Judge Crowdy Lobbett has found evidence pointing to the identity of the criminal mastermind behind the deadly Simister gang. After four attempts on his life, he ends up seeking the help of the enigmatic and unorthodox amateur sleuth, Albert Campion. After Campion bundles Lobbett off to a country house in Mystery Mile deep in the Suffolk countryside, all manner of adventures ensue. It's a race against time for Campion to get the judge to safety and decipher the clue to their mysterious enemy's name.
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Imagine Bertie Wooster with more IQ but the same basic outlook and approach to life and you have Albert Campion. He is a sleuth who keeps you guessing just as much as the ne’er-do-wells he pursues. His wit is so subtle and his character so unostentatiously outlandish, that lots of things get by you (well, ok, by me). Just be prepared to rewind from time to time or you’ll miss some exquisite stuff.
The plot, like the main character, is offbeat as well. Much of the time we’re not even sure if a crime has been committed. It looks like a possible murder, and it looks like a possible kidnapping, but is it? Were the previous attempts on the supposed victim’s life really attempts, or a series of odd accidents?
Heading our supporting cast is the gloomy, fatalistic Lugg, Campion’s man, who seems to know everyone who’s anyone in criminal circles—possible because, not too far back, he himself was a someone in those circles. The by-play between master and man is as funny as any Bertie-and-Jeeves banter, in a completely different and delightful way.
All of the above Francis Matthews conveys with a deft, unhurried delivery that gets every character right. He can make Campion sound as simple-minded as any member in good standing at the Drones and then as perceptive as Lord Peter Wimsey. Very fitting, if my sources are correct. I'm told that Allingham’s original impetus for creating Campion was as a parody of Lord Peter.
There will definitely be more Campion on the Wish List.
Margery Allingham is a jewel, her books are jewels - small bright and glittering with color, and the Albert Campion series is her crown jewel. NEVER read one unabridged! But where are the Campions? (PS - read them in order if you can!)
First novel staring Albert Campion and his man Lugg.
Narrator: Francis Matthews - good job. Good inflection and change in characters.
Characters - The characters are very well developed in this book, except for the villains as I am starting to notice as a flaw in Allingham's equation. This is technically the second Albert Campion novel (although in the first one he was more of a side character), and in both the only fringe characters not given much backstory or attention ended up being the bad guy. There was a great ensemble cast of characters given and each one was a likeable individual.
Plot - The basic plot of the story was a good little jaunt fitting to the time period which kept you guessing as to who was involved and what was going on. There were many red herrings thrown in for fun as well. I had two major issues witht he book overall however. The first issue I had was the love interest. At the beginning of the story they hint at a romance that never really develops even though it is initially portrayed on both sides. At the end one of them ends up with another and the other is heart broken. This was very irritating to me as I found it unnecessary to set up the love triangle. Especially involving the main character. It came off as a bit melodramatic and pointless. The second issue I had was that the reason behind the attempts on the judge's life was not really explained satisfactorily. The ending left me feeling as though Allingham wrote the entire novel and then realized she needed to explain why it took place and inserted a half-baked stupid explaination in a dramatic manner just as a way to dispose of the villain at the end. It all felt very contrived and dull. Plus she drug out the whole explanation out for too long so you hit the climax when the villain is unveiled and then just keep hoping that it ends soon.
I plan on reading the next book in the series and that will determine if I continue with the series or give it up. Especially since so far I can only find a copy narrated by David Thorpe and I did not enjoy his narrative on the first book (The Crime at Black Dudley).
The narrator is such a master of accents that this is almost more a performance than simply a narration! That makes this better than any print version!
The plot is a mystery that takes place in Great Britain in the 1920s or 30s, the same period as many P. G. Wodehouse Jeeves and Blandings stories. I like that! The characters are all very colorful and easy to keep sorted. The narrator's expertise with accents aids in that aspect. I have never identified with any of these characters, and that is just fine with me. What I enjoy is the feeling that I am looking in on an interesting little world where unpleasant things may happen, but, in the end, all will turn out well thanks to Albert Campion.
I have not, but I will make a point of so doing in the future. What a talented narrator! He does every accent beautifully. When the character is out of breath, he gasps convincingly. He expresses emotion. And whether doing male or female voices, the characterizations work without any distraction from the story.
I wanted to, but could not. However, I often listened before going to bed. The narrator's voice has a comforting, assured quality. Also, this allowed me to backtrack the next day and listen to the last half from the night before to make sure I had missed nothing. Double enjoyment!
People who choose books about Albert Campion must understand that he is a brilliant detective posing as a rich and somewhat empty-headed young man. Some narrators bring this across by giving him a silly-sounding voice (which can be irritating). This narrator gets across Mr. Campion's persona without the silly voices, but in a way that loses none of the inanity with which he can behave. Some people decide they do not like these books because they do not understand the brilliance of Campion and, also, the dry, understated humor employed by the author. For instance, and briefly, she describes the smile of one of Mr. Campion's criminal proteges as "revealing an astonishing assortment of teeth". I should explain that Mr. Campion has friends and acquaintances from every station and walk of life, most of whom know him by other names. They are a great help along the way in solving his cases and add color to the stories with their unusual personalities, looks, back stories, and accents. One more thing is that Mr. Campion has a "valet"-assistant who is a past criminal. He adds interest and humor to the stories too. If you enjoy books like Jeeves and Wooster, Rumpole of the Bailey, Blandings, Her Royal Spyness, The Poor Relations series, and even Agatha Raisin, you will likely enjoy Margery Allingham's Campion series.
A story had had some memorable moments, even one.
Actually put some meat into the story.
"One of my favourite Campion novels"
First off, this is a good reading of the story. I tried one of David Thorpes recent efforts and was appalled by his voicing of Campion as one of Bertie Woosters dumber friends. In comparison this is a unremarkable but non distracting version of Albert. It's a cracking story although it does meander at times, particularly around the death of StSwithen, where it's not altogether clear to the reader /listener exactly what purpose all the clues actually mean even after several readings.... In this respect the Peter Davison tv show handled this aspect better than the author.
The book really picks up once Albert and his pals embark on their rescue mission. Anyway, neglected and excellent crime fiction from the golden age.
"A novel crime thriller, superbly performed"
Francis Matthews' unique comprehension of the mood of the early Allingham novels - a joyous blend of ridiculous humour and thrilling whodunnit.
The last round between Campion and Simister, a real thriller against a positively Dickensian backdrop. The scene-setting, even in this early novel, almost matches parts of Great Expectations and David Copperfield.
This is up with any of Francis Matthews' renditions, even though this early novel, although very good - the first to really "star" Campion - is not the best possible source material. I do wish Audible would crack on and reissue the rest of them. Francis Matthews had a real feel for this material, head and shoulders above any other audio version.
I'm hopeless at tag lines and don't see what this contributes to a review.
Yes, the Francis Matthews version of Allingham's Dancers in Mourning is very rare. I've seen second hand sets of tapes for more than $200. So, please do that one plus More Work for the Undertaker - in which Matthews is truly inspired. The latter is a really great tale with wonderful characters which the reader clearly lived!
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