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Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham

Mystery Mile (1930)

by Margery Allingham

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Albert Campion (2)

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Returning home to London from the United States on a steamship, the vacuous-seeming Albert Campion saves Judge Crowdy Lobbett from death by electrocution from a poorly-wired magician’s cabinet. Judge Lobbett, as Campion learns from a fellow passenger, Alistair Ferguson Babar, has recently escaped death four times – accidents that killed individuals close to him. Lobbett is the judge attempting to take down the infamous Simister gang. The gang operates internationally, and no one has ever seen Simister, the leader of the gang, except for one man who was killed shortly afterward. In London, Campion is visited by Lobbett’s son, Malcolm, who enlists Campion’s help to keep his father alive. Thinking of his friends Giles and Biddy Paget and their secluded home on Mystery Mile, a tiny village surrounded by marshes, Campion convinces the Lobbett family to rent the Padget’s home for the next few weeks. However, after dinner on the very night the Lobbetts arrive, the Lobetts, Pagets, Campion and the village’s vicar are visited by a wandering palmist who seems to know more about them than he should. The next day, Judge Lobbett disappears from the center of a maze on the Paget’s property, and soon afterward, Biddy is kidnapped. Campion knows that it is the work of the Simister gang and to protect his friends and the Judge, he must stop Simister himself at any cost.

Mystery Mile is the second book in Margery Allingham’s Campion series, but is the first to feature Albert Campion as the main character. We know little of Campion as a character after the first book, as Allingham intended to have another character feature in her mystery series. Campion is a very intelligent and resourceful individual; however, he frequently plays the part of a very fatuous well-to-do Englishman, who, as a result, is underestimated by the villain in the book. I also think he is underestimated by readers, especially in the early books, before Allingham matures him as a man and a detective, and he loses his silliness in later books.

Although Allingham was considered one of the “Queens of Crime” during the Golden Age of Detection, Mystery Mile is not a typical whodunit of the period. It has some whodunit elements, as well as some spy elements and is also something of an adventure story. There is the obligatory death, but this is not a typical murder mystery. I realize there are many who don’t like Allingham as much as Christie or Sayers, but I find Campion’s silliness fun – there are so many serious detectives, and Campion can be serious, but he does have an irreverent side that I find very refreshing. I honestly did not catch on to the identity of the villain and there were one or two other “red herrings” that worked on me and contributed to my enjoyment. ( )
  rretzler | Mar 2, 2018 |
This is the second of Allingham's Campion mysteries and the first in which he is the main character. It's very much of its time, but it doesn't have the casual racism and classism of many of her contemporaries (well, not much anyway; one of the characters is referred to as "the Oriental" at times).

The plot is somewhat beside the point, because we don't really get enough information to solve the mystery. It's more of an adventure with very engaging characters. Campion is trying to protect an American judge who is being pursued by a Very Bad Man who fears the judge has information on him. The judge and his two attractive 20-something children come to England to try and get away, but of course they can't, so enter Campion. Campion tries to hide them away in a manor house in a little village on the coast of East Anglia (which just happens to be owned and occupied by two attractive 20-somethings, who make a matching pair for the Americans).

We meet Lugg in this installment, and we learn that Campion has a probably aristocratic background which he is very keen to hide.

