Publication date: This edition – 7th May 2015
(First published in 1929 )
What could be better than a mixed bag of excitable party guests embarking on a game involving ritual dagger at the Black Dudley Mansion, who will continue to observe the impeccable manners expected from English society when things go a bit ‘Pete Tong’?
Aaah, welcome to the Golden Age of crime where sinister occurrences or the odd sudden death never prevent the timely bong of the dinner gong.
So then, this book is Albert Campion’s introduction as a party-goer-cum-inadvertent-sleuth. With a predisposition to convince everyone of his bumbling incompetence by mustering very little effort, Campion’s presence in his horn-rimmed spectacles complete with unnatural aloofness was unexpectedly comedic and intriguing.
He’s not typically masculine or heroic, speaks with a whine, performs occasional conjuring tricks, and has an odd way of getting to the point. In fact, he’s the most irritating person you could find yourself next to when the seating arrangements are being made. Still, for all his wacky train of thought, or apparent absence of it, he does provide invaluable assistance when least expected. I think that’s why I found Campion’s popularity flaw and eccentricity strangely refreshing.
I only wished he had more of a starring role as his investigative involvement throughout the evening’s proceedings was relatively insignificant. He was frequently overtaken by a more vocal and assertive guest in attendance, a Dr George Abbershaw. Although this is a ‘Campion Mystery’ it didn’t quite feel like he owned it.
Anyhow, if you will engage in extreme after dinner party games in an old property that bustles with secrets, where ‘peasants’ drop their aitches at a rate of a pantomime crook, you may find yourself prevented from making your polite excuses to saunter home as there are even more dark and dastardly deeds afoot than any dinner guest should be subjected to.
Oh, well. That peculiar Albert Campion knew it would all end in tears quite early on:
All this running about in the dark with daggers doesn’t seem to me healthy.
Quite so. But good Lord, even he doesn’t know the half of it…
I’ll admit this ‘trapped house’ murder mystery was waaay more engaging than I’d expected it to be. I now find myself wanting to devour more books featuring this particular sleuth to see how his character develops. And that’s a major bonus as the art work on the covers in this series are enticingly vintage looking too – and I like that, A LOT!
(I am immensely grateful to have received a paperback copy of this book from the publisher in a Twitter giveaway they ran some time ago and thought it was about time I gave it a whirl – and I’m SO glad I did!)
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
THE FIRST CAMPION MYSTERY
‘Margery Allingham stands out like a shining light’
A suspicious death and a haunted family heirloom were not advertised when Dr George Abbershaw and a group of London’s brightest young things accepted an invitation to the mansion of Black Dudley.
Skulduggery is most certainly afoot, and the party-goers soon realise that they’re trapped in the secluded house.
Amongst them is a stranger who promises to unravel the villainous plots behind their incarceration – but can George and his friends trust the peculiar young man who calls himself Albert Campion?
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
Margery Allingham was born in Ealing, London in 1904 to a family immersed in literature. Her first novel, Blackkerchief Dick, was published in 1923 when she was 19. Her first work of detective fiction was a serialized story published by the Daily Express in 1927. Entitled The White Cottage Mystery, it contained atypical themes for a woman writer of the era.
Her breakthrough occurred in 1929 with the publication of The Crime at Black Dudley. This introduced Albert Campion, albeit originally as a minor character. He returned in Mystery Mile, thanks in part to pressure from her American publishers, much taken with the character. Campion proved so successful that Allingham made him the centrepiece of another 17 novels and over 20 short stories, continuing into the 1960s.