Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Dancers in Mourning: Margery Allingham
Thus far in my rereading of the Albert Campion series (Death of a Ghost and Flowers for the Judge), I have found the books to have fantastical plots and weird characters. This story was less fantastical but the number of extremely unusual, self-absorbed characters made up for it. The story centers around the star of a musical review (Jimmy Sutane) who has been targeted by a malicious prankster. Campion has been brought in to help him out with this problem. Many of the cast have gone to his country house for the weekend and Campion is invited to join them on Sunday. By the end of that day a woman has died, run over by a car driven by Jimmy Sutane. Although there is no convincing evidence, Campion suspects it may be murder.
Campion hardly detects at all in this story. Early on, he falls for Jimmy Sutane's wife, Linda, and thus when the family is presented with a murder in its midst, he prefers to stay out of it, because his detecting may end up causing her pain. This seems a bit too melodramatic for me, but otherwise the story would have been over much sooner, so that device plays the role of extending the plot. Almost to the end, Campion is so stuck in the morass of his problems that he misses what really happened. I had no suspicions of who the culprit must be, although I think I might have had I paid more attention.
I did not like most of the characters because they were unforgivably selfish and thoughtless. The characters are either actors or so immersed in the theatrical production that they ignore everything else. The victim, Chloe Pye, was a nuisance and unpopular, and most of them as just as glad she is gone. Jimmy and Linda don't have much time to spend with their six-year-old daughter, Sarah, who leads a very lonely life.
That all sounds like I did not like this novel, but I did. I am under Allingham's spell, and even a lesser effort is fun for me. The plot dragged in spots, and went on too long, but there were bits of it that I loved. Uncle William, the author of the memoir that the musical review is based on, is an old friend of Campion's and one of the few likable characters. His presence injected some humor into the proceedings. When the Sutane's butler quits after a disastrous party, Campion's manservant Lugg is dragooned into acting as butler for as long as needed. He and the sweet Sarah Sutane become fast friends; he teaches her card tricks and how to pick locks.
This is my submission for the book of 1937 for the Crimes of the Century meme for this month, hosted by Rich at Past Offences. This post is also submitted for the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt in the "Hat" category.
Publisher: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1937.
Length: 336 pages
Series: Albert Campion
Source: I purchased my copies.