Georgia Wells had been designed by nature as a poster rather than a pen drawing - magnificent on-stage, but off-stage a little larger than life. It was to meet her that Albert Campion went to the dress-show in Park Lane. Only the day before he had finally located the dinner-jacketed skeleton of her barrister fiancee who had disappeared three years before. And Georgia Wells wasn't allowing it to be suicide, not at any price….
©1938 P. and M. Youngman Carter, Ltd. All rights reserved. (P)2012 AudioGo
I love Margery Allingham's books, and was thrilled to find this performance by Francis Matthews. Many years ago, in cassette tape days, my local library had several Allingham books read by Matthews, and to me he remains THE Albert Campion.
I had never listened to this particular book, however, and while I don't regret buying it, it isn't up to par. First, the book itself is overworked. Allingham's prose here is uncharacteristically labored. She seems to be trying SO hard to make all of her ideas about her characters SO clear that she bogs down repeatedly. The plot is fine, but many of the sentences and paragraphs are just this side of tortuous.
That would make it harder to perform. On top of that, Matthews himself isn't quite with us. I know very little about him, but to be frank, he sounds either ill or slightly lubricated through the first few chapters, which is as far as I've gotten at this time. I suspect illness because he seems consistently sub. There's no bounce to his reading, he doesn't parse out all of the sentences as well as he should even granting that some of them are clunky, and Campion's voice sounds like an impression of a strangely old David Niven.
His style here wasn't his norm. I have a good aural memory and a ferociously abiding interest in British actors, and I remember the sound of Matthews at his best. I'm hoping he'll recover his mojo as the book progresses.
Good points: while there are disappointing elements, this version isn't a disaster, and it's unabridged. Despite my comments about the syntax of this particular novel, I will never listen to abridged Allingham. She wrote too well for her books to be butchered. Remember to listen to the sample if you're on the fence.
I dearly hope that Audible will restore Matthews' other Allingham readings to commerce. I wound up buying a few of them at library sales way back when. They were the only reason I ever regretted getting rid of our last cassette player.
Another great set of characters make the Fashion in Shrouds an intriguing listen. I loved the way Allingham mixed theater, fashion, and airplane design plots and subplots. It was great to see Lady Amanda Fitton reappear from an earlier novel. Her ability to handle Campion bodes for future encounters.
That we get to see Amanda Fenton again.
Amanda Fenton, because she's an adventurous, modern (for the times) young woman, but not in a brazen way. She's smart too, and intelligent modern women in this kind of literature are usually treated like annoying pets. While there were a few pets in the story, Amanda was accepted by both men and women as a sensible peer.
Loved! Thanks Francis!
I had an extreme reaction to a part of the book. Its been brought up in other summaries. But it felt so incongruous to the rest of the story, to me, so it makes me wonder if it was inserted to appease some editor because all the women in the book were seeming way too independent.
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