The Margery Allingham Society

Plot Summaries of Margery Allingham's novels

Margery Allingham: More Work for the Undertaker

"I get a little sick of murder, but I think it's worth it."
(Margery Allingham, letter to Frank Swinnerton, 13 July 1938)

Note: The book jackets on this page are the work of Margery's husband, Philip Youngman Carter

Hodder & Stoughton, 1923
A historical novel about smugglers set on Mersea Island in the 17th century inspired by a series of seances held by the Allingham family while on holiday on Mersea.
Serialized in the Daily Express, 1927
Jarrolds, June 1928
Eric Crowther knew everybody's secrets, so there was no shortage of suspects when he was found shot at the White Cottage. Chief Inspector Challenor and his son Jerry had to look deep into everyone's past - including the dead man's - before they could be sure who had pulled the trigger. The White Cottage Mystery, Margery Allingham's first detective story, was originally a newspaper serial and was skilfully edited by Joyce Allingham for book publication after her sister's death.
Jarrolds, February 1929
(also published as The Black Dudley Murder)
The gaiety of a weekend party in rural Suffolk is shattered when the host's uncle is murdered and a document is taken from the body. The house guests are held hostage until the paper is found. Dr George Abbershaw uncovers the killer, but even he is nonplussed by the mysterious young man - friend or enemy? - who calls himself Albert Campion.
Jarrolds, January 1930
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, where Margery spent holidays as a child.
Jarrolds, January 1931
(also published as The Gyrth Chalice Mystery)
The Gyrth family have guarded the Chalice for centuries in their ancient house in Suffolk, but they have never had an opponent like the Daisy before. Mr Campion's services are needed to save the treasure from a desperate and determined thief. He can cope with witches, gypsies and mysterious ceremony, but he has not reckoned with the true guardian of the chalice.
Margery Allingham: Police at the Funeral
Heinemann, October 1931
At her mausoleum of a house in Cambridge Caroline Faraday rules her family with a firm hand - but then murder strikes, and strikes again . In such an eccentric household, with such a legacy of evil, Mr Campion must tread very carefully indeed.
Heinemann, March 1933
(Also known as 'Kingdom of Death' and 'The Fear Sign')
The tiny East European State of Averna - a dead duck since the days of the crusades - has suddenly become an attractive proposition, and the race is on to prove ownership. In a treasure hunt that takes him from the Côte d'Azure to the sun-soaked Suffolk idyll of Pontisbright, Mr Campion and his team of willing helpers do battle with a foe both intelligent and ruthless.
Margery Allingham: Death of a Ghost
Heinemann, Feb 1934
John Sebastian Lafcadio, one of the greatest painters of the Edwardian period, left twelve pictures to be exhibited, one every year, after his death. But there is an unexpected event at the unveiling of the eighth painting - murder. Albert Campion must employ all his tact as well as his formidable intelligence to trap the killer. The author's observation of the art world, both aristocratic and bohemian, ensures that Death of a Ghost is a remarkable novel as well as a compelling mystery.
Margery Allingham: Flowers for the Judge
Heinemann, Feb 1936
Scandal hits the staid publishing house of Barnabas when one of the directors is found dead in the strong-room. Suspicion immediately falls on his wife's lover, the junior partner in the firm. But how does an unpublished Restoration comedy come to feature in the tragedy? And what of the odd disappearance of another director twenty years before? The trial of Mike Wedgwood for murder is nail-bitingly tense, and Campion needs all his resources to uncover the truth.
Hodder & Stoughton, May or June 1937
'Pig' Peters was the bully who had made Albert Campion's life a misery at prep. school. And Peters is definitely dead. Campion had attended his funeral. So how could he have died again, six months later? The investigation takes Campion back to rural Suffolk, but this is a very different affair from the early picaresque adventures like Mystery Mile and Sweet Danger. The Case of the Late Pig is a black comedy, and the author's unerring light touch - the story is, uniquely, told by Campion himself - neatly contrasts the drama and the humour.
Doubleday, 1937
Margery Allingham's first collection of stories (including the short novel The Case of the Late Pig) has only been published in the United States - which has deprived readers elsewhere of some fascinating insights into Albert Campion's life and career. Each case is prefaced with notes from Campion's casebook, including definitive dates and the odd personal detail ('Fielding offered to take my appendix out, gratis. Thanked him kindly but declined.' - 'The Case of the Old Man in the Window'). All the stories are available in other volumes but without the notes, and in some cases with inferior texts.
Heinemann, 1937
Everyone fell under the spell of Jimmy Sutane, the charming and talented song-and-dance man. Everyone, that is, except the spiteful practical joker who put a pin in his stick of grease-paint and pasted 'Last Week' over the 'House Full' notices. Nothing too deadly. But as soon as Albert Campion is called in to investigate, people begin to die, and there's no shortage of suspects when the first victim's death is so convenient for so many.
Heinemann, June or July 1938
No scandal attaches to the actress Georgia Wells. You couldn't call her a man-eater - not exactly - but other women are wary when she looks at their men. Especially the fashion designer Valentine Ferris, who happens to be Albert Campion's sister. Val and Alan Dell are very much in love, but things change when Georgia comes on the scene. And then Georgia's second husband is poisoned, and there is strange news of his predecessor. The Observer said: 'To Albert Campion has fallen the honour of being the first detective to figure in a story which is also a distinguished novel.'
Margery Allingham: Mr Campion and Others
Heinemann, March 1939
The first British collection of short stories includes nine of Albert Campion's adventures, most (if not all) first published in The Strand Magazine, along with five miscellaneous tales, demonstrating the variety and consistent quality of Margery Allingham's writing. The 1951 Penguin edition omits 'The Border-line Case', and replaces the miscellaneous stories with five more of Mr Campion's exploits.
Margery Allingham: Black Plumes
Heinemann and Doubleday, November 1940
Albert Campion plays no part in this case of malice and murder in the art world. Instead, it is the sober Scot, Inspector Bridie, who must investigate the death of Robert Madrigal, the disappearance of his suspected killer, and the reappearance of the widow's lover. Dominating the story is the 'aged and indomitable' Mrs Gabrielle Ivory, who will not let even murder crack the dignity of her family and its venerable and respected Gallery.
Heinemann, February 1941
He awoke in hospital, with no memory of how he came there or of who he was. He overheard a nurse say, 'They'll hang him, I suppose,' and a policeman replied, 'Bound to, miss . . .' He had to escape, though he didn't feel like a murderer, but freedom brought new problems and new dangers. He had a vital mission to accomplish in this strange wartime town, vital for himself and perhaps for the free world - but he had no idea what it was! Who was friend and who was enemy? And why did his own name mean nothing to him? Who was Albert Campion . . . ?

