When George Abbershaw is invited to Black Dudley Manor for the weekend, he has only one thing on his mind - proposing to Meggie Oliphant. Unfortunately for George, things don't quite go according to plan. A harmless game turns decidedly deadly and suspicions of murder take precedence over matrimony. Trapped in a remote country house with a murderer, George can see no way out. But Albert Campion can.
About the author: Margery Allingham was born in London in 1904. Her first novel was published when she was 17. In 1929 she published The Crime at Black Dudley and introduced the character who was to become the hallmark of her writing - Albert Campion.
©2013 Margery Allingham (P)2013 Audible Ltd
I am not going to answer all these questions, I'm just going to write my review. I am writing this review primarily in defense of the narrator, who I think does a very good job, and as of my writing there are nothing but complaints about him in the written reviews posted. He does Margery Allingham the courtesy of reading her work the way she wrote it, and I appreciate that in a narrator. I did not like the narration of Frances Mathews, who read the only unabridged versions of Allingham on Audible prior to the full series coming out with David Thorpe reading, and I think Thorpe is much better.
Some have complained that in this book, Campion has an annoying, high pitched voice as read by Thorpe. Allingham tells us clearly in this book, on multiple occasions, that Campions voice is annoying, high pitched, and falsetto and Thorpe has the integrity and courage to read the character the way Allingham wrote him. Additionally, I find it annoying in some readers when they aren't familiar enough with the work to give the lines of dialog that occur before the explanations of them the correct emotional tone, an error Thorpe never makes. An example of the kind of thing I mean is a character will say, "I'm coming back now" and the reader will read it in a cheery tone of voice, and then the next line in the book is "he said sadly", and there we are with the jolt of a line read incorrectly by a reader that didn't do his or her homework and prepare properly for reading the the story. Thorpe has done his homework, he doesn't' make mistakes like this, his delivery is completely true to what Allingham meant it to be. There is no higher tribute a reader can pay to an author and it's one as a listener I REALLY appreciate, especially when I am fond of an author as I am of Allingham. Also, Thorpe reads with energy and sounds as though he is enjoying and appreciating the story as he reads it, and finally and perhaps most importantly, he GETS THE JOKES and reads the text in such a way that we can get them too. There is nothing sadder with these lovely examples of English humor than a reader who doesn't get the subtle humor and ruins it for the listener by reading it wrong. Allingham has some very funny lines, and Thorpe gets them all perfectly.
I do concede that he's not very good at country accents, and there is a "yokel" character in this book that has quite a few lines and is really a bit hard to take overall what with the bad accent and the unfortunate tone of voice used as well, but still I feel he does a great job overall for the reasons mentioned above, and does not deserve the hammering he's been taking here in the review section.
However, I've listened to almost the entire series now, and this is my least favorite, so all but the truly obsessed should probably skip this one and move on to the next in the series (Gyrth Challice) as a start. This book is clearly not the best Allingham has written by a long shot, though it's interesting to have because it IS the first in the series, and Campion was not meant to be the hero when she started writing, the series hero was meant to be the Doctor Abbershaw. If you do decide to start with this one, you can see why Campion became the series hero instead, he's far and away the character with the most pep, humor, interest, and energy, and a great deal smarter than the doc as well.
Overall I gave both the book and the performance four stars for the problems mentioned above, the rest of the series gets five stars for performance and story from me. Thorpe does tone down the falsetto voice on Campion as he goes on with the series, since Allingham does not continue to insist on it, and I find this fidelity to the author completely admirable in a reader.
A surprise, as I'd read several later books. Here Campion is really just a bit player, with others doing the detecting and solving of the crimes. Campion comes across as far too silly for my tastes and it's hard to take him seriously given the voice used for him, despite the fact he does a good job doing the few things we know about.
I'll continue listening to the series, though, because I know he matures and grows to become the detective I know of old.
This is a period story in the tradition of Jeeves and Wooster, Her Royal Spyness, Blandings, The Poor Relation Books, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries, Anzac Girls, and other shows/stories set in the first half of the 20th century. I love books set during that period. The types of British Empire characters and the language expressions of the 20s and 30s are interesting and fun. I also like the bit of formality and melodrama offered by the style in which such stories are related.
Albert Campion's voice, at first, repelled me, but when I realized that he was a Bertie Wooster-type, but quite smart, that caused me to listen to it in a different light (is this a mixed metaphor?). Albert knows he appears an idiot ("vacuous" is the word oft-used in the books) and he knows that this helps him to get the information he requires to accomplish what he has set out to do.
Albert's recitations of anything that happens are gems! His slang from the 1920s & 30s is hysterically descriptive.
Like I said, at first Albert's voice almost made me stop listening. It was very irritating, as was his personality. But I kept listening and soon understood that there was a method to his madness! When I realized that he HAD to sound and act the way he did, I relaxed and enjoyed it as much as I enjoy Bertie Wooster or Freddie Threepwood.
