Margery Allingham wrote Traitor’s Purse in 1941, originally published in the United States as The Sabotage Murder Mystery. Set during the Second World War, Allingham’s publishers questioned the plausibility of the German plot she created, only to later discover that she had imagined a secret that truly existed in German camps. A tale of amnesia, deceit and collusion, Allingham’s plot bears remarkable resemblance to Operation Bernhard, a Nazi exercise that only came to British knowledge at the close of the war. Though Allingham had no way of knowing she was writing about a real conspiracy, it truly is testament to her skill and imagination as a crime novelist.
Traitor’s Purse follows one of Allingham’s most loved detectives, Albert Campion, awakening in a hospital after losing his memory. Falsely accused of attacking a police officer, all he knows is that there is something vital he must do, somehow connected to the number 15. On the run from the police and unable to recognise even his faithful servant or his beloved fiancée, Campion struggles desperately to put the pieces together while the very fate of England is at stake.
Tightly plotted, with Allingham’s trademark wit and complex, misleading hints, Traitor’s Purse in an enduring war classic. But what makes it even more interesting is its resemblance to Operation Bernhard, which you can read more about here after reading Traitor’s Purse (to keep the ingenious plot a surprise!). In place since 1940 and not halted until the advance of the Allied armies in 1945, the exercise was uncovered when Bernhard Kruger handed himself over to the British Authorities. Perhaps the Allied forces needed a real life Albert Campion on their side! Allingham’s ability to access and predict the wartime ambience really showcases her talent and dexterity.