Margery Allingham: The Oaken Heart
Michael Joseph, 1941
Margery Allingham's American publisher was very impressed by the short accounts she gave in her letters of wartime life in Tolleshunt D'Arcy. He commissioned her to write a book for her American readers, citizens of a country that had not yet entered the war. The Oaken Heart is not sensational, but it is strikingly honest. It tells of things that were happening all the time in small communities all over England. The story is universal - only no one else has told it so well. It is one of the great books to come out of the Second World War.
Margery Allingham: Coroner's Pidgin
Heinemann, March 1945
Also published as Pearls before Swine
Albert Campion is home on leave after three years of wartime intelligence work overseas. His only thought is to get to his house in the country and his wife, Lady Amanda. How can his manservant Lugg have been so inconsiderate as to deposit a dead body in his London flat? Reluctantly, Campion is drawn into the intrigues of Lord Carados' eccentric household - none of them quite as eccentric as his Lordship's formidable mother. He must deal with murder, treason and grand larceny before he can can go home, and even then his troubles are not over.
Stamford House, 1946
This American collection comprises three short stories - 'He Was Asking after You', 'The Sexton's Wife' and ''Tis Not Hereafter' - and the title novella. 'Wanted: Someone Innocent' tells of an attractive and rather naïve young woman, Gillian Brayton, who takes up the post of 'a sort of social secretary' in the household of a former schoolfriend - only to find herself threatened by an unknown evil.
Spivak, 1947
Another collection published only in the United States, The Casebook of Mr Campion boasts an introduction by Ellery Queen. All seven stories were first published in The Strand Magazine and would subsequently be included in the 1951 edition of Mr Campion and Others.
Margery Allingham: More Work for the Undertaker
Heinemann, February 1949
Apron Street is a quiet little thoroughfare in west London - and yet . . . Albert Campion is called in to investigate the death of Ruth Palinode, and he finds himself surrounded by as strange a family as he has ever encountered. Not that the other denizens of Apron Street are above suspicion. After all, the undertaker is Magersfontein Lugg's brother-in-law. But who is writing anonymous letters? Who killed Ruth Palinode? And why are hardened criminals frightened of the very name of Apron Street?
World's Work, 1950
First published by Doubleday in 1949 as Deadly Duo, this volume pairs 'Wanted: Someone Innocent' with the previously uncollected 'Last Act'. At eighty, Mathilde Zoffany was still vital, graceful, temperamental - and suspicious. She was convinced that her grandson Denis meant to kill her. And now she is dead. But the obvious solution may not be the right one. 'Last Act' is both a compelling mystery and a vivid study of personalities, particularly Zoff and her adopted grand-daughter Margot - who is in love with Denis.
MR CAMPION AND OTHERS (revised edition)
Penguin, 1950
The original edition, published in 1939, is a mixed collection of short stories, only eight or so concerning Albert Campion. The post-war paperback offers a baker's dozen of his adventures, substituting more recently published tales for the non-Campions in the original edition. It has been said that Albert Campion is most like Lord Peter Wimsey (and least like himself) in these stories, moving easily among the beau monde and showing few signs of his usual idiosyncrasies. However, they are dazzlingly clever and thoroughly engaging. Most of the stories were originally published in the immortal Strand Magazine.
Chatto & Windus, June 1952
