Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Flowers for the Judge: Margery Allingham


From the Felony & Mayhem website:
The Barnabas publishing dynasty is no stranger to mystery; after all, the founder’s nephew is legendary for having disappeared in broad daylight. Yet the discovery of one of the Barnabas cousins, dead for some days inside a locked basement, throws the entire clan in disarray. As police suspicions settle on a member of the family, the Barnabas cousins have no choice but to ask Albert Campion to step in and salvage their reputation.
After Christie, Margery Allingham is my favorite of the queens of Golden Age mystery writers. (In fact, I might even say that Christie and Allingham are equal in my estimation. It is hard to draw a comparison since their work is very different and Christie wrote so many more books.) The point is, in my recent rereading of Allingham's mysteries, I find myself enchanted with her writing.

Margery Allingham's plots are sometimes fantastical; there are weird, eccentric characters, who seem to be in the book for no reason. In this book, there were moments when the plot seemed to slow to a standstill, and I was wanting something to happen... or at least something I understood. But in the end all is explained, the weird people and occurrences make sense.

There is a romance, and usually I am allergic to romances in a book. But in this case, it is not an additional subplot, it is a major part of the plot. I also like the way that the romance is portrayed, telling us a lot about the time, that the two lovers cannot just go off and do what they want, but are constrained by the attitudes of the time.

I don't want to imply that I loved this book without reservation. There is a trial and the book does spend a lot of time at the trial. It was interesting, and important points were made, but I did find that part of the book tedious.

Overall, this book is very enjoyable and illustrates all that I love about Allingham. She has a beautiful way of telling a story and creating interesting characters. Albert Campion is a wonderful character, of course, but there is also Albert's manservant, Magersfontein Lugg, a former burglar who has done prison time and has criminal contacts. In this book, Ritchie, one of the cousins who is relegated to a small role in the company, really shines.

See the interesting insights in Moira's post at Clothes in Books.

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Publisher:  Bantam, 1984. Orig. pub. 1936.
Length:     241 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Albert Campion
Setting:    UK, mostly London
Genre:      Mystery
Source:    I purchased my copy. 

19 comments:

  1. I've never tried this author, though I'm aware of her name and Albert Campion. I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this author, but you haven't tempted me!

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    1. I have read that the books get darker as the series moves on, Col, although I have no specific memory of that. I think I have read them all. The Tiger in the Smoke is very highly rated. But in general, this series is not your type.

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  2. I like Allingham, too, Tracy, although I must admit, I like Christie better. But in either case, I'm glad you really enjoyed this one. I think Allingham's writing style really is excellent.

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    1. I read Allingham and Christie for different reasons, Margot, so it is hard to draw comparisons. And no need to really, since I can enjoy them both. I just thought I would throw that in to see what others thought.

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  3. I've had this one for several years but not got around to reading it yet - I will soon.

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    1. I hope you like it when you try it, Katrina.

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  4. I'm so glad to have read this review.I don't recall ever reading any Allingham but I have picked one of hers to read for Crimes of the Century this month (only because I already own it) and I was not looking forward to it. No real reason than a vaguely disinterested feeling. But I always like hearing of people who are passionate about an author and your post has given me a very positive attitude with which to approach the book...always a better way to start. Thanks :)

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    1. I am glad to give you a positive approach to the book you plan to read, Bernadette. I had seen your comment at Past Offences. I cannot guarantee you will like it, of course, but I have heard it is very short.

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  5. I agree with you on this - not my favourite perhaps but a very solid performance. You might be interested in the TV version with Peter Davison where they made some interesting modifications to the story.

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    1. I will look into streaming this episode, Sergio. Looks like it may be available from Amazon Prime. I would love to watch it (even with modifications).

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  6. Lukewarm about the book (despite your excellent review, Tracy), but I would love to have a blowup of that cover on my wall!

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    1. Not sure this is your kind of book, Mathew. Although there may be others of Allingham's books which might suit you better. Later ones. I do love the cover too.

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  7. Enjoyed your review, Tracy. But except for MORE WORK FOR THE UNDERTAKER (which I really liked), I much prefer the few Allingham books without Campion or that oafish sidekick of his. That relationship just never worked for me. I also had trouble with a previous Allingham book because of its ugly racist undertones - that would be THE FASHION IN SHROUDS which I despised.

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    1. Oh, and I was looking forward to Fashion in Shrouds,Yvette. The next one I read will be Dancers in Mourning. My favorite books by Allingham (as I remember it from my earlier reading of them) were those set in or after the war years. But definitely I have enjoyed the ones I have read recently. It is hit or miss whether I enjoy old Golden Age books when I reread them.

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  8. Yet to read Margery Allingham, Tracy. It'd be interesting to compare her work with that of Christie.

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    1. It is interesting, Prashant. Both authors have their strengths.

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  9. Thanks for the shoutout Tracy. I did enjoy this but it is not my favourite Allingham. But very atmospheric. I'm intrigued by the TV version Sergio mentions above, will try to find it.

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    1. I have been really happy with the last two Allingham books I read, Moira. In this case I think that the ending was a surprise for me and I like the way it was handled. It negated all of my quibbles. I am more strongly influenced by a good ending than almost any other factor.

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    2. Moira, I also meant to comment that I have not been successful in find a way to stream the TV episodes, and the cost of the DVD set is way out of my budget. But maybe someday it will show up affordably. I would love to see it too.

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