A star of English crime fiction,
This review is from: Police at the Funeral (Campion Mystery) (Paperback)
I've never read a Margey Allingham before, but having finally taken the plunge I have to say that I'm hugely impressed. She's of course one of the Grande Dames of English detective fiction, but she is a much better writer than either Dorothy L. Sayers or Agatha Christie (though it wouldn't be hard to be a more skilled prose stylist than Dame Agatha). Interestingly she seems to realise there's something faintly absurd about the notion of an aristocratic detective (according to my good friend Wikipedia, Albert Campion was created as a spoof of Lord Peter Wimsey), and there is almost a protean quality to her version - a bland man who hides behind his glasses and isn't even comfortable using his real name. Not that he isn't a strong presence at the centre of the book, the reader is never allowed to forget that behind his vague expression is the sharpest mind in the room.
A series of murders are committed amongst an old aristocratic family, which is ruled by an intimidating matriarch of the old school. Campion is called into help the investigation (an aristocrat investigating aristocratic murder always seems more likely to be successful, the family opens up in the way they never would with a common policeman). There are red herrings, other attacks in the night, huge footprints left in the garden and a conclusion which is satisfyingly impossible to guess - if more than somewhat absurd.
What really pleased me though was her style, breezy and smart with a good line in humour. This is a book to enjoy not only for the mechanics of the mystery but for the prose as well. As such I look forward to the other Campion novels in 2011.