I am an unabashed admirer of Margery Allingham’s work, and this is one of her most splendid, in many respects.
For starters, it gives us some important clues into just who “Albert Campion” really is. The War (WWII) is over, and Campion is in line to become Governor of some unnamed island. We are told that finally, the man is offered something “even his grandfather” would consider suitable. And his man Lugg refers to Albert as “the young viscount” at one point. All this is by way of reminding us the exalted position that the unassuming Albert apparently holds in abeyance.
Then there are the characters we meet. Of course there is the splendid Lugg (of whom we learn a little more about in the course of the story). There are the Scotland Yard folks, notably the Chief Stanislaus Oates, Superintendent Yeo and the young, brilliant D. D. I. Charles Luke (again, we learn quite a bit more about Luke here). The Lady Amanda, Albert’s spouse, has an important cameo role and in a way is given the opportunity for the last word (always satisfying, don’t you think?”
The new and indelibly memorable characters belong to the eccentric Palinode family. Allingham outdoes herself in her depiction of characters at once extremely odd, unaccountably appealing, and uncommonly intelligent. Then there is the undertaker (Jas Bowles & Son), a creation any author would be proud to claim.
The story itself full of momentous happenings, poisonings, anonymous letters, a magnificent coffin that appears and disappears seemingly at will, a sizeable but apparently worthless inheritance, and a case that Scotland Yard wants very much to solve–quietly and quickly.
This is a fun, adventurous and challenging read from beginning to end.