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Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham (thoughts)

January 4, 2012

While I have a great love for the Golden Age mystery writers, I only read Margery Allingham for the first time last year. I must say, I wasn’t a great fan of The Black Dudley Murder , but I like to give authors a second try, especially to see if their writing evolved over time, so I picked up Sweet Danger (also known as Kingdom of Death and The Fear Sign). For the first forty pages, I thought that Allingham simply wasn’t going to be the author for me, since the plot seemed far-fetched and overly complicated. But then, they arrived in Suffolk, and something magical happened: a family of charming, idiosyncratic characters appeared. I was soon enchanted, and completely willing to overlook the plot (which was more of an international thriller/espionage bent than the kind of classic whodunnit I prefer) to spend more time with them. And when I turned the final pages, I was definitely smiling. I’m still not completely sold on Allingham’s detective, Albert Campion, who pretends to be a rather distracted young man when he’s really a whip-smart younger son of a nobleman (hmmm…who does this remind you of?), but if Amanda is in any of the future books, as the ending hinted at, I’ll happily read more.

If you’re looking for a bit of a romp with a strong flavour of interwar England, you should pick this up. But it’s not on the same level as my favourite classic mysteries, and at the end of it I was left with a stronger desire to reread Murder Must Advertise or deepen my acquaintance with Wodehouse’s Psmith than immediately pick up more Campion novels. That being said, I’ll probably read some of the later books eventually. And I did really like and enjoy it, even if I didn’t quite love it.

If you’re an Allingham fan, does Amanda make any more appearances? If so, which titles (because those I definitely want to read!)?

Suggested Companion Reads

  • Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse (Since I mentioned it! Psmith is a marvelous creation; the epitome of the oblivious, privileged English aristocratic male. And hilarious to boot.)
  • Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James (In case you want some context for Allingham’s writing and the Golden Age in general!)
  • Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (An absolutely hilarious adventure that I can imagine Psmith and Campion’s fathers having when they were young.)
  • Any of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey series (but don’t read Gaudy Night until you’ve at least read Strong Poison) or Agatha Christie’s stuff (I’m especially put in mind of the first Tommy & Tuppence novel, The Secret Adversary, which was also had a lot of spy elements.)
13 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2012 6:29 am

    Sheesh…I’ve never even heard of Margery Allingham! Okay, that surprises no one. :P But I must say this really does sound good to me. You sort had me sold with “a family of charming, idiosyncratic characters.” But I like the international thriller bent as well. (I’m not knowledgeable enough to know when it’s “off” if you know what I mean.) Anyway, I’m glad you decided to stick with it, since it sounds like while not perfect, it did give you some enjoyment. :)

  2. January 4, 2012 7:29 am

    So I suppose there is no comparison between Margery Allingham and Agatha Christie, The Queen. I’ve heard Ms. Allingham’s name. Haven’t read her books. Have read a few of Agatha Christie’s mysteries. Thinking about it I haven’t read many or any mystery authors from The Golden Age or mysteries published before 1960. I don’t really know any names. I have a few books by a Patricia Wentworth. Does she count? The titles sound like fun. Just a dunce in this area. Enjoyed your post.

  3. January 4, 2012 8:23 am

    Please please carry on. Read some later Allingham. She wrote Campions until she died in the mid-60s and they are all subtly different. You’ll find Amanda in Fashion in Shrouds & Traitors Purse

  4. January 4, 2012 8:26 am

    Tiger in the Smoke (1952) is most famous but More Work for the Undertaker (1948)is hard to better if you like wacky characters

  5. January 4, 2012 9:41 am

    I love Margery Allingham! Amanda does show up in later books, but I can never remember any of the titles.

  6. January 4, 2012 2:06 pm

    I love Campion and Amanda and really must find time to read some of the Campion books that I have on the shelf but haven’t read.

    The Case of the Late Pig is a good one, and a shorter story. It was the first one I read and a good introduction.

    If you get a chance, it’s work checking out the UK TV series (sorry, I can’t remember who made it) starring Peter Davison as Campion. Their version of Sweet Danger is nicely done, with a very good Amanda.

  7. January 4, 2012 2:36 pm

    I have a few Allingham books but haven’t read any of them yet. I think because I don’t have the FIRST book and I hear that they are chronological. But maybe I should get get started :-)

  8. January 4, 2012 2:55 pm

    This one doesn’t sound like it is for me but maybe I will change my mind in the future?

  9. January 4, 2012 3:55 pm

    I think you know that the Golden Age of mysteries is my all-time favorite, so your review has definitely intrigued me. I know all too well that not every GA author will be to my tastes, however, since I have had disastrous run-ins with Sayers (my fault for reading Gaudy Night first) and Josephine Tey. I hadn’t heard of Allingham until your review, so maybe the next time I’m poking around the library, I’ll see if they have this one.

  10. January 4, 2012 6:03 pm

    I ve heard of her but never read the books ,my gran had some along side her marsh’s and christies ,I did watch the tv series from the book they made in the uk it starred peter davison who was also doctor who ,thanks for sharing eva ,all the best stu

  11. January 5, 2012 2:30 pm

    I’d never heard of Margery Allingham until this past year, either. The Black Dudley is on my 2012 reading list so I hope it’s not too much of a dud. Maybe I’ll be one of the many who love Allingham!

  12. January 6, 2012 6:38 pm

    I dipped into Allington just after my college years and liked the 2 or 3 books I read, but then I sort of forgot about her until a couple of years ago. I’ve just barely started reading all the Campions in order (with the exception of the first one), and I had fun with the two that I’ve read so far. The Lord Peter connection is definitely noticeable in the early novels. I read somewhere that Campion was originally conceived as a parody of Wimsey, but then he developed into a full-bodied character in his own right. So the later books are probably better on that score.

  13. January 8, 2012 6:18 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this author before but I’m adding her to my TBR list as I enjoy a good mystery and I especially like the older ones :)

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