THE REVIEWERS WHO PANNED THIS BOOK DO NOT APPRECIATE THE HUMOR OF IT. It's a good mystery, but the period story demands melodrama and exaggeration. I felt like I was listening to an old radio serial (without sound effects or music). If you like the stories I mentioned to begin with, you should give this a try, keeping in mind my cautions about Albert's voice and personality.
The sound quality of this recording was superb.
The narrator left a lot to be desired in my opinion. I will not be purchasing more books by this narrator if it can be avoided. Some of his voice work was fabulous, but a lot of it was less than appealing. His tone was often wrong in terms of matching what was happening in the story and many of his character voices were so annoying I lost track of what he was actually saying. Ironically there were moments when his character voices were also extremely good. It made me very conflicted through the first half of the story as to whether or not I liked his narration but by the end of the book I simply could not wait for it to be over so I would not have to listen to him any more.
The characters in the story were not very fleshed out. Even the main characters, Dr. Abernathy, Albert Campion, and Meggie were not overly developed. Most of Dr. Abernathy's character development was centered on how amazed he was to have human-like feelings for Meggie. Not exactly riveting revelations of his character or personality. Albert Campion was really more of a side character in this one, but since this is the book that started his series I would have expected a bit more development there, but perhaps it was not written with the intent to make a new story star. The villains in this piece were almost like random bit parts that would appear and then disappear for long stretches. This is not uncommon for this type of mystery, however, the fact the villains were just a bit too over the top to be believed did not help the story keep reader interest.
The story itself was very typical of the genre and time period. A house party where sinister activity happens resulting in a mysterious death is tried and true plot for this type of book. There were several aspects of this particular story which made it slightly different, some of them were good and some not so much. I try not to spoil the story, so I will not say much except there were true moments of brilliance in my opinion (I love the mad cook scenes) and many moments of boredom as I listened to it as well. Anytime the characters as a group were involved it became almost farcical to a point where I again felt myself being annoyed. I felt the ending was very disappointing and when the murderer and reason behind it were revealed I almost wanted to reach out and smack the author. I saw the true murderer coming for a long time, but I was appalled and the flimsy backstory on why the murder happened.
It was an interesting book and I am glad to have listened to it once, but it will never be a classic in terms of books I enjoy listening to again and again.
David Thorpe is an excellent narrator and this must have been a very difficult book to narrate as there is a lot of dialogue and mostly young men. Fortunately the author usually makes it clear who is talking.
As to the way Thorpe reads Albert Campion's voice - some have criticized its high nasal quality in this reading, but this is exactly the way the author describes the way he talks.
Be sure to pay attention to the names of the characters or it can get confusing who is who.
The plot is very complex but the tone of the book is light. A good listen when you want something not too serious.
mystery, this is what you'd get.
A cracking good story, but a bit brainy, what? And I say, they never cleared up that bit about the uncle's mask. Or did they? Must ask Jeeves ... He'll know.
I remembered liking several of Margery Allingham's books when I was younger, but I had never read this one--and I hadn't missed a thing. The characters are unsympathetic and naïve; the narrator picked a bizarre voice for Campion, and the plot was abysmal. This must have been an early effort because it is poorly executed and a ridiculous plot. Can't tell if Allingham doesn't write as well as I thought she did or the PBS series done several years ago corrected her mistakes or it just is too dated--but don't waste your time here.
As always the story and the characters hold you completely in thrall, but the new narrator, David Thorpe, makes virtually everyone sound like a complete idiot. Once you screen out the voices, the book comes through fine, but the previous narrator, Francis Matthews, did an infinitely better job.
I have enjoyed Allingham over the years, usually in paperback. I decided to try a couple of novels in audio. I am glad I tried two because had I only listened to Thorpe's narration I would not have bought any additional books.
Allingham always has some fun as well as intrigue in her books. Her plots are usually a little more complex than many of the English cottage mystery writers. Campion is a character who grows on you much like Lord Peter Wimsey.
While we know that Campion, like Lord Peter, puts on a facade of sorts - looking to appear the fool when he is not, this narrator made him sound like a hysterical alley cat. Other times he has him "twitter". I was so annoyed. I can't imagine anyone enjoying Campion with this voice attached. Fortunately I had bought one with another narrator at the same time and was pleased. Its too bad that most of the audio editions use Thorpe. I am not that picky about narrators compared to most, although I have my favorites like most listeners. This is the first time I have boycotted a narrator for reasons other than difficulty in understanding an accent, etc.
If you want to read Campion, make sure you try one of the books with another narrator and then you will at least understand the main character before you hear Thorpe destroy him.
I hope there are some other versions of the series with a different narrator. Otherwise I'll limit myself to non Thorpe narrations.
This was Allingham's first novel. she quickly came to write masterpieces. This is not one of them. Save for the voice of Albert Campion, the narrator does an excellent job.
"I had to stop listening after thirty minutes"
A different reader
I didn't get far enough into the book to be able to say.
