This is the 9th novel featuring the mysterious Albert Campion
Lugg is reading the obituaries from the Times aloud to Campion one morning and comes across one for an old school nemesis of Campion – R.I. “Pig” Peters who has died aged 37. In the morning post that day Campion had received an anonymous letter inviting him to the funeral which has a curious reference to Moles (“Why should the mole move backwards? — it is not yet eleven.“). Campion attends the funeral where he meets Kingston, a bored local doctor who had looked after Peters in his dying days, and an old school chum Gilbert Whippet who also received an anonymous letter with the obscure references to moles.
Five months later in June, Campion receives a panicked phone call from a friend saying something about a murder. He drives down to the friend’s home where her father reveals the most assuredly dead body of R.I. “Pig” Peters, his head having been caved in no more than 12 hours earlier.
A second funeral follows attended by some of the visitors from Peters’ first funeral and some not-so-grieving acquaintances of the late Pig. A little English village is now becoming very crowded indeed.
Thus begins Campion’s search, leading to a missing body, a grisly scarecrow and one too many beers for Lugg before he discovers the madman that planned more than a few murders.
I came to Margery Allingham relatively late in life having read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen in my teens (and before – I do have a school report from when I was aged 11 chastising my parents for letting me read “age-inappropriate literature” such as Christie & Doyle) and Dorothy L Sayers in my twenties. I read my first Margery Allingham in my 40s after re-watching the Peter Davison Campion series when it was released on DVD.
This is a very short novel (technically a novella as it is just under 40000 words) and is very fast moving as a consequence with subplots that efficiently establish character and add a touch of levity to the proceedings without interrupting the emphasis of the novel.
It is unusual in that it is the only story told from Campion’s own point of view.
In my opinion, Allingham does tend to vary a lot in her work (in style and readability – I personally just cannot get into Tiger in the Smoke which many people say is her best) and I think that this is a good starting point for Allingham & Campion as it is a fairly traditional fairplay mystery with no rug-pulling twists and you can work out the perpetrator, method and motive from the evidence that is presented.