey Levitt, Meg’s fiance`, is a curious man. He’s madly in love with Meg and doesn’t want to lose her. He follows Duds to a bar and pesters him about the existence of Martin. Before he can learn anything, the two men are attacked by a group of band members. As Campion and Luke are called in to investigate a murder in the alley, they see that the victim is none other than Duds. Levitt goes missing.
Meanwhile, Jack Havoc, a most-wanted criminal, has escaped from the gaol and is creating a havoc in the city of London. With four people dead and Havoc’s prints being found at the murder scene, the police is baffled. A dangerous criminal is out i the dense fog and he won’t stop until he finds what he is looking for.
This is the first Margery Allingham book that I read and I really have not-so-good opinions about it. This book is supposedly J.K.Rowling’s favorite crime novel. The book’s also been made into a movie. But all these things aren’t going to affect my opinion.
First things first, the book claims to be Albert Campion series #14 but Campion has nothing more than a guest appearance in the story. Also, the story had a wonderful start but as it proceeds, it takes a detour. A dense fog with very low visibility, a blackmailer claiming to be Meg’s dead husband (soon after her wedding is announced), a petty thief, a band formed by ex-soldiers and a insane criminal out of the jail – all these sound to form a foundation of one of the most interesting novels ever, don’t they?
As Geoffrey is kidnapped by the band members, the story is inclined towards their lives. What they say, what they do and how they were associated with Martin Elginbrodde and Jack Havoc years ago. Here and there, one gets to read about Canon Avril (Meg’s father), Mrs. Cash and others. For a short story, there seemed to be a lot many characters.
The story reaches a climax and two chapters later, it ends! I felt it was too soon an ending to a supposedly interesting novel. I wouldn’t have minded the drag with the band members and stuff, provided the ending was good. It was a unique ending, I wouldn’t say otherwise, but it was not up to my liking. It is not wrong to say that I expected a bit of action-drama like scene, is it?
The writing was imaginative and creative. The command over the language was excellent. Though, I would like to say that this book is not for beginners. The sentences are a tad complex and not easy to read and understand for those who have beginner level knowledge of English. Also, like me, if you are new to Allingham’s works, I would recommend you not to start with this book or you would be disappointed. I do have plans to read the other books in this series. I borrowed the 3-stories set from Kindle Unlimited. The set contains The Tiger in the Smoke, Sweet Danger and Traitor’s purse. The next book that I would read would be Traitor’s Purse and I hope I won’t be disappointed.