Thursday, April 11, 2024

22. Tether's End by Margery Allingham

I tried to read Margery Allingham years ago (More Work for the Undertaker), when I was way too young.  I may have even read it twice and both times was thoroughly confused and unentertained.  The wise Kenneth Hite who has excellent taste in literature, among other things, recommended this one  (under the title "Hide my Eyes") in one of the Ken and Robin Consume media posts.  He said:

Chief Inspector Luke suspects a killer operates from the London backwater of Garden Green; Campion agrees. After a riveting prologue, Allingham reveals the killer cubist-fashion from multiple perspectives over the course of one day’s investigation. Superbly constructed crime thriller with Allingham’s gifts for character and observation (especially of the grimier parts of London) tuned to perfect pitch.

You can see why I was inspired to hunt this one down.  It took me a while despite Margery Allingham being not hard to find in most used book stores.  I think it was because of the different titles, (also called "Ten Were Missing").  I finally found it at the Oakland Museum White Elephant sale.

I can't disagree with most of what Hite says above, except perhaps the "perfect pitch" part.  I found the book at times really enthralling and at other times somewhat frustrating.  It's not a mystery so the suspense was not in figuring out what happened but whether or not the innocent people would fall victim to the sociopath.  His elaborate alibi plotting was quite interesting as was the police's investigation.  However, I felt that at times the suspense was elongated because of unrealistic human behaviours.  Several times, the police haughtily dismiss clues as being worthless, which just seemed fake since they were desperate to figure the case out.  Likewise, the young hero (whose adventurous day with the murderer was quite fun to follow) behaves with this weird chivalry of avoiding the police so the young girl he loves name won't be besmirched.  It all felt a bit forced to me.

The plot involves a widow who runs a curio museum in a side alley in London's east end.  She is friends/surrogate mother to a charming man who we learn quite early on is also a sociopathic murderer.  She has written to a distant niece by marriage hoping that she will come and inherit her shop and even possibly marry the man.  The niece's younger sister comes instead (as the elder sister is already married) and happens to write a young man, Richard Waterhouse, who is from her village as a precaution.  Richard smells something fishy (and is slightly jealous) with the sociopath and investigates.

If I were desperate, I would not hesitate to pick up another of Allingham's books, but since I have a plethora of British women mystery writers already to choose from and I suspect her style is not so much to my liking, it will probably have to be specific circumstances or recommendations for me to read her again.

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