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The Allingham Minibus

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Member Reviews

This was a good read, which kept me interested from beginning to end.  I enjoyed the prose, and was intrigued by the characters, and where their stories would lead.
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Margery Allingham knew that her keynote character needed to stand out from the other Golden Age detectives, and there is absolutely no doubt that she succeeded. Campion is wry and irreverent, solving his mysteries with a twinkle in his eye. 

The other stories in this volume display perfectly Allingham’s sense of wit, but also amply demonstrate her ability to surprise. Look no further than ‘She Heard It on the Radio’ and ‘Bird Thou Never Wert,’ giving us a touch of the supernatural and the macabre. 

A well chosen selection of diverse tales from a true master of her craft— and the short story.
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From Crime Classics Review Club I have been lucky to receive a collection of short stories by Margery Allingham.
It is a collection of very different short stories. Some are  crime stories, other  ghost / super natural stories, and then  again  some are essays. Some of the stories bring a revisit with Allingham's famous detective: Albert Campion and that is always enjoyable. One of these stories I had read previously: The Man with the Sack, as it also occurs in Campion at Christmas (The Case of the Man with the Sack).
The book starts with a short article about the writer and is followed by a tribute to her and her work written by another of the great classic crime writers:  Agatha Christie
The tribute is well deserved, and this is a collection of very well written short stories all worth reading.
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Loved these two stories. Although I kept looking for Campion, was really happy with quality of plotting, characterization and style of writing. I am a FAN of Golden Age mysteries; always a treat for me.
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Not the usual Allingham fare that I am used to.  I had only read her novels before these short stories.  Although I enjoyed the variation I think I prefer her full length novels.
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This book includes an assortment of ghost stories, mystery stories (not all involving Campion), a crime story or three, and a couple of more mainstream stories--and some of the stories fit in two of these categories (for example, "The Perfect Butler" and "The Wink"). They are entertaining fare with a good deal of Allingham's humor and wit. I found it an excellent collection of bedtime reading, two stories a night, and recommend it highly in that spirit.
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A great mix of Campion stories and unrelated mysteries by Margery Allingham.  The stories, not concerning Albert Campion, are extremely interesting and well written.  When an author has a main protagonist, whom is widely popular, it can be difficult in trying to get their reading audience to accept other stories.  Margery Allingham excels in this area and readers of hers will not be disappointed.

The array of Campion short stories are excellent, intriguing and always have that flair, we have come to love about Campion.  The mix of stories are well balanced and nicely put together in this collection
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A few stories into Agora Books' 2019 reprint of The Allingham Minibus, I realized I had read this collection before, although the rather cute title was new to me. A quick search of my bookshelves revealed the answer: the set of stories had previously been released under the title Mr. Campion's Lucky Day and Other Stories, and some years ago I had procured and read a Carroll & Graf paperback edition from the early 1990s. Margery Allingham was and is a solid writer and storyteller, so revisiting the tales – which contain a mix of crime and supernatural thematic elements – proved not to be a hardship.

There are many more successes than misfires here, although I found myself wishing that the organization of the stories and their order were a bit less haphazard. Personally, I would have curated these pieces so they were grouped by general subject into categories such as "The Humans", "The Spirits", and "The Criminous", understanding that Allingham's characters can move between these labels with admirable ease.
Three tales feature the author's series detective Albert Campion: "…Lucky Day", "The Unseen Door", and the longer Christmas adventure, "The Man with the Sack". ("Sack", by the way, was collected in the British Library Crime Classics anthology Crimson Snow in 2016.) The single novella in the bunch, the non-Campion "A Quarter of a Million", is an interesting cops-and-robbers tale where Allingham switches between perspective views of the dogged detective and the duplicitous (and dangerous) kidnapper, building suspense as she places protagonist and antagonist on a collision course.

It is the tales of ghosts and avenging spirits, however, that I found more resonant than the traditional crime stories. "The Sexton's Wife" is particularly good, a simple but effective tale of an old woman relating the details of a tragic triangle and beyond-the-grave revenge that occurred when she was a youthful bride. With the other supernatural stories here, atmosphere and mood are always solid, but the plots occasionally slip into cliché that allows the reader to get ahead of the simple story, as with "The Secret" and "'Tis Not Hereafter".

The author is arguably at her best with the stories that focus on the vulnerabilities of everyday people; these short pieces take an observational, reflective approach similar to de Maupassant, and some don't even feature a traditional crime element. "The Correspondents" follows a man who must reconcile his effusive friend's written adventures with a far different reality, while in "The Pioneers", a couple about to dissolve their marriage finds their perspective forced by visiting friends. And "Publicity" is a likeable underdog story about an actor who is prematurely pronounced dead and, because of this, discovers a new life with realigned values. All of these "Human" stories I found thoughtful and often elegiac.

I need to voice one criticism, as Agora seems to have chosen to alter a tale for the sake of political correctness, with no mention made that the text has been censored. The change made to a story about a celebrated Asian academic and a manor-house jewel robbery is no minor one: the final paragraph (containing the "twist" that explains the thief's ideology) is omitted, and without it the story ends abruptly and rather pointlessly. That original final-sentence sting helps to define the casual cultural racism ingrained in the Anglo-Saxon hosts, which gives an uneasy justification to the person taking their possessions and makes the story's moral landing more stubbornly ambiguous. If you are wondering what social comment that original paragraph contained, look to the story's title for your clue: "The Same to Us".

As always, I'm very happy to see so many authors and titles from the Golden Age of Detection in print (or eBook form) and readily available to a new generation of mystery readers. The Allingham Minibus is a worthy story collection, and will be especially satisfying for those who look for variety and character definition in the genre. This was a preview edition offered by Agora Books via NetGalley.
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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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