The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham
|The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Reprinted for the first time for thirty years, this is the first Albert Campion mystery. It's not the best in the series but is a worthwhile read but as a thriller rather than as a whodunnit.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: May 2015|
Black Dudley was unprepossessing from the outside, but imposing, if rather uncared for on the inside. It was isolated in dreary landscape and the location for a house party which George Abbershaw was attending. He hadn't particularly wanted to go and was convinced of the necessity only by the fact that the woman he loved would be a part of the party. The host was an invalid but apparently determined that his guests should enjoy themselves and was happy to have them re-enact the ritual of the Black Dudley Dagger. All the candles were extinguished and the dagger was passed amongst the guests: the atmosphere was sinister but the game seemed harmless enough, except that they would shortly discover that their host was dead.
When I started reading I was convinced that we were heading for a classic 'locked room mystery', but even the first edition of the book, published in 1929 called it a capital thriller. Instead we have criminal masterminds searching the house and the guests for some papers they've 'lost'. Abbershaw, a forensic scientist who has been forced to sign a death certificate for the host, has burned the papers and it seems that there's an impasse: one group of residents holding the other hostage and without much hope for them of escape.
I've often heard it said by authors that they started writing one story and the characters intervened to take the plot in an entirely different direction. When I started reading The Crime at Black Dudley I was convinced that the hero - the sleuth - was going to be George Abbershaw. He's set up for the job and the character is well developed, particularly in comparison to some of the other men. But Albert Campion seems to elbow his way in and take over, almost against the author's wishes. He's unprepossessing, with a high falsetto voice and not obviously the stuff of heroes, but somehow it works. Characterisation and scene setting were Allingham's strong points and whilst she's certainly not yet at her peak the talent is obvious.
It's the first Campion story and perhaps not the best, but consider Michael Innes' Death at the President's Lodging, which was the first Inspector John Appleby novel and The Crime at Black Dudley is the better read. It perhaps suffers from not quite knowing whether it's a murder mystery or an adventure story, but the combination works tolerably well and the twist at the end worked for me. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
Margery Allingham was the daughter of Herbert Allingham and for further reading we can offer you a very good biography. We also have a biographies of Ngaio Marsh and Agatha Christie. For a good example of a later Campion mystery we can recommend Coroner's Pidgin.
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