Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mr. Campion's Farewell: Mike Ripley

A new novel has been published in the Albert Campion series. Margery Allingham created the character; the last novel authored by Allingham was The Mind Readers (1965). Phillip Youngman Carter, her husband, completed the novel that Allingham was working on at her death, A Cargo of Eagles, and published two more books in the series in 1969 and 1970. Mike Ripley has now completed a partial manuscript started by Youngman Carter. Mr. Campion's Farewell was published first in the UK, and will be available in the US in July.


If you are not familiar with the original works of Margery Allingham, or if you would like a refresher course, this article at The Telegraph, Margery Allingham: the Dickens of detective writing, gives a good overview of her crime writing career and the diversity of style and subject found in the books.

When a writer continues a series begun by another author, I have two questions: Does the book stand on it own merits? And has the author successfully conveyed the characters and the style of the previous books? In my opinion, Mike Ripley has succeeded quite well at both. Not only that, but it is clear that he has been a devotee of the series for years and cares about the characters.

Margery Allingham's books about Albert Campion were written between 1929 and 1965, and within the books, Albert Campion does age. This is somewhat unusual for series written at this time. This book by Mike Ripley is set in 1969. Campion is getting on in years, and hampered by the vicissitudes of old age. So it is a different type of story, but keeping the same spirit of the earlier books. He is still sharp mentally, and keeps the inhabitants of the village of  Lindsay Carfax on their toes.

Campion comes to the village of Lindsay Carfax at the suggestion of Superintendent Charles Luke, an old friend who is concerned about several questionable incidents in that area which have not been solved, or even investigated to any extent. Coincidentally, Campion's niece is living in the village, and ends up being hurt in an event that is treated as a prank or an accident.

Campion's investigations into the disappearance of one of the residents for nine days, the incident leading up to his niece's injuries, and other strange goings-on in the village are entertaining. The story is complex; there are characters that are quirky; others that are menacing. The plot moves at a brisk pace, never boring the reader.

I enjoyed revisiting the world of Albert Campion and his family and friends. I appreciated the segments which feature Rupert, Campion's son, and his wife, carrying on some of the investigation in Monte Carlo. All of the sleuths in this story are way more adventurous than I am, which is as it should be. I had forgotten that the series was ending in the late 1960's. One of the characters talks about watching the moon landing on television; this took me back to my experiences on that day.

Mike Ripley is both an author and a critic. He is well known for the Fitzroy Maclean Angel series, which I plan to try soon. I have read many of his columns on crime writing, both at Shots Crime & Thriller Ezine and in the pages of the Deadly Pleasures magazine. They are informative and entertaining. An interesting fact about Mr. Ripley is that he has worked as an archaeologist. And this book features an archaeological dig.

Resources:


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Publisher:  Severn House, July 2014 (US release).
Source: Review copy supplied by the publisher via NetGalley
Length:  300 pages (print release)
Format: e-book
Series:  Albert Campion
Setting: small village in the UK
Genre:  Mystery

10 comments:

  1. I have the first couple of Campion books in the series lined up to read this year. Sidenote: I am wary of another writer taking over a series after the author has died. How can they emulate what the original author intended for their character? I don't know. Admittedly, I am curious to read Ace Atkins Spencer books to see how he has done with the character. It helps that his three books so far have garnered great reviews. Thanks Tracy.

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    1. Keishon, a very good question and I am sure I could write an overly long answer, so will try to be brief. In this case I think it worked because Ripley is very familiar with the series, including Youngman Carter's continuation books, and because he does not really try to imitate but keep the spirit of the series. Over the time of the series, the books changed in tone. I am no expert, I read all of them many years ago. I think the first books were lighter and more of the puzzle type, and the later ones, after the war, were more serious, sometimes darker, with more psychological aspects. This one shows the lighter, more humorous side.

      On the other hand, two authors wrote continuation novels for the Inspector Frost series by R. D. Wingfield, and I would not read those. I was never a fan of Robert B. Parker's series, but if I were to read it, I would stick with the original series, because there are so many. But maybe Ace Atkins is doing a good job; I have heard good things about his writing. I have read almost all of the Nero Wolfe novels written by Robert Goldsborough (1980's, 1990's and a couple recently). He did a good enough job and it was fun to read about the characters again. But no one could come close to Rex Stout's genius.

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  2. Tracy - Thanks as ever for the fine review. I, too, am wary when one writer takes over, if you will, another writer's protagonist. But I've been hearing some terrific things about this novel. I may just try it...

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    1. Margot, I would have tried this one just out of curiosity anyway. I was thrilled to be able to get a copy from NetGalley. But having read about Mike Ripley's background and efforts in writing this, I think he did a great job with the material and am not surprised that it has been accepted so well. Every author who continues another author's series probably has fans and detractors, and they just have to accept that response will be varied.

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  3. Great review Tracy, and you sum up most of my thoughts about this continuation. I am quite cautious about takeovers (and becoming increasingly so) but I thought this one was a fair try. Thanks for the link to my review...

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    1. Thanks, Moira. I did a little research on various authors who had continued series, and the variety of ways that they come to it is interesting. My reaction varies according to each situation. For sure, I think the continuation of Christie novels is a bad idea, but I am sure it will be successful, financially at least.

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  4. Thanks, like many others I'm not keen on people taking over another writer's creation but I might give this a go. To begin with I wasn't too keen on the character of Campion but as he aged he really began to grow on me.

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    1. Katrina, I think the evolution of the character of Campion is one key to why this works. On the other hand, I haven't reread many of the books in a while.

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  5. Not for me, though I will try an Allingham book in the future. I'll get to some of his Angel books also at some point as they've been there a while now!

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    1. Col, I will be waiting to hear what you think of an Allingham book when you try one. I haven't figured out which Angel book I will start with as the first one is somewhat harder to get and I am not sure it makes any difference.

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