The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Louise Allingham

Crime at Black DudleyStrongly recommended for fans of traditional or cosy mysteries, especially British manor house mysteries or the Golden Age of Mystery.  Kindle edition re-released by Bloomsbury Reader. List price:  $5.99

Albert Campion plays a minor, almost a cameo role, in his first appearance in the classic mystery series begun by Margery Allingham in 1929 with The Crime at Black Dudley.

The story has all the hallmarks of the Golden Age Mysteries:  a house party at an English country mansion in the period between the two World Wars; a murder committed during a rather ghoulish after-dinner game; secret passages connecting the most unexpected places; sinister foreigners involved in elaborate crimes; clues and misdirections that cast suspicion on just about every character, major and minor; and the satisfying ending that allows justice to prevail and good to triumph over evil.

Indeed, the latter is one of the reasons these mysteries were so popular amongst a generation that had fought or endured what was supposed to be the war to end all wars, then found themselves plunged into a worldwide economic depression.  Well-written, witty fiction such as Allingham’s provided much-needed escape from a reality that was far too real.

“It’s people like you,” exclaims a London bobby in the final pages of the mystery, “wot gives us officers all our work.  But we’re not goin’ to have these offences, I can tell you.  We’re making a clean sweep.  Persons offending against the Law are not going to be tolerated.”

“Splendid!” the hero replies . . . “Really, really splendid, Officer! You don’t know how comforting that sounds.  My fervent wishes for your success.”

The Crime at Black Dudley wasn’t Allingham’s first novel, nor even her first mystery, but it is the first in a popular and long-running series that ended after her death, when her husband, Philip Youngman Carter, finished the final novel, A Cargo of Eagles, and had it published in 1968.  Campion plays a major role in most of the other novels in the series, though not all.

For some of her fans, his minor role in The Crime at Black Dudley is a cause for disappointment.  Campion’s often fatuous, even silly, actions and dialogue provide plenty of wit and surprises.  He is, in many ways, similar to Dorothy L. Sayers’ aristocratic sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey, but in this story, the hero is a rotund little physician who unravels the mystery and confronts the murderer.

“I couldn’t help it,” the physician tells the killer.  “It was too perfect. It left nothing to chance.”

For those who have never read any of Allingham’s mysteries, The Crime at Black Dudley is an excellent place to start as it allows the reader to follow the development of Campion throughout the series.  It may be a little slow for many of today’s younger readers, who are accustomed to a fast and furious pace in all forms of entertainment.  But perseverance pays off.  It’s a delightful story, a perfect example of the Golden Age of Mystery, and a great introduction to the series.

Note:  Sis received an advanced reading copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a review of her own, unbiased opinion.  Sis’s opinions are strong enough that she has never felt the need to allow others to influence them.  

Featured Review @ NetGalley

Margery Louise Allingham was born in Ealing, London in 1904 to a very literary family; her parents were both writers, and her aunt ran a magazine, so it was natural that Margery too would begin writing at an early age. The Allingham family retained a house on Mersea Island, a few miles from Layer Breton, and it was here that Margery found the material for her first novel, the adventure story Blackkerchief Dick (1923), which was published when she was just nineteen. She went on to pen multiple novels, some of which dealt with occult themes and some with mystery, as well as writing plays and stories—her first detective story, The White Cottage Mystery, was serialized in the Daily Express in 1927. Allingham died at the age of 62, and her final novel, A Cargo of Eagles, was finished by her husband at her request and published posthumously in 1968.

2 thoughts on “The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Louise Allingham”

  1. As a long time fan of British classical mysteries from that golden age, I agree with the review of The Black Dudley. It is not my favorite Albert Campion mystery, but definitely worth the time. After a short time and 2 or 3 of these, I became very fond of Campion’s man, Lugg.

    These old-fashioned stories will always be among my favorites.

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