Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Fashion in Shrouds: Margery Allingham


I am rereading the Albert Campion books in order, aiming to get to Tiger in the Smoke (1952). The Fashion in Shrouds is the 10th book in the series, published in 1938. 

Margery Allingham described this book as "a satirical comedy contrasting the characters of two young career women who have fallen in love with the same man" in her remarks in Mr. Campion's Lady, an omnibus of three books which involve both Albert Campion and Amanda Fitton. The two young women are Georgia Wells and Val Ferris, Campion's sister. Amanda Fitton was introduced in Sweet Danger; Campion's sister shows up first in The Fashion in Shrouds

This may be my favorite Albert Campion book yet; it is almost perfect. Allingham's writing just gets better and better. The plot is very complex. As the story begins, Campion has found the body of a man, who had died over a year before. The man was the lover of Georgia Wells at the time he died. Georgia, a very well known and popular actress, is now married to Raymond Ramillies, the governor of a British colony in Africa. But not satisfied with one man at a time, she soon becomes attracted to the man that Val is in love with. Val is a famous couturier designing Georgia's costumes for the play she is in. 

But let's not forget Amanda Fitton, now an aircraft engineer employed by Alan Dell. Campion and Amanda meet again for the first time in six years. She enlists his help in finding out why her boss is neglecting his airplane business. The answer: Georgia has him under her spell. And that is just the setup. So you can see it is a complicated story.  

When the second death occurs, Val and all the people in her circle are suspects, an awkward situation for Campion. He works with his old friend Inspector Stanislaus Oates of Scotland Yard and assures him that he can be impartial because he wants to discover the murderer as much as anyone. In the most recent Allingham books I have read, the investigations tend to go on and on and I get tired of that. So maybe this book was a little overlong, but still so beautifully told I did not mind.

Allingham creates many interesting characters. Albert Campion is a wonderful character, of course, but there is also Albert's manservant, Lugg, who provides humor. The focus on the women and their relationships in this novel is very different. There are also many eccentric characters in the theater and the fashion industry.

Much as I loved this story, there were places where I winced at racist and sexist statements and ideas. As far as the attitudes towards women at the time, I can only say that I was born early enough to be raised to consider that a woman's place is in the home, and it was only by chance that I went to college and did have (still have) a career. And this story was written in much earlier times with much more pervasive attitudes about women.

Note: Belatedly I am adding a link to Moira's post on The Fashion in Shrouds at Clothes in Books. And don't miss the link in that post to a previous post on the book.

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Publisher:   Felony & Mayhem, 2008 (orig. pub. 1938)
Length:      340 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       Albert Campion #10
Setting:      UK
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy.

19 comments:

  1. When I read a lot of Allingham back in the late 80s and early 90s, this was one that I remember liking greatly. But you last paragraph ames me realise that I really should read it again - much as O love her style and her sense of fun and adventure, I seem to have ignored that side of the book (shame on me for not paying enough attention first time round). Thanks Tracy, this is really important to me as I was recommending her work to a friends and I know that the depiction of women will be really important to her.

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    1. One of the conversations that took place between one of the women characters and a man just floored me, Sergio. Actually more than one, but I think that was because of my expectations for today and the story was pretty true to its time. And I still loved the book.

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  2. Times have changed....since 1950's stay at home mom's and hula-hoops and Silly Putty (it really did bounce)! Question: is this a series that is best started with book #1?

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    1. Nancy, I don't think the Albert Campion series really needs to be read in order. Campion does age throughout the books and thus he matures, but really it doesn't matter. I could not have read them in order the first time I read them because I just got whatever I could find at the library.

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  3. I read all of Allingham in my twenties and always enjoyed her.

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    1. I probably read them the first time in my twenties too. I find them more consistently enjoyable than Christie's books, but Christie wrote a lot more, which makes a difference.

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  4. Allingham really was good at weaving complicated plots without losing the reader in the process, in my opinion. And I think I agree with you, Tracy, that her work got better with time. Glad you enjoyed this one.

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    1. Yes, Margot, even with a lot of characters in this one, the story was not hard to keep track of. Finally I am up to Traitor's Purse, and I hope I enjoy it as much this time.

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  5. I really must read this one soon especially as you enjoyed it so much. Campion does improve such a lot as he ages, I really didn't like him much to begin with. Marriage improved him maybe!

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    1. I am sure I must have read all of the Campion books earlier, Katrina, except maybe Tiger in the Smoke, but I skipped some of the earlier ones when I started re-reading them. Some people prefer the early ones. I definitely am liking them more as I get closer to the end. Still have a few to go though.

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  6. Where has Allingham been all my life?? Right where she'd always been, I suppose, but now I know where!! Thanks, Tracy. ;)

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    1. There are so many good authors that you cannot read them all, Mathew. But Allingham is definitely a good one to try someday.

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  7. It's so weird that as much as I love vintage mysteries, I still have not read one of hers.

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    1. Ryan, I think if you ever try a book by Allingham, you will like it. I like the later ones more, myself.

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  8. I have TIGER IN THE SMOKE, but am not rushing towards it. I hope I like it when I do, but not especially my kind of author.

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    1. Definitely not your kind of author, Col, but I have heard that Tiger in the Smoke is different. I may have read it way back when, I certainly thought I had read everything by Allingham, but I remember nothing about it.

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  9. Thanks for the shoutout Tracy - as my posts reveal, I love this book, it is one of the best in the series, and a most entertaining read - I have read it several times. I'm glad you enjoyed it too - there is always depth to her books isn't there? I was surprised it was the 10th - I thought it was earlier in the series.

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    1. I was surprised that there are so many books in the series, Moira, but I did skip some of the early ones this time through.

      I got the copy of the omnibus, with dust jacket, at the Planned Parenthood book sale a few years back, very cheap. but it is the one with part of the text missing, she even explains why she did it, so I got another copy and went for the Felony and Mayhem edition.

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