The Tiger in the Smoke can rank with The Thirty-nine Steps, Rogue Male, The Day of the Jackal or any of the great thrillers in English literature. And it conveys an understanding of goodness and evil perhaps more assuredly than any of them. 'The Tiger' is the murderer known as Jack Havoc, out of jail and on the rampage. But what has he to do with Albert Campion's saintly uncle, Canon Avril? The old man's daughter Meg is happily engaged, so why is she afraid that her late husband has come back from the dead? And who has kidnapped her fiancé? The tension is almost painful - but The Tiger in the Smoke is more than an outstanding thriller. In her intense depiction of character, place and event, Margery Allingham has created a major novel.
World's Work, November 1954
This second book of novellas comprises 'The Patient at Peacocks Hall' and 'Safer than Love', two previously uncollected 'tales of suspense'. In the former, a young woman doctor must save the life of her rival in love. The latter tells of the disappearance of the head of a rural preparatory school and the secrets that emerge.
Chatto & Windus, April 1955
Old William Faraday is dead, apparently of natural causes. Another man is dead too, and it was certainly murder. Mr Campion and his family are back in Pontisbright, along with Magersfontein Lugg and DCI Charles Luke. Danger is hardly unknown in this idyllic Suffolk village, but it is a less romantic peril than on Mr Campion's first visit, more than twenty years ago. Mr Campion's friends Minnie and Tonker Cassands put on a cheerful face as they prepare for their annual party at Minnie's house, The Beckoning Lady, but Minnie has serious problems with the Inland Revenue - and the dead man in the ditch is a tax inspector. Mr Campion has a formidable adversary in Superintendent Fred South of the Suffolk Police, whom we encountered in 'Safer than Love'. And to cap it all, Charlie Luke falls like a ton of bricks for the most unsuitable girl imaginable...
Chatto & Windus, September 1958
A quiet, ruthless killer strikes in London's theatreland. Superintendent Luke thinks he has seen the pattern before. Mr Campion wonders what became of the old couple in the country bus who must have witnessed the crime . . . The trail leads to an eccentric museum in west London, and to a scrapyard in the East End. As an exercise in suspense Hide My Eyes is the equal of The Tiger in the Smoke. As a study of human imperfection it may be superior to the earlier novel. Self-deception is a character flaw in the murderer no less than in the old woman who loves him and hides her eyes from the appalling truth.
Doubleday, 1962; Chatto & Windus, May 1963
Appearance and reality are not always the same. Timothy Kinnit is rich, handsome and well-bred. He seems to have everything. Then, on the eve of his elopement, he learns that he was adopted, and he is desperate to know who he really is. Someone seems no less keen to stop him finding out. Violence, deception and death bedevil the post-war housing estate that has grown from the ashes of the notorious Turk Street Mile, and the shadow of a long-forgotten murder hangs over it all - until Luke and Campion are finally able to dispel the darkness.
Morrow, June 1965
Fact catches up with fiction when the secret of telepathic communication is discovered. But the device is in the possession of two schoolboys. Whether they stole it or invented it, there are powerful interests who will kill to get hold of it. Albert Campion faces as deadly a challenge as any in his career.
Chatto & Windus, c.Oct/Nov 1965
The second British omnibus consists of the three novels in which Amanda plays a major part: Sweet Danger, The Fashion in Shrouds and Traitor's Purse, together with a new short story about Albert and Amanda, 'A Word in Season'. The Fashion in Shrouds was revised (i.e. abridged) by the author, and 'A Word in Season' was rewritten from an original version about a different couple. The introduction is brief but illuminating.
Chatto & Windus, September 1967
The third British omnibus, devised by Philip Youngman Carter after his wife's death, follows the 'Amanda' novels with the 'Lugg' novels - Mystery Mile, Coroner's Pidgin and More Work for the Undertaker. The last is in an abridged version. The editor's introduction, about Margery Allingham rather than Albert Campion, is very touching.

