Top positive review
The Crime at Black Dudley
on 22 April 2013
Published in 1929, this is the first Albert Campion mystery. My introduction to Campion came through a later book and, disliking reading books out of order, I found that a confusing and difficult read. However, as I enjoy Golden Age detective fiction, I determined to give Margery Allingham another try and to read the first in the series – even though I know that the book has mixed reactions. In a way, that is because this is not a traditional mystery; it has a story set in a traditional country weekend, but then descends into something of a romp concerning criminal gangs, secret passages and only has Albert Campion as a minor character.
Indeed, much of the action is told from the point of view of Dr George Abbershaw, one of the guests of a weekend party at the house of Colonel Gordon Coombe, whose nephew, Wyatt Petrie, organises groups of young people to visit and amuse his uncle. The house is a somewhat forbidding setting for a party, but Abbershaw is more interested in a young lady called Margaret Oliphant than the location. Still, romantic considerations aside, there are a mix of guests, including a keen Cambridge rugger blue, a young doctor, a couple of rather sinister guests of the Colonel and a ‘silly ass’ called Albert Campion, who nobody seems to have invited…
When Petrie tells of a family ritual involving the fifteenth century ‘Black Dudley Dagger,’ the guests agree to play along and, when the lights come back on, it seems that there has been a tragedy. Worst still, the Colonel’s rather unpleasant, and unfriendly, guests, claim to have lost something of great importance and, if it is not returned, there will be consequences. Despite appearing as a rather inoffensive, unintelligent character, Campion turns out to be very useful in the following crisis, as the guests find themselves prisoners in the isolated house, unable to escape. However, this actually turns out to be a murder mystery, wrapped in a tale of criminal gangs. Overall, I am glad I read this first book and would certainly like to read on and discover more about Albert Campion.