“Cargo of Eagles” by Marjorie Allingham

Another great Albert Campion whodunit: there’s something about Allingham’s writing which I really really like. It’s a kind of knowing, yet sympathetic distance, a strong narrative voice, but always stopping before it gets too playful and you lose connection with what she’s writing about.
I had read this one before, many years ago, but as usual had forgotten loads , including, er, whoactuallydunit. Unfortunately, however, I was less pleased with this particular story’s denouement: it seemed more or less unworkoutable; Campion, absent for most of the book, working behind the scenes, just seems to set an triumphant final trap, and then explains everything, as is proper, in the summer house. I was left thinking grrr – unfair – but then on reflection found at least one tiny clue which I could conceivably have noticed, but hardly (Doll had a “wide mouth”, and her mother belonged to a family which resembled fish – yes – it’s not much). I’m sure there’s I missed more. But at least it’s not bloody P.D James.
But the characters, the suspense, and the settings are so well done. It’s all set on the Essex coast, in a fictional remote harbour called Mob’s Bowl, linked by a secret route of lanes and byways to Mob’s Hole in Wanstead, now the site of the Nightingale pub, where I used to work, and half a mile from where I grew up. I guess Mob’s Bowl is supposed to be somewhere east of Tilbury – “Thames Haven” looks about right, though that’s probably an oil refinery. She’s good, in all her books, on the clash between the pre- and post-War generations: in this one it’s traditional coastal families versus mods and rockers – two sides which the denouement cleverly brings together.

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