The Allingham Minibus

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

Excellent set of short stories. Margery Allingham never disappoints. Several ghost stories in the collection, some of which are rather sinister.
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A wonderful collection of short stories. I really love reading books by Margery and would not hesitate to recommend this book.
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I have read and enjoyed several of the Margery Allingham short story collections which have been reissued by Agora Books recently; The Allingham Minibus is the latest and my favourite so far.

This collection was first published posthumously in 1973 and has also appeared under the title Mr Campion’s Lucky Day. However, that title would be quite misleading as there are eighteen stories in the book and only three of them actually feature Allingham’s famous detective, Albert Campion. Of these, I have already read the Christmas-themed The Man in the Sack (which was included in Campion at Christmas), but the other two were new to me and I particularly enjoyed The Unseen Door, a locked room mystery with a simple but clever solution.

The rest of the stories in the book cover a range of genres, not just the crime fiction with which Allingham is usually associated. Many of them are ghost stories or have a supernatural element of some sort and all of these were excellent; they were the perfect kind of supernatural stories for me – unsettling and unusual, without being too creepy. I won’t talk about all of them here, but three that stood out for me were Bird Thou Never Wert, about a woman who buys a haunted bird cage, She Heard It On the Radio, in which a lonely old lady develops an obsession with listening to the radio, and He Was Asking After You, where a man who betrays his best friend finds himself unable to escape his friend’s vengeance.

One of my favourite stories in the collection was The Pioneers, the story of a married couple who both meet someone else and decide to get divorced. On their last evening together, while they prepare to go their separate ways forever, some friends come to visit, with unexpected results. I loved this one! Actually, the only story in this book that I didn’t like was A Quarter of a Million, a crime thriller which should really be described as a novella rather than a short story as it was more than twice as long as most of the others. The length, and the fact that it seemed less tightly plotted than the rest, made it feel out of place in this collection.

With the exception of that one novella, then, I really enjoyed The Allingham Minibus – and the introduction by Agatha Christie was a nice little bonus.
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Before I picked up this iteration of The Allingham Minibus – a work that's been around in varying versions since the 1970s – I'd never read any of Margery Allingham's work. I knew little of her, save that she was considered one of the Queens of Crime, alongside Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. I expected, given her contemporaries, that I'd have a quaint read ahead, of clockwork mysteries and tea and crumpets before bedtime. 

Thankfully, that presumption was false. The 18 tales gathered together in this collection (the name of which admittedly made me think of a Tarago packed with story denizens) are of a distinctly stranger bent. 

There is a distinct link to crime in the works in here, it's true. Allingham's stories generally involve some kind of wrongdoing, and her best-known creation, the detective Albert Campion, makes an appearance in a handful of tales. The most strident connection to the golden age of crime writing comes from the memorial introduction to the book, penned by Agatha Christie, even if Christie seems to be a little bit disingenuous in a "well, we remember her well but too bad she's dead" vein. 

The stories generally begin with a bit of a bang. You'll often discover who will murder (or has murdered) who within the first couple of lines – time being of the essence in a six-page tale. But how it transpires is what drags you in. Of course, being writing of its time, there's a certain element of AHA! which rewards the astute reader, but I'm happy to say that the reveals never really tended to be as pat as I'd expected. 

Instead, there's elements of transgression in the stories here. Sure, there's blackmail, but there's also eloping ghosts. There's kidnapping, but there's also grave-robbing revenge. There's meditations on divorce and futility, and some raciness just offstage. There's one story which is an extended jab at institutionalised racism. There's even a story which moves into much weirder tale territory – let's just say you'll eye your headphones askance afterwards. Hell, if anything, the stories that drag are the ones that focus rather too much on detection: it's Allingham's knack for extensive portraiture with a minimum of text that drew me in. 

Other reviews of this work have occasionally moaned about the lack of Campion stories, which, I assume, means a dissatisfaction with the level of ratiocinative narrative. I tend the other way: I wish there were fewer straight-up detective tales and more oddity. When Allingham's on it, she's on it in the best Robert Aickman fashion: sensible, but not quite right. 

The Allingham Minibus is an impressive collection. It's done precisely what a good sampler should: drawn me in and made me want more. The only question is what next?
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It’s ridiculous of me to think I should care judgment on any of Miss Allingham’s work. So I can only say, “Vintage Campion, with all the surprises and fun wrapped in a shorter form.” Just buy it for heaven’s sake.
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I'm not a fan of Margery Allingham mystery novels. They're never good mysteries and they lack tight plotting, action and good dialog. Characters can be striking, but do not develop, nor do their qualities have much effect on the story. The books are padded with extraneous material, sometimes interesting when the author is describing things she has actually seen, boring and inaccurate when she is working from reports of others.

