Review: The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham (1929)

image002Imagine you are invited to a party at a country mansion only to find yourself the following day as a prisoner. Well, that’s what happens to Dr George Abbershaw and a group of London’s brightest young things when they accept an invitation to a party at Black Dudley. During a parlour game someone is murdered and things from there on in turn a little dark.

This novel is the first introduction of Albert Campion, though he only appears as a supporting character. But this appearance did lead on appearances in  another eighteen novels and twenty short stories.  It’s interesting that throughout  Dr George Abbershaw is the main focus. You can see, I think, where Allingham is trying to make him a detective but it is Campion who really does steal to the show.

His appearances have energy and charm whereas Abbershaw is a little more sedate and traditional. Speaking of sedate and traditional I thought that Allingham was going for a cosy country house murder but she goes darker. She unmasks a plot that puts that everyone in danger, and if it has been written now, it would have been bloody but Allingham managers to keep the restraint but keep the danger. I was actually surprised now dark she does go. I do wonder what the audience of the time would have made of The Crime at Black Dudley if she had crossed the line?

As introductions go Allingham makes you want to know more about the mysterious Albert Campion, as well as solve the mystery he finds himself tangled in. It’s quite a fun tale with twists and surprises that keep you reading. It is nice to see a darker classic crime tale and I’m now curious to see what Allingham does with Campion in The Mystery Mile.