24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
"Murder: I think it's unethical and ungentlemanly and unkind.",
This review is from: The Fashion In Shrouds (Paperback)
As talented and popular a mystery writer in the 1930s and 1940s as fellow writers Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham is now almost unknown, except by mystery aficionados. Writing a series of novels featuring Albert Campion, a man of mysterious background who moves comfortably both in aristocratic circles and in the seedy underworld of thugs and criminals, Allingham sets up elaborate plots that cross class lines and entertain the reader with their cleverness. Campion, often aided by Lugg, a former burglar, manages to remain friendly with local police inspectors while operating as a private detective, often hired by the titled nobility with whom he associates.
This novel, written in 1938, opens with the discovery of the fully clothed skeleton of a man who disappeared three years before. A lawyer hoping for a judgeship, the deceased was the fiancé of Georgia Wells, a stage actress who married just six months after his disappearance, a seductress who flirts with every man she meets. Campion's sister Val, who runs a high fashion design house, is also involved in the mystery, as are the man she loves, who runs an aircraft company trying to sell planes to a foreign country, and Georgia's present husband, a self-important snob who works for the government. The mystery is unusually intricate, and when two more deaths occur, Campion must investigate questions of blackmail, secret relationships, drug shipments, an out-of-the-way restaurant, and characters who look like other characters. He must also deal with a former acquaintance, Lady Amanda Fitton, who has returned--and unexpectedly announced her engagement to him.
Highly entertaining and very fast paced, the novel is cleverly written and full of intrigue, populated with characters who have more substance than the cardboard characters one finds in most mysteries. Allingham's ability to incorporate details of time and place--and class--give this novel a lively sense of the atmosphere of prewar England and the attitudes of its population, not all of them admirable. Elitism, bigotry, and class prejudice are all given voice in this novel, and play a part in the mystery.
Far more literary in style than Agatha Christie, Allingham employs a good deal of humor and irony, though Albert Campion is more phlegmatic than Lord Peter Wimsey (Dorothy Sayer's detective) and less exaggerated than Christie's Hercule Poirot. Allingham, a fine writer, creates well developed plots and memorable characters, and one hopes that her work will be reprinted for a new audience. n Mary Whipple