the guardian Sat 07 February 2009
This is vintage Allingham - my all-time favourite crime writer and, I'm told, Agatha Christie's too. It's 1943, and Albert Campion is on leave after three years "employed on a mission for the government so secret that he had never found out quite what it was, or at least that was the version of his activities that it seemed most prudent to give". Lying on the bed of his Blitz-damaged London flat is a woman's body, and gathered together in the drawing room are an assorted collection of his chums - aristocrats, actresses, admirals, young men in battledress sorting silk swatches - all with different versions of where they were when . . . Unlike some of her 1930s contemporaries, Allingham hasn't dated, maybe because she concentrates on the characters rather than the period settings. Of course I'd prefer it unabridged, but these slim packets, not much bulkier than a box of Turkish cigarettes (Hachette has brought out eight so far with the same sophisticated reader and jaunty signature tune), are so portable and, to me at least, give the same instant rush of pleasure.