“You don’t want the scandal, of course (I don’t blame you), nor do I. But neither of us can help it. This is murder.”
At first glance, Take Two at Bedtime seems like an odd swerve for Margery Allingham, the crime queen known for her detective stories featuring Albert Campion. This is one of two volumes collecting romantic suspense novellas she published in American magazines during the 1940s. Allingham was always a chameleon, however. Brought up in a household of penny-a-word writers, she was willing to write anything that might sell and frequently used the Campion series as a way to experiment with trendy subgenres, from wartime spy stories to the paranoid thrillers of the late 1960s. Dipping a toe into the waters of romantic suspense fits right into Allingham’s surprisingly varied career. The results are entertaining enough, if unlikely to win over anyone who is not already inclined toward this brand of suspense. Continue reading “Take Two at Bedtime (1949) by Margery Allingham”
“There are, fortunately, very few people who can say that they have actually attended a murder. The assassination of another by any person of reasonable caution must, in a civilized world, tend to be a private affair.”
After his death, the great painter John Lafcadio left behind a messy personal life and twelve unseen paintings. Each year, one of these works is unveiled in his old studio to cement his posthumous reputation.
This year, however, the mood is far from festive. His granddaughter Linda’s fiancé, Thomas Dacre, has just returned from Italy with a wife. Lafcadio’s widow Belle must deal with the squabbles of her husband’s former models and hangers-on. Sensing that a volatile situation is developing, she turns to her friend Albert Campion, who must scour London’s art world for a connoisseur of murder. Continue reading “Death of a Ghost (1934) by Margery Allingham”
“First his secretary, seated in his master’s chair, was shot,” he said slowly. “Then his butler, who was apparently after his master’s Scotch, got poisoned. Then his chauffeur met with a very mysterious accident, and finally a man walking with him down the street got a coping stone on his head.” He sat back and regarded his companion almost triumphantly. “What do you say to that?” he demanded.
“Shocking,” said the young man. “Very bad taste on someone’s part. Rotten marksmanship, too,” he added, after some consideration.
The passengers of the SS Elephantine are in for a treat; a famous magician is also on board, and willing to perform his disappearing act in the ship’s talent show. Judge Crowdy Lobbett eagerly volunteers, until he is pushed aside by a rude young man who insists on making his pet mouse disappear. Lucky for them, as the mouse is electrocuted before their eyes.
It would seem to be nothing more than a careless accident, except that Judge Lobbett has been the target of too many accidents since beginning his pursuit of the Simister gang. Finally it appears fortune is on his side, for the young man with the mouse is none other than Albert Campion. But the judge’s unknown enemy may be too strong for even the ingenious Campion. Continue reading “Mystery Mile (1930) by Margery Allingham”
“Perhaps I ought to give you some little idea of my profession. I live, like all intelligent people, by my wits, and although I have often done things that mother wouldn’t like, I have remembered her parting words and have never been vulgar. To cut it short, in fact, I do almost anything within reason—for a reasonable sum, but nothing sordid or vulgar—quite definitely nothing vulgar.”
I wonder what the readers of 1929 made of Albert Campion. The now-iconic detective debuted in The Crime at Black Dudley as a scene-stealing supporting character. Campion could have ended up as one-note comic relief, a victim, or even the killer.
Happily, he springs to life here almost fully formed, grinning vacuously and making dumb remarks over the barrel of a revolver. “It isn’t that he stops fooling and becomes serious,” marvels Dr. George Abbershaw, “he’s fooling the whole time, all right—he is a fool, in fact.”
Continue reading “The Crime at Black Dudley (1929) by Margery Allingham”