Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham
|Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham|
|Reviewer: JY Saville|
|Summary: This 1930s novel from one of the big names of Golden Age detective fiction is well worth a read for its twisted characters, wonderful air of menace, and complicated plot. Expect to be sent up a dozen different dead-ends as you try to figure out who did what to whom, and why.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: March 2007|
|External links: Author's website|
When Andrew Seeley, a member of the well-known Faraday family of Cambridge disappears, gentleman adventurer Albert Campion agrees to look into it as a favour to a friend. He finds a dysfunctional family living in its glorious past, with no-one at all sure they want to find their missing relative who can be a bit trying, to say the least. Before long the bodies start piling up, and both Campion and his old friend Inspector Stanislaus Oates of Scotland Yard are as baffled as each other. Until, naturally, Campion figures it all out.
Margery Allingham is one of the best-known authors of Golden Age detective fiction, and Police at the Funeral was her fourth Campion novel, originally published in 1931. Although it may have seemed quite modern, even daring (one of the victims has both classic erotica and the latest sex psychology books on his shelves) at the time, some of the behaviour seems quaint and old-fashioned now, and there are a few instances of racist language or attitudes that are taken as perfectly normal within the story.
Caroline Faraday, the eighty-four year old widow of a once-prominent academic, rules her grand house with a rod of iron. The rigid formality, fixed meal-times and household rules (not to mention the horse-drawn vehicle Caroline goes to church in) are considered old-fashioned even then, and are great contributors to the oppressive air of the setting. Caroline's three grown-up children, her nephew (Andrew Seeley), and Joyce, a niece of her late son-in-law's, all live in the house relying on her charity. Because of this charity, the formal atmosphere, and the fact that all of them except Joyce are weak failures in some respect, there is a whole stew of resentment which manifests as constant bickering and sniping whenever Caroline is not in earshot. Add in some loyal old servants and another cousin who doesn't live in the house, and you have not only a perfect recipe for murder but a whole heap of available red herrings as well.
The characters weren't so fleshed-out that I could imagine what they might be doing while they were off the page, but neither were they cardboard cut-outs or stereotypes, and they were certainly an interesting mix. The book was a quick and easy read that kept me gripped and intrigued throughout. I didn't work out the puzzle, it was an ingenious, some might say sneaky, solution. The book is quite sympathetic to the police, with Oates shown to be a decent hard-working chap, his officers methodical in their investigation.The light tone, with moments of humour from the almost inappropriately jaunty Campion will probably appeal to fans of Lord Peter Wimsey.
I'm sorry to say that although I was an Agatha Christie fan in my youth and have sampled Dorothy L Sayers and a couple of other Golden Age authors, I hadn't read any Margery Allingham novels before, only seen a couple of episodes of the late 1980s Campion TV series starring Peter Davison (and now I've read one of the books I can appreciate the great casting), but I will be returning for more.
Another TV adaptation of Golden Age detection I've seen is the recent Father Brown series, and this TV tie-in of the Father Brown stories by GK Chesterton The Complete Father Brown Stories by GK Chesterton will be appreciated by readers of the Campion novels.
You can read more book reviews or buy Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham at Amazon.com.
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