Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
His Mind's a Blank - and So is He
on 3 September 2015
I imagine quite a few people, as I did, came to this after the laudatory article in The Guardian. I was in the mood for something gripping, well-plotted and page-turning and was intrigued by the hyperbole in the article and thought I'd give it a go. Unfortunately, I found this instead to be an incredibly turgid read.
The lead character, Campion, has lost his memory from the outset, and on coming to in a hospital and overhearing two people talking about a dead policeman, immediately assumes he's responsible and seems to think it's a good idea to stage an elaborate escape and steal a car, even though he has no idea who he is, where he's going, or what he's doing. Luckily he runs into someone who does know, but she's unaware he's lost his memory and he seems to think it's a good idea - even though he's decided that Lady Amanda (for it is she) is his wife - to keep his amnesia from her.. He proceeds to bluff his way through 75% of the novel, with people filling in the blanks with chunks of exposition while he puzzles over each piece of the puzzle and is generally useless as a detective and a guide to what's going on, while the writer repeatedly harps on about Campion almost remembering something but...not quite. It's all incredibly tedious and irritating and often as baffling as Campion must find it. The man is a void, walking around fragments of a plot, following everybody else's lead and generally being no help whatsoever. He eventually gets another bump on the head which restores all the memory he lost before the action of the book, but then loses everything he's done in the book up until now and is a right pain while he tries to convince everyone who he is and a stock bumbling jobsworth of a bobbie holds him back from saving the world. After a few leaps of intuition there's some Boy's Own action followed by a hastily delivered reveal that doesn't really justify all the tortuous meandering that came before, and this is followed by another slab of exposition and then happy endings all around. There's some interest to be had in Allingham's contemporary portrayal of war-time Britain with its blackouts, lack of signposts (nice touch, that) and paranoia, and a very interesting plot twist to remind us that not all of the British were supporting the war effort, but as a mystery it's...well, a mystery, and not a very interesting one. I imagine if you're familiar with the Campion series, then the appearance of Lady Amanda and Lugg would come as a welcome anchor to the lost lead. As it is, I don't think I'll be pursuing this particular series.