Wednesday, September 18, 2019

More Work for the Undertaker: Margery Allingham

I have talked here about how much I like Margery Allingham's Albert Campion series. Since I started blogging, I have reread and reviewed six books in the series, in order. Recently I finished reading More Work for the Undertaker.

This summary of the book is from the Margery Allingham Society website:
Apron Street is a quiet little thoroughfare in west London – and yet . . . Albert Campion is called in to investigate the death of Ruth Palinode, and he finds himself surrounded by as strange a family as he has ever encountered. Not that the other denizens of Apron Street are above suspicion. After all, the undertaker is Magersfontein Lugg’s brother-in-law. But who is writing anonymous letters? Who killed Ruth Palinode? And why are hardened criminals frightened of the very name of Apron Street? 
As the story begins, Campion is pondering whether to accept a government post that has been offered to him. He is reluctant but wants to do the right thing. Fortunately Stanislaus Oates, Chief of Scotland Yard, wants him to work on a case and he accepts that offer instead.

The Palinode family is at the center of the story. Except for one young relative, they are very old and were once very rich.  It appears that the elderly Palinodes are being killed off one by one. One brother and sister are dead; Ruth was poisoned, Edward probably died by natural causes. Three siblings remain: Evadne, Jessica, and Lawrence. They rent rooms in a boarding house that the family once owned and lived in. They are exceedingly eccentric, but that is nothing unusual for an Albert Campion story.

This is not close to my favorite in the series, but it does have plenty to offer. It falls into the category of a fantastical story, with so many weird characters that it is impossible to describe them all. And there is definitely a mystery and plenty of valid suspects. (Some of the stories have very little mystery, and some have much more adventure.)

I have noticed that many of the Albert Campion books have some element of romance. Sometimes it is a small subplot, sometimes it is a major part of the story. This one has just a hint of romance in it, but the young relative of the Palinodes does have her share of admirers.

Charlie Luke is introduced in this book, and he is a very interesting character.  He is a DDI (Divisional Detective Inspector) but welcomes Campion's help; he admits he cannot understand the Palinode family (what they say or what they do).

A description from the book:
The D.D.I. was a tough. Seated on the edge of the table, his hands in his pockets, his hat over this eyes, his muscles spoiling the shape of his civilian coat, he might well have been a gangster. There was a lot of him, but his compact and sturdy bones tended to disguise his height. He had a live dark face with a strong nose, narrow vivid eyes, and his smile, which was ready, had yet a certain ferocity. 
He got up at once, hand outstretched. 
“Good to see you, sir,” he said, and conveyed distinctly that he hoped to God he was.
Amanda is mostly missing from this book, but she does show up at the end, as she did in Pearls Before Swine (or Coroner's Pidgin in the UK).

To summarize, this book is well worth reading if you like Allingham's fantastical writing, but not my favorite of the books I have reread recently.


Publisher:  Ipso Books, 2016 (orig. publ. 1948).
Length:      255 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       Albert Campion
Setting:      UK
Genre:       Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy.


J. Kingston Pierce said...

Your last line prompts the question, "So what are your favorite books in Allingham's series?" I haven't paid nearly as much attention to these novels as I probably should have. A bit of direction would be most appreciated.


Margot Kinberg said...

I have to admit, Tracy, fantastical and weird isn't my first choice in stories. Still, Allingham did have a lot of talent, and several of her Campion stories are much less fantastical (and, in my opinion, better).

Rick Robinson said...

Another agreement here, this was one of my least favorite of her books. Still, when you read in order, you get what's next and then move on.

TracyK said...

Most people pick Tiger in the Smoke as their favorite, Jeff, but that is my next read in the series, so I don't know about that one yet. I am not sure I ever read it. Of the ones I have read in the last few years, these are my top picks:

Flowers for the Judge (#7)
Traitor's Purse (#11)
and Pearls Before Swine (#12)

But I still liked the others I read, they just did not click as much for me. I love Allingham's writing.

TracyK said...

Usually those are not my favorite characteristics in mysteries either, Margot, but Allingham has me under her spell. I will go forward to the end of the series and see what I think of the later ones, and then pick up the earlier ones that I missed.

TracyK said...

Very true, Rick. I had almost convinced myself to skip ahead to Tiger in the Smoke, but then I decided to stick with my plan and I am glad I did.

Mathew Paust said...

You've turned me on to Allingham, Tracy, and I've enjoyed the couple Albert Campion books I've read. I haven't thought of her in a while, tho, and this sounds like a fun read.

TracyK said...

I do remember that you read and review two of the Allingham books a while back, Mathew, and one of them was Hide My Eyes, which I am yet to get to. I do look forward to that one too.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I have several of her earlier books. So many of them, can you start anywhere with her books? Which one is your favorite? Tiger in the Smoke is a favorite for some folks -Keishon

TracyK said...

In many cases in this series, Keishon, it makes no difference which order you read in. I am sure I read them out of order the first time I read them. I could only get them through the library and took what was there. Some of the story involving his wife could theoretically be spoiled by reading out of order, but it did not bother me.

col2910 said...

Another one I can probably give a pass to, sorry Tracy!

TracyK said...

And you are probably right, Col. Not one for you.