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Complex but very readable
on 22 June 2017
The seventh Albert Campion. sees Margery Allingham take a major step towards beicoming one of the greats of classic crime writing.The action takes place in London, apart from the last chapter set in Avignon which both acts as an Epilogue and an Explanation. In this book, the characterisation, plotting, and atmospheric description of buildings and places, combine to make a very fine piece of fiction.
The plot centres on a family publishing business currently in the hands of John Widdowson, Paul Brande and Mike Wedgewood, all nephews of the founder. Ritchie Barnabas, another nephew is also employed there.
Paul Brande has disappeared in what seems to be an echo of the disappearance in 1911 of Ritchie’s brother,Tom. Mike calls on his friend, Albert Campion, to investigate. Campion meets members of the family as well as Paul’s wife, Gina and trusted employee, Miss Curley, in one of the family flats situated next to the firm’s headquarters. During the meeting John asks Mike to fetch some documents from the office strongroom. The next morning Paul’s body is found there in plain view.
At the end of a Coroner’s Inquest, Mike is arrested. Paul had been deliberately poisoned with carbon monoxide fed into the locked strongroom from Mike’s car. Mike was obviously in love with Gina whom Paul refused to divorce. Thus Mike had a strong motive and can provide no alibi for the time of the murder. The case against him, though circumstantial, is strong, Campion is convinced of his innocence and sets out to find the murderer.
There are in this book two great set-pieces, the Inquest, in a chapter entitled “ Inquisition”,and the trial. There are seemingly unconnected issues concerned with the disappearance of Tom, and the Galivant, a valuable manuscript of a play by Congreve which the firm owns.
On the surface, then, Flowers for the Judge is simply a locked room murder mystery. However it deals, incidentally, with the nature of existence in the modern world- which may sound heavy but is not. It is also about relationships and their complicated nature and difficulties. There are romance and comedy and some chilling moments.It is complex but very readable.
Thank you to the Allingham Estate for my review copy.