Review of Allingham Box Set 1: Look to the Lady, Police at the Funeral, Sweet Danger. Pub. Ipso Books div. of Peters Fraser & Dunlop Ltd.

The Margery Allingham estate sent me a preview of this box set and asked for my comments, which appear below. (My individual reviews of the three books also appear on Amazon’s pages).

Allingham is a superb writer who can spin a yarn with the best of them. She sets a scene or creates an atmosphere in a way that pulls us in at the outset. She intrigues us early on, and fills in the details as she goes, leaving a trail of verbal breadcrumbs to guide us on our journey.

The first book, Look to the Lady, introduces us to the enigmatic but resourceful “Albert Campion” and also gives us a taste of Miss Allingham’s storytelling abilities. We hear the tale of the ancient and legendary Gyrth Chalice, and encounter a venerable castle complete with mysterious tower room. There is a widely varied assortment of characters, including thugs and petty criminals, a band of friendly Gypsies, and a family of ancient lineage.

In the second book, Police at the Funeral, we meet the widely varied members of the Faraday family. The tale unfolds along with our knowledge of the characters, their relationships and history. The suggestion of something dark and awful just off-screen flavors the story and leads us to a most ingenious dénouement. To say much more might constitute a spoiler.

The third book, Sweet Danger, is perhaps the most fanciful–and that’s saying a lot. We are asked to believe in the existence of a tiny (800-acre) principality of enormous significance to the British Crown, but also to a league of powerful and sinister characters. This book is notable for the introduction of flame-haired Amanda Fitton at age 17; she will prove to be a Person of Importance in the saga of Albert Campion. There is a captivating chapter describing Campion’s entrance and progress through the headquarters of Xenophon House (the villain’s headquarters), in which Allingham clearly channels Lewis Carroll. In case we missed it, at one point Campion offers to “repeat my journey through the wonder house.”  It’s quite a trip, in any case!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my repeat visit to these books, first read perhaps twenty or thirty years ago. At that time, I don’t believe I fully appreciated the finer points of the Albert Campion character depiction. In those days, I preferred Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey. Now, while still a Sayers fan, I find Lord Peter’s storied erudition a bit smothering. I enthusiastically recommend this boxed Allingham trio.

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