The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham

tiger smokeThe Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham

Originally published 1952

This edition: Reader’s Digest, 2005

Campion book 14

I read this book as part of the #1952book challenge hosted by Rich at Past Offences. It’s nice to do a quickie reading challenge, and it’s nice to broaden my reading horizons beyond books published in the last ten years.

I’m new to Margery Allingham and knew nothing about The Tiger in the Smoke before I read it. I knew it appears on best-read lists, and my edition in fact is for the Readers Digest Series “The Greatest Mysteries of All Time.” Happily, I agree that it’s a fabulous book.

First, a note about the title. The Tiger refers to the very interesting villain in this novel, Jack Havoc, and the smoke refers to the unusually thick and long-lasting fog enveloping London during the relatively short time this novel covers. The story involves multiple murders but begins with the mysterious reappearance of the presumed-deceased first husband of Meg, Campion’s niece, on the eve of her wedding to another man, Geoffrey Levett. The plot is intricate but not overwhelmingly complex, and the violence was a bit more than I expected. But besides the plot, the characters and the setting are what stood out for me.

The novel is partly a police procedural (Inspector Luke is the main police character, and he’s quite well-drawn), but not entirely so. Allingham spends plenty of time with Meg and her relations (including Campion) as well as the criminals in the story.

Jack Havoc is the character who stands out to me because not often if ever is a villain so real and not a cartoon. I was a little less happy with the scenes with two groups: those living with Canon Avril, who is Meg’s father, and the gang of criminals posing as band. There voices were distinct, but it was difficult to remember everyone’s back story when they were introduced in such a short time frame. This may be my problem with settling into a novel by a writer who’s new to me or reading something from 1952, which I don’t often do: I had to get used to Allingham’s style, and the first half of the novel is heavy on descriptions of people and their clothing as well as setting the foggy scene.

It’s a great read in terms of characters, thoughtfulness about evil and the lingering effects of World War II, and the plot. It feels more substantial and more memorable than many books I’ve read this year, and I’m glad I read it.


22 thoughts on “The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham

  1. I like Allingham’s work, Rebecca, and although it’s not unanimous, lots of people consider this one one of her best. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • I don’t always agree with best-mystery-lists, but this one I liked a great deal. She has quite a catalog to choose from: I’m interested in reading more.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it! For me, Allingham was about the best of her peers and this is one of my favourite novels of hers. Her others are actually quite different from this one, should you be tempted to try them.

  3. Although I am very sure I have read this book… since I have read all of the Allingham books at sometime in my life, I remember nothing at all about this one. So I just skimmed your review, since I want to come to it totally fresh when I do re-read it. I am glad you enjoyed the book.

  4. Great entry Rebecca. I bought this one and hope to read it sometime this year. However, I miss reading my more recent books 🙂

      • Yes! I’m reading the last book in the MillenniumTrilogy by the late Stieg Larsson. I pretty much spaced these out.

    • Thanks, Jose Ignacio. I’m glad you reviewed The Killer Inside Me– I’ll read it someday, but I wasn’t in the mood for something quite so creepy this month.

  5. I have not read this one nor any books by this author. I must try one — if my library has this or another one.
    I’m curious about movies made from her books. I find myself looking for more movies these days.

    • I’ve read good things about the movie versions, Kathy: enjoy. Maybe you’ll join next month’s challenge: it’s easy to read just one book from a certain year during a month.

    • I’ll have to catch up on your posts about this book: there’s plenty of blog fodder for you! Meg in her furs, etc, I’m a big fan of the monthly challenge as well though I’ve managed to complete just one month so far.

  6. I’m in luck. The library had this book, so put it on reserve. I can’t find the movie there though.
    I don’t think I can join any challenges. My TBR piles are huge, lots of library books here and on reserve, and I’m reading more slowly due to overload of tasks, aging, needing new glasses. Also, finding and watching more BBC, Italian and Scandinavian TV episodes on dvd, which are in the library. There goes a weekend if it’s a good series.

  7. I’m working my way through some of the “non Christie” books, including Ngaio Marsh, and very recently, Allingham. Will add this one to the Audible pile!

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