Move over, Agatha Christie. You’ve got competition.
Reading a mystery is always fun on two levels. You’re transported into the world that the author creates and you have the intellectual challenge of figuring out “Who done it?” With Agatha Christie, determining the villain’s identity is complicated because tricky Agatha withholds some vital clue from the reader. Only Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, or talented amateur detectives figure out the mystery’s solution. You think you know who the villain is, but Agatha surprises you nevertheless.
Margery Allingham isn’t as well-known as Agatha Christie, but she’s an equally good read and her mystery novels are a little easier to figure out. Her main protagonist is a London gentleman named Albert Campion, accompanied by a sidekick/manservant/former thief called Magersfontein Lugg. Campion’s origin is clouded in mystery — he may be descended from royalty — but it’s clear he’s used to moving in both low and high circles. Lugg is a hilarious sidekick who sometimes acts a mournful Greek chorus to Campion’s activities. Villains underestimate Campion because he’s flippant and often speaks what at first appears to be nonsense. (Shades of The Scarlet Pimpernel! A possible influence?)
So if you’re in the mood to get lost in a mystery, try Margery Allingham’s Look to the Lady, Flowers for the Judge, Dancers in Mourning, Kingdom of Death, or Police at the Funeral. You can also check out the BBC videos of Allingham’s novels, starring Peter Davison (a.k.a. Dr. Who Number 5) as Campion and Brian Glover as Lugg. Below is an excerpt from the BBC’s Police at the Funeral, where Campion discusses a crime with a local student. Enjoy!