Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham

review by Maryom

 Wyatt Petrie is the owner of a remote country house in Suffolk. Although the place is normally occupied by his uncle, Colonel Coombe, Wyatt regularly throws house parties there. On this particular occasion a group of young people are gathered for the weekend, including
George Abbershaw, a police pathologist, ....and a curiously foolish young man named Albert Campion. After dinner on the first evening, talk turns to a family heirloom, the Black Dudley Dagger and the ritual associated with it, which over time has turned into a parlour game. Just the sort of thing for a country house party - but as you'd expect, the minute the lights go out, someone gets killed. This isn't a random, personal killing though and the visitors soon find themselves embroiled with an important underworld gang leader

The Crime at Black Dudley starts as a classic country house murder mystery but then moves on to more of an action adventure with lots of scuttling through secret passages, attempts to escape from locked rooms and even a car chase. Sadly it's age is showing a little with Bertie Wooster-style dialogue and an insistence that the women of the party are weaker and more terrified than the men - I was longing for one of them to cease the initiative and save the day, or even turn out to be the murderer, but it was a man's world in those days.

This book marks the first appearance of Albert Campion but he's more of a bit-player than the leading man - that role goes to George Abbershaw who, inspired by his love for Meggie Oliphant another of the house guests, steps out of his everyday rather pompous persona and becomes an all-action hero. Campion meanwhile comes over as rather enigmatic - at first sight he's a more than averagely foolish young man but suddenly he takes charge in a surprisingly competent way; I can definitely see why the publishers thought he was the character worth bringing back.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Vintage
Genre - Adult crime 

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