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Archive for the ‘Allingham, Margery’ Category

Cover of 'The Case of the Late Pig'Most of the novels that feature Margery Allingham’s detective, the mild-mannered, harmless-looking Albert Campion, feature him in the third person. This one departs most drastically from that custom; it is, I think, the only one of the Campion novels in which Campion himself is permitted to tell the story. And a fine, funny story it is too, because of his amused, tongue-in-cheek view of the mayhem around him; Allingham really should have given him the pen more often.

The plot centres on Campion in the village of Kepesake, where the much-disliked “Pig” Peters has been found dead, brained with a flower-pot pushed off the terrace of a country house. This is enough of a mystery for any detective, but Campion has something rather more complicated on his hands–he knows he’s been to Peters’ funeral five months previously, in which case, whose body is this one anyway? And what on earth does the strange anonymous letter that took Campion to Peters’ funeral mean?

Campion sails through the action with a voice that deftly treads a fine line between P. G. Wodehouse and all of the best proponents of the country house mystery, Allingham definitely among them, while the action and characters also hover between these two regions of literary imagination. There’s a lovelorn vicar, a slicked-down man of the City who’s also Campion’s junior at school, the deceased’s rather impulsive inamorata, whose pretence of familiarity with Campion manages to rub his own favourite girl in the story entirely the wrong way, and, of course, the stupendous, completely irrepressible Lugg, Campion’s “man,” who is (consciously, I think) presented as a contrast to Wodehouse’s impeccable Jeeves and, indeed, anyone’s idea of a butler or valet. Where we’re accustomed to Allingham’s dry wit and more literary prose, we have Campion’s sense of the absurd and a flippant, rather whimsical way of putting things. This is earlier “silly” Campion (as opposed to later Campion, who is a much more nuanced character) at his most charming. It works, and how. It may not be Allingham’s longest mystery—this can, at best, be called a novella—but it certainly is one of her most enjoyable.

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