Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Short Stories on Wednesdays - The Case Of The White Elephant by Margery Allingham

For more short stories this week, please visit Breadcrumbs Reads.

When my Auntie Laura died sixteen years ago, I was lucky to receive a few of her books, including a two-volume mystery compilation.

I love to think of this former schoolteacher sitting in her cozy living room reading from them. These books are treasures for the mystery lover. They contain novels, novelettes, and stories from many of the great writers. Here you will find unabridged works by such authors as Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, Ellery Queen, Rex Stout, Daphne Du Maurier, and Cornell Irish whose short story, It Had To Be Murder was the basis for Alfred Hitchcock's movie, Rear Window. The story was featured here in the early days of this blog.

Today I decided to read a story by Margery Allingham, featuring her detective Albert Campion. I've read only one Campion book, and keep meaning to read more in the series.

The story begins with Campion's young friend, Juliet wanting him to tell her all about the jewel robberies that have been taking place in London. During the course of their conversation, we learn about her fiancé Philip, his 'Auntie Flo,' otherwise known as Florence, Dowager Countess of Marle, and Philip's 'man' whom he fired after learning he had a criminal record. Juliet is appalled by this, and being a feisty young women she got him a new job with the unknowing Aunt Flo. Two other characters are a traveling manicurist, and Campion's policeman friend Chief Detective Inspector Stanislaw Oates. In just these few pages, we get a mystery presented and solved in the most interesting and entertaining manner. The Dowager Countess turns out to be an older version of Juliet, a strong, assertive, and compassionate woman.

I really like Margery Allingham's writing. There is wit and humor in the midst of a mystery. When Juliet wants to tell Campion about Philip,
Mr. Campion smiled ruefully. It was a sign of the end of the thirties, he supposed, when one submitted cheerfully to the indignity of taking a young woman out only to hear about her hopes and fears concerning a younger man.
The author was 32 when this story was published, and the reader may imagine her little smile as she wrote those words.

Perhaps 2012 will be the year I read more of the Campion books. I look forward to them with great joy.

The Case Of The White Elephant
14 pages long
first published, 1936 in Mr. Campion: Criminologist
included in A Treasury of Great Mysteries
edited by Howard Haycraft and John Beecraft, 1957.


  1. Nan- my parents had the same two volumes of that anthology! Gone now, though. We are having mystery reading weather here. Cold(for Nashville) with lowering skies. What a treat, since our summers make this city as hot as Borneo. 47 is a cold snap here.

  2. These books look a true "treasure"-y. I would love to have a copy!

    I've never read a Campion, probably time to start!

  3. I'd never heard of Margery Allingham until I read your post. She sounds like an Agatha she? Interesting...have fun reading the rest! :D

  4. I love that. What a treasure you have in those little books. I'm always on the hunt for the older mystery or gardening book. So much intelligence in the writing. Thanks for sharing yours.~~Dee

  5. Those books are wonderful - I love the spines with the pictures of mysterious people (not sure if they're meant to be villains or detectives though!). Perfect fireside reading for the Winter :-)

  6. Isn't that amazing, Betsy?! I wonder if it was a popular book in its time. It sure has a lot of great writers represented. I love the word 'lowering.'

    Debbie, he's a fun, and different character. A bit mysterious.

    Risa, many rank MA right up there with Agatha!

    Dee, I love old gardening books, especially.

    Sophia, I think they are sleuths looking down at the ground. :<) One could definitely spend the whole winter immersed in these two books. Hmm, maybe a good idea!

  7. I love Albert Campion; he and Miss Silver are my favourite sleuths, though I'm very fond of Peter Shandy and Sarah Kelling (from Charlotte Macleod's two series).

  8. Nicola, thanks for the reminder of Charlotte MacLeod. I read the first in both series ages ago, and always meant to continue.

  9. Thanks for this recommendation. The only Allingham story I've read is Three Is a Lucky Number, about a guy planning to kill his third wife... you see everything from his point of view, and it's quite suspenseful and ends satisfactorily.

  10. Ooh, HKatz, it sounds creepy. I will look for it. Thanks!


I'll answer your comments as soon as I possibly can. Please do come back if you've asked a question.
Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.