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The Crime at Black Dudley (Albert Campion) Paperback – June, 2006
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"An extremely fine tale of death in an English country house" -- New York Times
"In Margery Allinghams hands the detective novel is transformed from a craft into an art" -- Sunday Telegraph (UK)
About the Author
Along with Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham is widely regarded as one of the three queens of British Golden Age detective fiction.
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Top Customer Reviews
For one thing she has Magersfontein Lugg as opposed to poor old Bunter. For another, she understands the Suffolk landscape and all its nooks and crannies but most importantly she writes a fine entertaining puzzle, in clear, lucid but comic prose with the key character, Campion, being the perfect chameleon - a hero with a touch of Raffles, a touch of Rupert of Hentzau, a suspicion of royal blood on the wrong side of the blanket and all the insouciance of the 1920s with a whiff of Hollywood to boot.
And each book adds a new layer. The Bertie Wooster fop in horn-rims by the fifties has turned into a figure of authority.
Someone should turn these into a TV series (Laurence Fox springs to mind).
The atmosphere of this novel is very dark & sinister. As it was written right before the Great Depression & between the World Wars, it is reflective of the time & Allingham's deft touch leaves one feeling grateful to be reading it now, far away from those ominous & dreadful times. She is a master of atmosphere, as her later books will attest as well. It is always wonderful to meet her famous protagonist at the beginning to feel well rooted in the series. Enjoy!
'The Crime at Black Dudley' is not, however, among the best of Allingham’s books. For one thing, Campion is not the main character; Dr. Abbershaw is, and I don’t find him as interesting as Campion himself.
In typical Allingham fashion, the plot is convoluted and somewhat fantastic (in the “elaborate and not quite real” sense of the word), but it works a little less well here than in some of the other books ('Mystery Mile', for instance.) Criminal gangs headed by ruthless masterminds, a murder with a famous dagger during a house party – it reads like a pastiche of Ngaio Marsh ('A Man Lay Dead'), Agatha Christie, and a sensational pulp-crime novel, but Allingham’s distinctive narrative voice manages to tie it together. Eccentricity and the fantastical are hallmarks of Allingham’s mysteries; it seems to me that in The Crime at Black Dudley she was just beginning to feel her way toward her mature style.
I’m never totally satisfied when the solution relies on various confessions, as is the case here, and the murder motive itself seems both far-fetched and barely tied in to the events of the main portion of the novel. All in all, I’m giving the book 3 of 5 stars – I’m glad to have read the first Campion novel, but I probably won’t reread it.
If you’ve never read any Campion mysteries, I recommend starting with any of the following, all of which I’ve enjoyed: 'Look to the Lady' (also published as 'The Gyrth Chalice Mystery'), 'Death of a Ghost', 'Sweet Danger', 'Dancers in Mourning', or the superlative 'Flowers for the Judge'. They can be read in almost any order.
NOTE: This review was originally published on my blog, The Bookwyrm's Hoard.