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Mystery Monday Review – Mr. Campion and Others

Mr. Campion and Others by Margery Allingham

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

These 13 short stories star Allingham’s series PI, Albert Campion. They were first published in the UK in the late thirties and made their way in the US, through Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, during WWII.

Allingham was a professional who cared about her craft. Without being fancy about vocabulary and grammar, she created well-turned sentences and phrases with neat twists and turns. This is the start of The Name on the Wrapper:

Mr. Albert Campion was one of those useful if at times exasperating people who remain interested in the world in general at three o’clock on a chilly winter’s morning. When he saw the overturned car, dark and unattended by the grass verge, therefore, he pulled up his own saloon and climbed out on to the road, whose frosty surface was glistening like a thousand diamonds.

In the early novels Campion has Wimsey-esque goofiness, but he evolves – mercifully, to my mind – to become not quirky, but human and plausible. The humor often comes out of Campion’s being mildly scandalized – but never shocked – at what people will get up to. This kind of subtlety, I think, is beyond Lord Peter or Hercule.

Happily, his sidekick Oates pops up in many of the stories. This, from the beginning of The Old Man in the Window:

Newly appointed Superintendent Stanislaus Oates was by no means intoxicated, but he was cheerful, as became a man celebrating an important advance in a distinguished career, and Mr. Campion, who sat opposite him at the small table in the corner of the chop-house, surveyed the change in his usually taciturn friend with interest.

More than a few of these stories are a tad on the thin side, so readers who want more substantial fare should stick with the novels. On the other hand, this is perfect reading for waiting rooms, lobbies, departure lounges and other moderately stressful situations.




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