1st edition (UK)
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|ISBN||978-0-09-949283-2 (Vintage, Random House)|
|Preceded by||The Fashion in Shrouds|
|Followed by||Coroner's Pidgin|
Traitor's Purse is a crime novel written by Margery Allingham. It was originally published in 1941 in the United Kingdom by Heinemann, London and in the United States by Doubleday, New York as The Sabotage Murder Mystery. It is the eleventh novel in the Albert Campion series and is set during the Second World War.
Albert Campion wakes in hospital suffering from amnesia. He knows there is something vital he must do, but he cannot remember what it is - or even his own name. He finds himself on the run, suspected of attacking a policeman, as he tries to avert a catastrophe.
The action takes place during the early years of the Second World War in the fictional town of Bridge in South West England, which is run by an ancient hereditary organisation, the Masters of Bridge.
A man wakes in hospital to find he cannot remember anything except that he has something vital to do, connected to the number fifteen. He hears voices outside discussing the unconscious patient - who they say has killed a policeman and will be hanged. He escapes in a stolen car.
He is followed, but instead of the police, the car contains a woman who seems to be helping him. She calls him Campion. Also in the car is an old man, Mr Anscombe, whom they drop off at his house before continuing to Lee Aubrey's house, where they are staying. Campion remembers that the woman is called Amanda and thinks she must be his wife, so he is shocked when she tells him she wants to break off their engagement. He does not tell her about his amnesia.
Campion receives a letter from Stanislaus Oates telling him to investigage Anscombe - but then Superintendent Hutch arrives and tells them that Anscombe is dead. He takes Campion, the last person to see Anscombe alive, to see the body. Pyne, who had just arrived to visit Aubrey, accompanies them - Campion guesses he must be an old friend and talks to him accordingly but then finds out they only met three days before.
Amanda tells Campion that she is falling in love with Lee Aubrey. Then Hutch takes Campion to Bridge, where he smuggles him into the Council Chamber, the headquarters of the Masters of Bridge, built into caves in a hill overlooking the town. Campion finds an agenda for a meeting which mentions Minute Fifteen, and Anscombe's intended retirement. Exploring further, he finds a vast cavern filled with hundreds of trucks.
Next day, Aubrey takes Campion for a tour of the Institute. They meet Mrs Ericson, whose volunteer workers are housed in the Institute grounds - she is clearly infatuated with Aubrey. They also see a researcher who is developing a new, very powerful explosive.
Pyne tips Hutch off that Campion might be an impostor. Hutch asks Campion questions to prove his identity, but his mind is blank. He hits Hutch, knocking him out, and drives to Coachingford, the main town in the area. Acting automatically, he goes to a newsagent's shop. In a back room he meets Lugg, who he does not recognise.
Campion tells Lugg about his memory loss and Lugg patches up his injuries - and shows him the basket full of pound notes which he left on his last visit. Then a man with a gun arrives and offers Campion cash to leave town - he runs when he realises it is the real Campion, not a fake. Lugg recognises him as one of many professional criminals who have arrived in town.
Amanda summons Campion to a hotel where he meets Miss Anscombe. She gives Campion her brother's diary, and tells him she believes he was smuggling contraband in the caves under the hill. The hotel is surrounded by both police and criminals, so Campion escapes over the roofs and catches a train to London where he meets Sir Henry Bull. He tells Campion that Minute Fifteen is a war loan, details of which are going to be mailed to every taxpayer in the country.
Campion rushes back to Coachingford - he now knows that Pyne must be working with the criminals and believes he is responsible for Anscombe's murder. But as he gets off the train, he is arrested. Trying to get away from the police station, he is knocked out again. Waking up he has forgotten what happened since his original injury but remembers everything before. He is investigating counterfeit currency being given away to crooks and vagrants.
Amanda arrives and he finally puts the two halves of the story together - the trucks are going to be used to distribute vast amounts of forged currency to cause economic crisis. He is left waiting in the police station until Hutch, with a broken jaw, arrives from speaking to Oates, who has been in hospital, unconscious and under guard - he was the prisoner that Campion heard being discussed when he first woke up.
When Campion gets to the cave, the trucks are already leaving. He uses the experimental explosive from the Institute to blow them up, killing Pyne and many of his criminal employees. In the debris he finds letters showing that the cash was going to be posted out to poor people disguised as a social security payment - the vast number of envelopes would have been disguised by the letters about the war loan going out on the same day.
Campion and Hutch realise Pyne could not have carried out the plan by himself. The mastermind turns out to be Lee Aubrey, who admits what he has done - his idea was to bring down the government and install himself in its place.
Amanda and Campion talk - it turns out that Aubrey lost interest once he thought he had made her fall in love with him. They decide to get married the next day.
Characters in "Traitor's Purse"
- Albert Campion
- Lady Amanda Fitton
- Magersfontein Lugg, Campion's servant
- Stanislaus Oates of Scotland Yard
- Superintendent Hutch, a senior officer in the local county police force
- Robert Anscombe, Secretary to the Masters of Bridge
- Miss Anscombe, his elderly sister
- Lee Aubrey, a brilliant academic, Principal of the Bridge Institute (a research institute owned by the Masters of Bridge)
- Mrs Ericson, in charge of a group of women doing voluntary work
- Mr Pyne, owner of a business evacuated to Bridge
- Sir Henry Bull, a Treasury minister and Senior Master of Bridge
Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science
Operation Bernhard was a real life German plot to flood wartime Britain with counterfeit currency - however this did not become public until after the end of the war, so Allingham was unaware of it at the time the novel was written.