The mystery short stories in this collection, including one long enough to be a novella, suffer from the usual deficiencies. But many of the other stories are quite good. Allingham had a deft touch with the surprise ending and the gentle supernatural tale. Her striking characters do well in one or two scenes. The meandering plots wear thin in novel form, but in short stories give a pleasing unpredictability.

I recommend this book to short story fans. It's a pleasant volume for dipping into when you have a few spare moments. You won't know what kind of story you'll get, and halfway through you may change your mind on the subject, which gives a pleasant unpredictability to reading.
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I am definitely a fan of Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion novels, but her short stories are hit or miss for me.  This collection contains only 3 Albert Campion stories, which I enjoyed. The rest are a mixed bag, including a number which have paranormal elements.  Most are not mysteries, and I found a few almost too tedious to finish.  While I didn’t enjoy all the stories, I do think that most readers will find something to enjoy in this collection.
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The Allingham Minibus has a selection of the author's short stories, most steering toward the occult rather than mystery and most showing a developing skill rather than Allingham's usual well-honed level of writing.  There are some tales which I will revisit, but most are in the realm of high school creative writing pieces:  give an A for effort then relegate to the shoebox on a shelf in the closet.
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I’ve written before about being a fan of Campion and the period-gentle kind of mystery. Here we have a collection of short stories, some with the famous detective, others a little more random. All in all, a rather good mix!

We open with a foreword from Agatha Christie – what better stamp of approval can another mystery writer of the time get, really?

The first story surprised me, as I didn’t know the author dabbled in horror. This is a perfect mystery-come-terror story, which I can wholly imagine being told around a campfire. And, despite the age (so much is reused, and loses something from the familiarity) still gave me a fun little chill. The rest of the stories mix this kind of ‘ghost story’ with mysteries, and a large dose of whimsy.

The strength of the writing is clear. There’s a lovely mix of cosy period elements, throwbacks to more genteel times, but with mysteries that genuinely kept me wondering where it was going next, whether they involved ageing, publicity-hunger actors, or church men who aren’t very godly, haunted parrot cages (!), or a more domestic tale of a couple’s last evening before an agreed divorce.

The Campion stories are scattered between, few of them and one I’d read before (in Campion at Christmas), but always a pleasure to imagine the character as portrayed in the TV series I loved.

Overall: an old-fashioned but nicely so collection of mysteries and light chills, perfect for the season – and beyond!
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No secret, I’m a big fan of all Allingham’s writings.  This collection of 18 short (one not so short--practically a novella) does not disappoint.

Perhaps what I enjoyed most about this book, though, was the opening article written by Agatha Christie.  With great insight and generosity, Christie enumerates the qualities that set Allingham apart from other writers.  The number one element, Christie writes, is Allingham’s elegance--and I certainly agree with Christie.  

Allingham is such an accomplished writer, and expresses herself so persuasively, that we are prepared to accept her exquisitely-crafted tales, some of which verge well into the fantastic.

I still prefer Allingham’s Albert Campion stories to her short stories, but this book is surely one to appeal to those who savor the writing of the Golden Age.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read in return for an honest review.
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I am a fan of Margery Allingham anyway, but I was delighted to find lots of new stories I hadn't read, including some spooky supernatural ones, as well as some classic mysteries. As always, Allingham writes beautifully, and a lot of the East Anglian scenery and settings are very evocative. This collection really showcases Allingham's breadth and variety as a writer and I really enjoyed it.
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This is an enjoyable short story collection from one of the ‘Golden Age of Crime’s’ stars Margery Allingham, with a nice variety of stories, some featuring her long standing detective Albert Campion, and some with a spooky twist.
If ,like me, you like Allingham’s work you will know what to expect and if you have yet to have the pleasure this would be a good place to start as a taster of her style, but either way I recommend this as an example of a skilled writer having fun.
The inclusion of an introduction by Agatha Christie is a treat I wasn’t expecting and it is clear she held Allingham in some esteem.
All in all well worth a read.
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An interesting collection of stories that are less well known by Margery Allingham. Campion,  her most famous creation, only appears in three of the tales, many of which have a slightly supernatural flavour. I enjoyed seeing a different side to this author's writing and would reccomend it to any Allingham or classic short story fan.
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I have not many read many short story collections so I thought this was a good way to introduce me into this format.

