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Lyn Baines

I'm about 40pp from the end but I'm loving it. I read this, along with all the other Allinghams many years ago, but, apart from remembering the atmosphere created by the fog, I had forgotten the plot & everything about this book. The atmosphere is still as compelling as ever & the menace of Havoc as he follows his course without deviating is frightening. I also think it says a lot about the plight of returned soldiers & those who would exploit them & their situation. I've tried to reread several Allinghams but just couldn't recapture the magic, but this one grabbed me from the opening chapter & I've barely put it down since. The scene where Meg & Amanda are in the new house & realise that someone else is in the house was quite chilling.


This is the first Allingham book for me and like Karen I was immediately struck by the imagery - the fog pervades everything. At times I wished there was a bit less description but at other times I was completely caught up in the story and could feel the tension and fear in the characters. It certainly gives a detailed picture of what life was like after the Second World War. I couldn't quite get a grasp on Campion and had at first I thought he would be the main character. I thought the attitude to women was a bit condescending, and Meg didn't engage my sympathy. The Canon is a wonderful character and along with Tiddy Doll is the best in the book for me.

After a slow start I read with increasing anticipation to find out what happened next. A good choice.


My mother introduced me to Margery Allingham when I was about thirteen. I read most if not all of her books then and have re-read various ones at various times since. I don't know when I last read Tiger in the Smoke, but when I picked it up for the book group, I remembered clearly my earliest impression and feelings about the novel. The image that had stuck in my mind most forcefully was the band of discharged soldiers shuffling down the road with their rattling collecting tins. What a powerful image that is -- somehow it reminds me of the middle ages, and makes me think of how many such bands of soldiers must have shuffled up how many streets over the centuries. Havoc is also such a powerfully imagined character -- in a sense pure evil and yet intensely pitiable. It is the glimpses we get into his troubled psyche that make this a psychological thriller rather than a whodunit, I suppose. I did wonder what those people who were not familiar with Allingham's earlier novels (as this one is quite a late one) would make of Campion. I've started re-reading Sweet Danger, the first I ever read and the one in which Campion meets Amanda -- and of course if you know those characters it is good to meet them again in Tiger. But if you don't, I think they might seem a bit indistinct, perhaps. Fascinating to read the responses so far -- I shall return and see what others have thought later!

Peter the flautist

BooksPlease has taken the words from my notes! I disliked the condesention shown to almost every female character and I could not fathom out any reason for it. I also felt that being set post WW2 it was just too unbelievable that a whole slew of private individuals were not only assisting the police, but carrying out interrogations on their behalf too. I especialy didn't like the role played by Canon Avril, who for me radiated self-importance, and I thought that his surviving the knife attack was a bit of a plot cop-out.
On a more positive note I agree with all who praised the quality of the writing and I also felt that the atmosphere of a still rather derelict, shabby and polluted London was excellently conveyed. Luke and Havok were the best imagined and most interesting (and plasuible) characters. I was at a loss to see why Campion was involved, but in fairness I should state that I have not read any other books in which he appears, so it may be much more obviously appropriate to those of you who have. I did enjoy the book, but not half as much as I had hoped given the track-record of the person who recommended it.


On the subject of female characters, I loved the description of Mrs. Cash:
"She rose very lightly for one of her build and trotted out, looking like a pottery figure designed to hold mustard. Picot could just see her with a spoon sticking out of her hat."


Yes I thought the Canon's survival was contrived and a cop-out but I did like his character, especially as he is a complete contrast with Havoc - good/evil.


Campion was very indistinct for me and I thought he could easily have been left out.

The picture of the band of discharged soldiers was where the book came to life and I think that was one of the better parts of the book. I thought the ending was odd and rather rushed.


Hello to everyone! I am thrilled to participate in this group--thank you, Cornflower, for such long advance notice so I could locate and read the book.

I've read other Allingham novels, but never this one. I like "cozy mysteries" a lot, but hers are distinguished by the level of anxiety they can produce through their plotting and description. There's a sense of malice and danger that permeates the plot, despite the fact that we assume Campion saves the day! In Tiger, the two most chilling scenes were the one where the hero (I'm fuzzy on names as I had to return the book!) is grabbed by the gang and jammed into the wheelchair; the other was the scene in the new house in the dark and fog when WE know the intruder is not just a thief but HIM, and the woman doesn't. While I loved the Canon's character, those were the parts that I felt distinguished her plot and . . . creation of thriller ambiance, for lack of a better word.

Another type of ambiance the novel creates well is the lingering sense of how the war affected so many people and, in fact, a nation. As an American, and one born in 1963, I have little sense beyond a general historical one of the impact of the two world wars on Europe and England specifically. Allingham's plot and her psychological development both emphasize the cost and the lingering effects of WWII--emotional, moral, etc. [Side note: another series of novels that did that for me, though about WWI, were the Maisie Dobbs books by Jacqueline Winspear. HUGE new window on what it was like to experience that time period]. Plotwise, the fact that it was possible that the woman's husband had survived but was psychologically scarred enough to be behaving so oddly again contributed to the intensity of the suspense.

Some of the descriptive passages do get a bit breathless, but that effect seems linked to a different style of expression, maybe one less ironic than our modern society favors. I enjoyed the book a great deal: thanks for picking it for the club! Several years ago my New Year's Res. was to read all the Ngaio Marsh books. . . maybe this year I'll consider reading all Allingham's!

Peter the flautist

Indeed a vivid picture is painted here.

