After years of avoiding the four queens of British crime fiction (sorry friends, I can’t bring myself to enjoy Agatha Christie), I checked this title out on NetGalley without realizing that it was actually Margery Allingham. Boy, did I ever learn my lesson about not judging authors by their read-alikes! The Man of Dangerous Secrets was an absolutely entrancing read and I so grateful that Ipso Books is re-releasing these amazing crime classics.
Title: The Man of Dangerous Secrets
Author: Margery Allingham writing as Maxwell March
Publisher: Ipso Books
Orignial Publication Date: 1933
Publication Date: August 11, 2017
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Murder Mystery
Themes: Romance, Blackmail
Features: Excerpt from The Tiger in the Smoke
My Rating: 4/ 5
He was haunted by the face of a girl, a girl lovely beyond all imagining, with stark terror in her wide grey eyes.
Robin Grey is Scotland Yard’s inside man – handling matters requiring a delicacy, integrity, and secrecy outside the jurisdiction of regular government offices. He is a man of details, of observation, and of intuition.
While lurking about Waterloo station on a mission for the Foreign Office, Grey’s interest is piqued by a suspicious looking character. Tailing him, Grey catches the man shove a fellow passenger onto the train tracks. Rushing to intervene, Robin Grey never stops to think that saving the victim might ensnare him in the same sinister plot.
Heiress Jennifer Fern is cursed tragic accidents have claimed two past fiancés, and she would have lost a third had it not been for Robin Grey’s heroic actions. Terrorised by the torment that stalks her, Grey is drawn to this young woman and feels honour-bound to help her. Tempting fate, he goes undercover to solve this deadly mystery.
But if loving Miss Jennifer Fern means certain death, can Grey protect her, and his own heart, before history repeats itself.
The Man of Dangerous Secrets was originally published in 1933 as Other Man’s Danger
I absolutely loved this book. At just 264 pages, there is so much action packed in that I felt I like I was on my toes the entire time. It has all the hallmarks of 1930s crime fiction as the genre was being re-defined with the secret service man as a dashing hero, a wealthy yet helpless heiress, blackmail and high society business men, and a neat and tidy ending where those who committed crimes against their will get away (almost) Scott free.
I’m not going to lie, I originally thought that I was diving in to a piece of historical fiction and kept thinking ‘man, these details and the dialogue seems so authentic!’ Well, duh. It was originally written and set in 1933, so I had to change my mindset to the fact that I was reading a classical thriller and after that it was impossible not to get swept up. Yes, Miss Fern was rather helpless, yes the other women in this text are either victims or emotionally driven, yes it was originally written as a serial, and yes there are a lot of characters to keep track of but it all worked together so well.
I really enjoyed the tongue-and-cheek humour that was used to break moments of tension, but more than anything I really enjoyed how Allingham dropped so many clues in every chapter that I was running in circles trying to piece them all together. By the time everything started to reach it’s pinnacle I was starting to feel like and exhausted investigator myself.
Of all the many characters I was most drawn to Sir Henry Fern and Inspector Mowbray. Fern because he was by far the most relatable and emotionally raw, trying to the right or moral thing regardless of the consequences. His emotional turmoil was worn on his sleeve, and as a result he rose well above the status of dispassionate businessmen that I found so easy to assign to his colleagues. Mowbray simply because he was quirky and had the ability to razz our hero without reprimand, and yet still take a jab gracefully in return. I did not, however, really enjoy Miss Fern. Aside from being quite beautiful she doesn’t seem to have a lot going on – I mean come on, she agreed to marry a man that she didn’t love, simply because he liked her a lot, when she knew that all of her fiancé’s had been murdered. She does redeem herself some through sticking to her guns and insisting that she was crazy and confronting her nurses, but I would have liked to see that level of tenacity throughout the entire story.
Would I recommend this book? Goodness, yes! This trip down memory lane is an absolutely delightful read. With just enough romance and damsel in distress to balance out the gore and thrill, it’s sure to please as many readers today as it did during it’s debut in 1933.