Sail lofts, Tollesbury
Copyright Chris Willis
Margery Allingham: Cargo of Eagles
Chatto & Windus, 1968
Strange things are happening in Saltey, and the little village on the Essex coast is invaded by bikers and other strange visitors. A newly-released prisoner is rumoured to be in the area, Mr Lugg has bought a bungalow there, the Saltey Demon is on the loose again, and Albert Campion is looking for treasure. (The photo on the left shows Tollesbury sail lofts, the setting for several scenes in the novel.)
Chatto & Windus, May 1969
This posthumous collection of short stories contains eighteen stories, half of them about Albert Campion or Charlie Luke.
Chatto & Windus, February 1973
The second posthumous collection, again of eighteen stories. Only a few concern Mr Campion, but there is a bonus for those who have a sneaking fondness for the egregious Thos. T. Knapp (featured in Mystery Mile). 'A Quarter of a Million' is a novella, first published as The Mystery Man of Soho in 1933, telling of one of his early escapades. The Allingham Minibus was also published as Mr Campion's Lucky Day, and Other Stories.
Penguin, 1982
Contains The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile, and Look to the Lady
Hodder & Stoughton, 1989
The third posthumous collection was compiled and edited by J.E. Morpurgo, who also contributed a very interesting introduction. Albert Campion features in only three of these previously uncollected stories.
Crippen & Landru, 1995
'The lights are dimmed and a silent figure in a diaphanous white gown sneaks toward the safe where the famous diamond, The Seven Stars, is kept. Softly the safe door opens, the diamond is removed, and the figure slips softly away, leaving only a red rosebud behind . . .' Margery Allingham could hardly have expected to see her anonymous 1930 serial published in book form, and certainly The Darings of the Red Rose is no neglected masterpiece. This series of eight linked episodes is, instead, a prime example of the sort of 'pulp fiction' that was her stock-in-trade before Mystery Mile consolidated her success with the critics. The story of Betty Connolly's revenge on the heartless financiers who ruined her family is fast-moving, exciting and romantic. Crippen & Landru's lovely Art Deco cover makes the book even more desirable.
Vintage, 5th October 2006
This omnibus features three of the Albert Campion's cases: Sweet Danger, The Case of the Late Pig, and The Tiger in the Smoke

Plot Summaries of Campion novels by Youngman Carter

Heinemann, 1969
[From the publisher's blurb] Mr Campion's Farthing is worth considerably more than a quarter of an old penny. For Farthing is the code name of Vassily Kopeck - missing diplomat. Kopeck was last seen at Inglewood Turrets where Lottie Cambric sells a vision of Victorian culture and luxury. And now the vultures are gathering around the Turrets. Outside - all sorts of spies, greedy developers and strangers in the summary. Inside - an arsonist and a murderer in the vaults and a hijacked party in the dining room. Kottie and her friend Albert Campion are in the middle - of danger...
Heinemann, 1970
[From the publisher's blurb] Matthew Matthews, archaeologist, died of a heart attack. Francis Makepeace, geologist, vanishes. Many problems - not least for Mr Campion. For Makepeace is a maverick with a secret. The results are murder, kidnapping and the doghouse for his loyal friends who are the last to solve his mystery. But fortunately for them, Albert Campion is just one jump ahead of the sinister forces who can smell money - lots of money - in his disappearance and who will stop at nothing to get it under their grubby paws.

Website maintained by Lesley Simpson
All text and photos copyright © The Margery Allingham Society unless otherwise stated.