“‘I’ll bet you fifty dollars, even money,’ said the American who was sitting nearest the door in the opulent lounge of the homeward-bound Elephantine, ‘that that man over there is murdered within a fortnight.’“
I’m on a little bit of a Margery Allingham binge at the moment, following The White Cottage Mystery and The Crime at Black Dudley. Indeed, it was getting hold of this eARC of the rereleased second volume of the Campion mysteries that drove me to read the first, and while I enjoyed it, I’m happy to report that the second in the series is a much stronger affair.
Albert Campion is very much the main character this time, foiling a murder attempt on a cruise ship in the opening chapter. The intended victim turns out to be an American judge, travelling to England in the hopes of avoiding the mysterious Simister – a very Keyser Soze-like figure of myth and rumour – and his gang of criminals, who are trying to either kill him – perhaps in revenge – or at least scare him away from revealing information about the shadowy leader.
Campion takes the judge and his two adult offspring to stay in the tiny village of Mystery Mile, hoping they’ll be safe. Of course, things can’t possibly go to plan…
As ever, I love the period setting of these books and the way they let me remember the TV adaption I loved as a kid. Mystery Mile was actually used for one of the episodes, which made for an odd deja vu in the reading. However, the writing – the story structure in particular – is much stronger here than the previous examples of Ms Allingham’s work I’ve tried, and between that and my dodgy memory I really was left puzzling over the mysteries through most of the book.
There are a few references in this volume to the previous misadventure, but not so much that you have to have read it first. Indeed, I’d suggest this is a better introduction to the mysterious, frivolous, but sneakily crafty, Campion and his world. It does perhaps stray just a little darker than the previous tales, but I still loved the brief sojourn to a whole other place and time, where the police didn’t look too hard at the blackmail material, content to let the victims live their lives while the criminals come to a sticky end!
NetGalley eARC: ~224 pages / 28 chapters
First published: 1930
Series: Campion book 2
Read from 28th-30th June 2016
My rating: 7/10