He Was Asking After Yon - 3.5
Publicity - 2
The Perfect Butler - 3.5
The Barbarian - 2
Mr Campion's Lucky Day - 3
'Tis Not Hereafter - 4.5
The Correspondents - 4
He Preferred Them Sad - 2
The Unseen Door - 3
Bird Thou Never Wert - 3
The Same To Us - 3
She heard it on the Radio - 4
The Man with the Sack - 3
The Secret - 2
A Quarter of a Million - 1
The Pioneers -5
The Sexton's Wife - 4.5
The Wink - 2.5

My top 3 were:

'Tis Not Hereafter - The ending was incredibly satisfying and the atmosphere created was amazing.
The Sexton's Wife - A heartbreaking, raw story that had me tearing up.
The Pioneers - This story filled me with hope. The characters in this were really good. I really enjoyed the POV.

My bottom 3 were:

Publicity - While I loved looking into the psychology of the MC, his inner monologue was not my favourite, I feel that we weren't meant to like his character but it really spoiled what could have been a great story.
The Barbarian - This story was set up really well but the pay off at the end was very disappointing and confusing!
The Secret - I didn't enjoy the dialogue in this story. The main male character was not my favourite character and I found him annoying.
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This book was the Crime Classics choice of the month, which I read thanks to Agora Books. I’m a huge fan of Margery Allingham, so am pleased to find anything by her which is new to me. The Minibus is an odd little collection: ghost stories, love stories, crime stories, spiced with a little Campion. It’s obvious that these stories are by an accomplished writer but for me, they can’t compete with the novels.

It’s interesting to read what Agatha Christie thought of Margery Allingham; her little appreciation is used as the introduction. Like me, she admires More Work for the Undertaker, yet doesn’t think much of Luke as a detective. You will have to read the book to see how much you agree with her.
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A Margery Allingham collection of 18 short stories. Only 3 of the stories have her main character Campion in them so it is a good opportunity for her to flex her writing muscles and entertain us with some far fetched and different short stories. Allingham deals with ghosts, the occult, mistaken identity and some seemingly unsolvable mysteries. 
The story of the haunted house was cleverly written and Allingham caught us off guard with the ghost. I won't give any spoilers but it is just one example of her complete command of a story. 
There is a lovely foreword from Agatha Christie which considering they were contemporaries is praise indeed. 
A perfect book to dip in and out of or just read in one go and forget the world outside.
As is to be expected with a collection of stories there are some I enjoyed more than others but as a whole it is a wonderful collection and I was happy to be given a copy from The Margery Allingham Estate and Net Gallery. They are doing a great job of keeping old classics on the bookshelves.
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Cemented my suspicion that Allingham is too strong a spice for my tastes; she is undoubtedly one of the leading lights of the Golden Age and a superb short story writer, but to me her writing tastes like soapy-cilantro.  I would totally recommend this collection, however, despite my own iffy reaction.
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I usually rush through a Margery Allingham book, following the narrative to its conclusion yet it took me a couple of weeks to read this collection of stories. I found myself needing to savour each one, absorbing its perfection. Most of the stories have a ghostly element. I avoid supernatural mysteries but these stories are of a different ilk. They extend life beyond the grave for very specific purpose - for revenge, or justice or protection. The short story form accepts this device readily, because it provides the twist and surprise at the end and is focused on the specifics of each event. It was easy to suspend disbelief and admire Allingham’s artistry in creating such gems of the genre. They sit alongside O’Henry as exemplars of the short story.

Campion features in three of the stories, all  in the ‘think-outside-the-box’ tradition. In ‘The Sexton’s Wife’  Allingham creates a powerful portrait of a woman intimidated into a life of subservience and fear. ‘She Heard it on the Radio’ is perhaps the cleverest.

I am very pleased to have read these, and am grateful to NetGalley for the opportunity. I may not have found them without the review copy. They provide a satisfying read and fodder for students of the short story.
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I only know Margery Allingham from her mystery novels, and was surprised (and more than a little disconcerted) by these often otherworldly short stories. A great read for this (or any) time of year.
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I haven't actually read any of Margery Allingham's book before, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I'm not sure why I haven't read any before, I've always been a fan of detective novels from the golden age and I have even come across Campion, the detective she is most known for on TV. Although Campion does appear in a couple of the short stories in this book, the collection isn't all about mysteries. In fact, my favourite stories in the collection were those with a bit of a spooky feel. The one with the parrot or the old lady with the radio really stood out.
The stories in this collection are for the most part quite short, but they still offer a lot despite this. She has the ability to tell an engaging and interesting story in just a few short pages. In fact, the one that I enjoyed the least was the longest in the collection. Even that was still a good read.
This might be the first Margery Allingham that I've read, but I'm sure that it won't be the last and I'll be dipping into her books when I get the chance.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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