David's Thorpe narrative voice is quite unsuitable for this period piece: he sounds far too modern. But the thing that made me stop listening was his ridiculous rendering of Albert Campion's voice: while it is true that Campion is described as foppish in this book, it is a great mistake to rob him of all dignity by making him sound like a squeaky-voiced fool. For a perfect reading of the Campion novels, listen to the audio books narrated by Philip Franks; I was highly misguided to think another reader could come anywhere near him. Or for an excellent portrayal of Campion on screen, watch the Peter Davison version.
"Makes Albert Campion sound like a squeaky puppet"
Sorry, love the books, really, really didn't like the narrator. I've just been through and bought all the Francis Matthews ones I can find before they disappear too.
(Nothing against David Thorpe - just not in this period or for this author)
(Did he narrate this one before reading the rest, I wonder?)
"Campion's first appearance..."
Dr George Abbershaw has gone down to Black Dudley Manor to join a house party for the weekend. The house is owned by George's friend, Wyatt Petrie, but is occupied by Wyatt's uncle by marriage, Colonel Coombe. The elderly wheelchair-bound colonel likes the company of young people, so often asks Wyatt to bring a group of his friends down for the weekend. George, though, is there mainly because he's fallen in love with a girl who is also a guest, Meggie Oliphaunt, and he hopes to find an opportunity to propose to her. Colonel Coombe has also invited a few friends of his own.
In the evening, talk turns to old legends and Wyatt reluctantly tells of the ritual of a dagger that hangs prominently on the wall. The ritual involves turning off the lights and running around the house in the dark, passing the knife from person to person. What jolly fun! However when the lights come up Colonel Coombe is found dead. His friends tell the assembled company that his death was expected as he was very ill, and hasten to get a cremation certificate signed and hustle the body off the premises, so as not to spoil the weekend (!). But it soon becomes obvious to George that there's something fishy going on (!) – and when something goes missing, suddenly the young people find themselves the prisoners of the Colonel's friends...
This is apparently the book in which Allingham's regular 'tec, Albert Campion, makes his first appearance, although in this one, George is the main focus and Campion is a secondary character. George is a sensible young man, but Campion appears to be a foolish fop, like Bertie Wooster, only with fewer brains and a falsetto voice. He does develop a bit more depth as the book progresses, but it's a strange first outing.
There is much running to and fro through secret tunnels, which are nearly as complex as the convoluted plot involving criminal gangs, mysterious papers and suchlike. Despite the darkness of the plot, and some episodes of viciousness on the part of the baddies, the general tone is light and fun. George and Meggie are both likeable characters, and their romance is handled nicely, not overwhelming the story but giving the reader something to care about amidst all the mayhem. Campion adds a lot of humour to the story, partly laughing with him and partly laughing at him. He's shrewder than he first appears, but in the end it's down to George to solve the puzzle of what it is the colonel's friends are looking for, and who killed the colonel. And of course to engineer the escape from the baddies. In fact, Campion more or less disappears towards the end and plays no part in the final denouement – presumably at that point Allingham didn't see him as her central character.
I listened to the audiobook version, and I have to say I felt David Thorpe's narration was great! I've seen some critical reviews of it, mainly from Campion fans objecting to the falsetto voice he uses for Campion and for the foolishness Thorpe puts into his character. But this is how he is written in the book and I felt Thorpe was paying attention to the words of this one, rather than basing his characterisation on how Campion develops in later novels. Thorpe brings out all the humour in the story, but also does an excellent job with the darker sections. He held my attention throughout, which doesn't always happen with audiobooks. A 5 star narration, in my opinion.
However, I've never rated Allingham as highly as the other Golden Age Queens of Crime: Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy L Sayers; and truthfully I'm not sure that this book has changed my mind. I found it enjoyable, but too convoluted and not at all credible, and apart from George and Meggie, too many of the characters are caricatures. I didn't feel it was fairplay at all – the eventual solution seemed to come from nowhere, though of course it's possible I missed hidden clues along the way (even good audiobooks have a tendency to induce occasional napping). I'm glad I listened though – I think the narration actually made me enjoy the book more than I might have, had I been reading a paper copy. So overall, a fun listen of a reasonably entertaining book, but probably not the best one to start with to get a feel for the character Campion eventually becomes.
"Comforting and satisfying but not exactly best."
Somewhat overly complicated plot but pretty good light hearted enjoyment. Read in an attempt to find Agatha Christie replacement, not as good as christie but still a reasonable comforting mid war country house mystery.
I wish I had read the Audible and Amazon reviews before wasting a credit on this abysmal download. The narration is dull, Albert Campion especially artificial (at times I couldn't decide if he were meant to be female), story-line lacking credibility ... buyer beware! from a seasoned listener and great long standing fan of Audible.
This book did not suit my tastes at all. It was a waste of a credit. I am sure that there will be those people that want an old fashioned book, averagely written that drones on and does little to captivate the reader, or should I say listener. The narration was average and the characters rather week and lacking in any realism. I realise that the book is written in a very diferent era and that may be the problem. I was expecting a new 'Agatha Christie' but ended up being disappointed. I wish the author well and do not mean to upset or unfairly critique in any way, but the book failed to impress.
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