Review: Dancers in Mourning (A Campion Mystery) by Margery Allingham. Ipso books.

dancers-in-mourningAlbert Campion is no stranger to odd situations and settings. But he thinks he may have met his match in this one. Invited backstage to meet musical star Jimmy Sutane, he is told by the harried Sutane of a series of pranks that are getting on his nerves. He asks Campion to take a look and give some advice.


Invited to the Sutane home, Campion finds it, as one character says, “a rum ménage for a decent house.” The characters are theatrical and unsettling; the atmosphere is strangely charged. When a surprised Campion finds himself romantically drawn to Sutane’s lovely wife, Linda, he quietly decides it’s time to make a quick and graceful exit. But before he can do that, one of the characters dies suddenly, and Campion now feels he must remain.


We are so accustomed to Campion meeting bizarre circumstances with aplomb; it’s a bit unnerving for us (and him) to view his loss of sang-froid. Also, he realizes that the central characters simply do not realize the seriousness of the situation they find themselves in–until it escalates in unmistakably sinister ways.


Allingham weaves a baroque spell in this story, and the unsettling atmosphere is encapsulated in the words she has left us. Even I, as the reader of a story written many years ago, found myself feeling ill at ease as I continued to read in a state of edgy fascination. Campion continues his reluctant way through a tightly choreographed pavane for dead dancers, dreading what he sees as the ultimate result. Any chance he could be mistaken?


My thanks to Camilla of the Allingham Estate for making a copy of this fine book available for me to read and review.

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