Peter the flautist

I do so agree with you about the ending. I had a mental picture almost of her publisher writing to remind her of a non-negotiable deadline!

adele geras

I have to confess to not reading this for the group this time but I have a very good memory of the book from when I did last read it, a few years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it and as a teenager, I, like Harriet, read all the Allingham books I could get my hands on. The thing about female characters did not occur to me but I will try and read it now again and see what I think. I love the description of the mustard-pot woman!

Barbara MacLeod

A great read! I have never read a so-called crime novel (but in the past have listened to John le Carre audiobooks) so while the label on the front says "A Campion Mystery" I would like to suggest that it could equally be viewed as a sociological study of a particular group or groups with the (necessary) device of a murder which moves the plot forward.

In particular I am thinking of Havoc, the central character, and his gang in the cellar. This has to be an outstanding study of group dynamics. Leaders-followers, survivors-defeatists, brawn-brain etc.

I really related to this bit of the story. (What an ear for diaglogue!) These are the marginal members of society. I've observed a similar group of people behave in a similar way, e.g. how they pin their hopes on some fantastic event that is going to happen at sometime in the future, the certainty of how things are going all come right when they e.g. win the lottery, pull in that big contract. The planning, the hopes, while you sit there thinking..."Eh?"

I thought she observed the behaviour of this group so very acutely - loved it!


I read this a few months ago, and the image that still frightens me is that of the marching band, appearing and disappearing in the fog.


I haven't quite finished my re-read of Tiger in the Smoke, which I've come to as part of my systematic reading of all the Campion novels. The system broke down slightly in that I haven't quite managed to read everything that precedes it yet, but I did want to comment on the character of Campion - I was interested to see if his personality became more tangible as the series went on. As in this book he's often absent from the centre of the action and, even in The Case of the Late Pig, where he actually narrates, we don't really know what he is thinking for much of the time. I find it rather intriguing that Allingham can write such an indistinct hero, and wonder if those who us who enthuse most about her books are ready to read greater depths into his character? I feel that they are there, but are hard to get hold of, so it may just be wishful thinking on my part.

I think Rebecca makes a very good point about the writing being less detached than a modern writer's, and this is one of the qualities I most enjoy about Allingham: I like being a naive reader and being dragged along breathless in her wake. Yes, if I'm honest, I think she quite often seems to give female characters short shrift, but some of her attraction for me is the way in which she depicts half- and mis-communications between people, where they don't quite understand the implications of what the other is saying, or interpret wrongly - a small example is Canon Avril's use of the word "poor" which fails to alert the police to Havoc's background.

My own favourite image from this book is the finding of Duds' body in the smog, with the naphtha flare sputtering and smoking, and I think the passage in the band's cellar is utterly gripping.


I loved this book and your review Karen. The passage about Allingham's caontrol is I think spot on. I agree with Cornflower about Canon Avril. When I started teaching in a very rough part of a rough town we had teachers like him at school. They seemed to glide through the vile social mess we worked in and everything seemed to glance off them, like the knife off Avril's collar bone. It was as though their faith in the redemptive quality of education was a protection for them, like Canon Avril's faith in God is here. I would have not have belived it was possible for a person's attitude of mind to have such and affect had I not seen it. I think that Canon Avril is far from fanciful. I do agree with Books Please and others that Allingham's women can be a bit of a let down either in their presentation or their treatment by other characters. But I do love this book - I've read it about 4 times. The only downside is that almost every Allingham I have read since Has been a bit of let down by comparison.

Mr Cornflower

I've found this one of Cornflower's most successful and enjoyable reading group suggestions, both for the book itself and for the very interesting points raised by other commenters. I tend to agree with those who find the descriptive side of the book, the - in a literal sense - atmospherics, powerful and evocative whereas the plot is a bit uneven. I wonder if one would have benefited from reading some earlier Campion novels to see him more in context, because here he is rather outshone by the charismatic Luke. I must confess I didn't pick up on the condescending attitude to female characters which some - but not all - other commenters mentioned. By a quick lateral shift, it occurs to me that far more open condescension might occasionally be detected in Conan Doyle, yet the only adversary to outwit Sherlock Holmes, earning his great admiration, was Irene Adler ("A Scandal in Bohemia").


Have you read the Allingham about the house party being taken hostage by evil crime lords? Unfortunately I don't remember the name, but I DO remember the same sense of vibrant evil, and also in the one with the name "Pig" in the title--a school friend of Campion's shows up, but he's not the same person, maybe? My sense is that those two had at least some of the same qualities as Tiger.

And this conversation is supporting my desire to read her whole list starting in January!


I have read the evil crime lords one, and I can't remember which one it is either. I think my next favourite after Tiger is The White Cottage Mystery.


Excellent, Rebecca - I feel similarly inclined!


I can't say I noticed the thing about the female characters either. I particularly like and agree with Rebecca's comments here. But I also found the setting of the final scene/s very powerful -- that house by the sea in Brittany, the hidden treasure in the garden - perhaps knowing that part of France so well I could visualise it more easily. But I thought that scene in general worked well -- Meg so innocent, Havoc so completely wrecked, their childhood knowledge of each other -- all very evocative.


The book in which the crime lord kidnaps the house party is The Crime at Black Dudley - the first appearance of Mr Campion, and Allingham said that he hadn't been intended to be a hero at all, but he kept taking charge. It was only afterwards that she decided there might be some mileage in him.


The Crime at Black Dudley? - the first "real" Campion mystery

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  • Sidebar book cover thumbnail pictures are affiliate links to Amazon, and the storefront links to Blackwell's and The Book Depository are also affiliated; should you purchase a book directly through those links, I will receive a small commission. Older posts may also contain affiliate links to one of those bookshops. I am not paid to produce content and all opinions are my own.


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