The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham

The White Cottage Mystery I love reading detective novels from the Golden Age but I’m very aware of the number of authors from that era I still haven’t tried and until now, Margery Allingham was one of them. This is the first of her books that I’ve read but I’m now definitely interested in reading more of them. I understand The White Cottage Mystery was her first detective story, originally serialised in the Daily Express in 1927 before being published as a book the following year, and though it does have the feel of an early effort I still enjoyed it.

The mystery begins with Jerry Challoner driving through a small village in Kent one afternoon when he notices a young girl struggling to carry a heavy basket. Stopping his car, he offers to help, but shortly after dropping the girl off at her home, The White Cottage, he hears the sound of a gunshot. After learning that Eric Crowther, from the neighbouring house, the Dene, has been murdered inside The White Cottage, Jerry calls his father, Detective Chief Inspector W.T. Challoner of Scotland Yard. When W.T. arrives on the scene he interviews the family and servants who live both in the cottage and the house next door and discovers that the dead man was an unpleasant, blackmailing bully. There are plenty of people who have a motive for killing Crowther and who openly admit to wanting him dead, but W.T. and Jerry must decide which, if any of them, is the murderer.

Even though a murder is involved, there’s no graphic violence or anything too gruesome in this book, and the focus is on W.T’s attempts to solve the mystery. Written and set in the 1920s, W.T. uses old-fashioned methods of crime solving – looking for clues and questioning suspects – and his investigations uncover family secrets, blackmail and even connections to a secret society of thieves. The plot is not especially original but there’s still some suspense and a big twist near the end that took me by surprise – I would never have guessed who the murderer actually was and I can see why it took W.T. such a long time to figure it out.

The White Cottage Mystery is really more of a novella than a novel, short enough to be read in just a few sittings, but the plot was resolved satisfactorily and I felt that it didn’t really need to be any longer. Now that I know what Margery Allingham’s writing is like I think I’m going to enjoy exploring her other novels!

I received a copy of The White Cottage Mystery from Bloomsbury Reader via Netgalley.

17 thoughts on “The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham

  1. Lisa says:

    I’ve enjoyed some of her stand-alones, but I haven’t read this first one yet. I do like her books – she and Josephine Tey rank just behind Dorothy L. Sayers, in my mind.

    • Helen says:

      I love Dorothy L. Sayers but have only read one Josephine Tey book so far. I usually enjoy vintage mysteries but haven’t really read many of them at all!

  2. Julia Jones says:

    Oh please do read some PROPER Marge! White Cottage Mystery and Crime at Black Dudley are too early to be a good beginning. She’s such a varied writer and her development is so interesting. You have months of happy reading ahead of you …

    • Helen says:

      Thanks for commenting, Julia. I definitely want to try some of her other books – the only reason I started with this one was because I came across it on the Netgalley website. I can appreciate that her earliest books are probably her weakest and I’m glad to hear that she did develop as a writer.

  3. Elena says:

    I love detective novels, but not from the Golden Age though. There is such a clear distinction between good and bad characters and actions. Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a much necessary step in the genre, but it is not my cup of tea!

    Do you like detective fiction with more blurry morals?

    • Helen says:

      I understand what you mean about the clear distinction between good and bad, and yes I do like fiction with more blurred morals too. But I love the old-fashioned feel of vintage detective novels and that’s why I usually prefer them to contemporary ones.

  4. Donna says:

    I love the Albert Campion mysteries by Allingham. I hope you will like them too. I didn’t realize vintage mysteries were available from netgalley. Perhaps I should get on their list!

    • Julia Jones says:

      Allingham’s writing varies from book to book which is why chronological is a reasonably good approach – except for the very earliest which are frankly less good. She’s actually got a very rich and distinctive style and lots of humour too. I wrote her biography so I’m probably prejudiced but I do find that she stands reading and re-reading far better than most of her contemporaries

  5. Julia Jones says:

    I just read another blog post on the White Cottage Mystery so decided to pop links to both yours and hers onto my Allingham Family Fictions Facebook page. Hope that’s okay by you?

  6. aartichapati says:

    I have a few Allinghams on my shelf from the Campion series, but not the FIRST one in the series so I haven’t read any of them yet! I wonder if I can just read them out of order – you make it sound quite good!

    • Julia Jones says:

      I think you can do either or both. I read them haphazardly never quite know what to expect. Then I read them chronologically and was fascinatedf by the LITERARY development which was why I think wrote Allingham’s biography. But from the STORY point of view the order doesn’t matter. Just as long as you don’t expect to read the same style of book each time. (My view anyway)

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