Both the skeleton and the corpse have died with suspicious convenience for Georgia Wells, a monstrous but charming actress with a raffish entourage. Georgia's best friend just happens to be Valentine, a top couturière and Campion's sister. In order to protect Valentine, Campion must unravel a story of blackmail and ruthless murder....
©1938 Margery Allingham (P)2012 AudioGO Ltd
I loved Margery Allingham's mysteries as a girl - such style and elegance. While the narration of The Fashion in Shrouds is pitch perfect and a delight, sadly the writing and the social attitudes in the book are terribly dated. The prose now seems mannered and overly fussy and I found myself impatient at times. But the scenes with Albert Campion's valet, Lugg, are so brilliant that I always went back for again, hoping to hear more of that rasping voice croaking out his sly and cynical zingers.
There I was, making my way slowly through this series, enjoyable the affable, comical and thoughtful Albert Campion when suddenly this story rears its ugly head. While the plot is adequate, the author has gone out of her way to write some seriously weird dialogue that makes every character (except for the young boy) obnoxious in the extreme.
The female characters seem to be written solely for the author to set up in humiliating situations and the male characters are SO misogynist that it would almost be laughable if it wasn't so insulting to men and women. Yes, I know the book was published in 1938 but surely even then it would be considered shocking and revolting for a brother to suggest to his sister that she needs "a good rape"!
One of the men dumps his girlfriend to have a blatant affair with her friend and then, without a word of explanation or apology, returns to her to propose marriage, or perhaps indentured servitude would be a better description. She is a highly successful designer and the romantic bastard tells her he'll marry her on the condition that she gives up her entire life to him, become his possession (his exact words) and that this arrangement will be strictly a one-way street. She simply cannot wait to agree to this wonderful bargain. These are just a couple of examples; there are plenty more.
Francis Matthews does an excellent job of narrating, and he has my sympathy. There is not nearly enough story to distract from the grotesque relationships. I don't know what Ms. Allingham was ingesting while composing this one but I am going to do my best to forget it and hope that the next in the series will return to some semblance of reality.Thoroughly NOT recommended.
If you are a reader of the Albert Campion series this is an important book to read. Most of the series makes very rare mention of his relatives and this one centers around his relationship with his sister, the only member of his family whom he seems to have a connection with. It reveals a little more about his family and adds dimension to his character.
In addition, this book sets the tone for Albert's love life in the books to come and is important from that aspect as well.
However, as for the actual story itself I found it to be one of my least favorites. One of the things I have truly enjoyed about Allingham's books is that the characters are generally likable and easy to connect with. In this book most of the supporting characters were little more than caricatures. Their character developments were very cliche and and without depth. Furthermore the plot had so many elements going at one time that it was very hard to keep track of what was happening, who was involved, and why you were supposed to care about it.
I also found the "lovesick" angles in this one to be a bit thick. Albert is nursing a heartache for a married woman he lost his heart to in the previous book, his sister is constantly having the man she is in love with flaunted in front of her by a "supposed" friend, and all in all it just made the plot rather annoying from time to time.
Another facet of the book that bothered me was how Albert kept referring to himself in terms of an "old" person and focusing on Amanda's youthfulness. It somehow just fell flat for me.
As for narration, it was adequate. I like Francis Matthews better as a narrator for this series than I do David Thorpe, however, sometimes his characterizations get a bit excessive.
"Old fashioned - well maybe"
Really enjoyed the telling of this story - have read all Marjorie Allingham's books previously but often enjoy books being read to me that I already know. Somehow adds an extra dimension. Steady who/how dunnit without too many alarms and excursions - good bedtime listen. Will now seek out some further titles and renew my acquaintance with Mr Campion.
"OK, but dated."
The mystery parts of the story are actually pretty good: the author leads us on a merry chase, but the attitudes toward women, working women, women's fashions, and alternate lifestyles are very dated, and kind of get in the way of enjoying the story sometimes. Nice to see some characters returning from earlier books.
Nice job reading by Francis Matthews. I enjoy his characterisations of both men and women in the story.
Overall, I will probably listen to this one again, but I'll skip over some sections.
"Not for me"
I'm a great fan of vintage crime fiction. I turned to Margery Allingham as I'd not read books before. I'm very disappointed. There is such a lot of unnecessary chatter and sophistry between the characters. It's all a bit too arch and artificial for me. The story gets rather lost in all the dialogue. I really want to be a fan but can't recommend her.
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