current preoccupation, I've dipped back into my childhood years again with this excellent Penguin Classic, The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham. I'm sorry about the blurred illustration - it's the one I found on Amazon which is identical to my own copy, and I was delighted to be able to slip it into my reticule for a flight to London last week. I've remarked before on how wonderfully practical these older Penguins are, with their small bulk and small print - have we all become averse to reading something that looks densely-packed on the page?
I first read my parents' hardback copy of this book in my early teens, and although I haven't read it since, the sense of menace lingered over the years. It's a wonderfully-written 'tec novel; the language is sophisticated and delightful and never misses a beat. I knew I would love it afresh on the first page - "The fog had crept into the taxi where it stood panting in a traffic jam" - and this Eliot-like fog is the "smoke" of the title. As a novel, it obeys the classic unities of place and time for over three quarters of its length, taking place over two days in a restricted area of London in a dense post-war fog.
The tension throughout is maintained by that fog, and by the sense that the forces of evil are somehow connected to even the most innocent-seeming protagonist in the story. And although I began to remember just as the denouement came into sight, the need to pursue the plot to its conclusion was as powerful as I can recall experiencing. This is one of Allingham's later stories involving Albert Campion, and all the better for it - though I may find myself scouring Amazon for one of the earlier ones.
If you haven't tried any of these stories, this is a good place to start. I envy you.