Good fun, intelligently written, and just what I needed. ( )
1 vote Sunita_p | Feb 3, 2017 |
Margery Allingham walks a very fine line with sleuth Albert Campion. His silliness sometimes gets on ones’ nerve, but she’s quick enough to swerve the reader’s attention to some new fact or some funny comment or situation—so you immediately forgive her! I had a hard time getting through her first Campion book (The Crime at Black Dudley), it took me several pages to want to continue reading, but it paid off. This is an enjoyable, old-fashioned story. I especially like the character Magersfontein Lugg—where can I find me another Lugg??? The TV series is good, but doesn't capture Campion's silly and vacuous persona as well as the book describes him. Worth watching though.
1 vote MrsRK | Nov 21, 2016 |
The second Campion adventure-thriller is the first to feel like it knows completely what it's doing, right from the very first scene; Allingham has clearly made a choice to focus on the previously secondary character of Albert Campion, and she dives into his world feet-first. I have been known to compare the tone of the 1930s books, sometimes, to the comic album (latterly, "graphic novel") world of the Belgian reporter-hero Tintin, and the opening of Mystery Mile, set aboard a sea voyage, pretty much typifies that. There is an international flavor, some broad comedy, and the revelation of narrowly-escaped death, which shoves the reader straight into the fast-paced plot. Later, there will be a mysterious garden maze, a clergyman with grave secrets, and a foreboding fortune-teller - Anglicized, but no less familiar as the kind of elements you might find in any of Hergé's Tintin adventures.

As Tintin only began in 1929, right as Allingham was composing this novel, it is, perhaps, doubtful if one really inspired the other; these kinds of stories seemed to sizzle through the air between the two World Wars, reflecting not only political concerns and increased global travel but the ever-encroaching dominance of the media (newspapers, radio and cinema). What's interesting, though, is how Allingham uses these tropes. Although they certainly keep the reader engaged, they're also something of a diversion; this is a novel where people disguise their true characters, and for once, it isn't just Mr. Campion playing the long game. Appreciating Mystery Mile strictly for its surface-level entertainments is fine, but it's an incomplete understanding. There's more going on here.

Allingham would continue to refine both her style and her characters as time went on, and following Mystery Mile, she never really attempted the frothy international crime story again. (They are hard to make work in novel form, as Agatha Christie discovered in The Big Four.) It's to her credit, then, that this one example is as entertaining and exciting as it is. It serves as an excellent reintroduction to the world of Albert Campion - a world of glib talk, colorful characters, and unexpected deceit. ( )
  saroz | Dec 22, 2015 |
Judge Lobbett, an American plagued by murder attempts, retains detective Albert Campion. Lobbett stays in Mystery Mile, a sleepy English town, while Campion investigates. Bad luck follows Lobbett with the apparent suicide of Mystery Mile’s well-loved preacher. Who wants Lobbett dead? And why the suicide? Set in the 1920’s.

Boring. would be OK for those who like the golden age of mystery, maybe. Wouldn't read author again. ( )
  andreaj607 | Nov 11, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Margery Allinghamprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davis,PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matthews, FrancisNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To P.Y.C and A.J.G.
Partners in Crime
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'I'll bet you fifty dollars, even money,' said the American who was sitting nearest the door in the opulent lounge of the homeward-bound Elephantine, 'that that man over there is murdered within a fortnight.'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Judge Crowdy Lobbett has found evidence pointing to the identity of the criminal mastermind behind the deadly Simister gang. After four attempts on his life, he seeks the help of enigmatic and unorthodox amateur sleuth, Albert Campion.

After Campion bundles Lobbett off to a country house in Mystery Mile, deep in the Suffolk countryside, all manner of adventures ensue. Its a race against time for Campion to get the judge to safety and decipher the clue to their mysterious enemy's name. Luckily for Judge Lobbett, underneath his constant stream of banter, Campion displays a diamond-sharp intelligence and a natural detective's instinct...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099474697, Paperback)

Judge Crowdy Lobbett has found evidence pointing to the identity of the criminal mastermind behind the deadly Simister gang. After four attempts on his life, he ends up seeking the help of Albert Campion.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:56 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

With the Simister Gang out to get him, America is too hot for Judge Lobbett. He takes refuge on an island on the Suffolk coast, but even there life is far from peaceful. Blackmail, abduction and sudden death bring matters to a climax. It is Albert Campion, with the unorthodox help of his man Lugg, who masterminds the defence of Mystery Mile and uncovers the true face of Simister. The island is based on Mersea Island in Essex.… (more)

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