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Summary: Campion emerges as the leading man
Review: In the Black Dudley Murder, Allingham's first book, Albert Campion is one of an ensemble cast. In Mystery Mile, Campion emerges as the clear star - abet a somewhat mysterious and charmingly quirky one. I think I'm going to like Albert a great deal. He's already showing a wicked sense of humor and irony. He's clever but hardly perfect. And there is a real sense of mystery about him - what is his real identity?
This mystery is a solid example of a pre-Depression mystery with a family of swaggering Americans, a mysterious "oriental" (definately a pre-political correctness book), an English country house and a wonderful villian - Simister. Albert meets the Americans on ship when he saves the father's life. It turns out that it was the fifth attempt on the man's life - he's a judge who has a lead on Simister's identity. The book revolves around Albert's efforts to both protect the judge and track down Simister.
Bottom-line: a very pleasant read with enough twists and turns to keep a reader interested. The late 1920 atmosphere is particularly wonderful.
Summary: Campion's First Starring Role
Review: One year after his initial appearance in Crime at the Black Dudley, Albert Campion is back. And what a difference a year makes. This Campion is completely fleshed out. He is now, officially the Universal Aunt ('your adventures undertaken for a fee'). Also present are his regular compatriots Lugg (his man) and Stanislaus Oates of Scotland Yard. And let's not forget Autolycus the Jackdaw (who lays an egg).
It is as if Campion has been reinvented out of whole cloth. And it's just wonderful. Campion keeps up a steady patter of nonsense, bad jokes and horrible puns, interspersed with the plants and plots the keep him and his fellow characters alive.
American judge Crowdy Lobbett is saved from one of a series of attempts on his life by Albert's timely intercession with a mouse. As a result Campion is taken on to save the judge from an early demise at the hands of Simister (see The Black Dudley). Lobbett has a clue to Simister's true identity and the evil mastermind intends to remove this threat.
In a stroke of brilliance Campion convinces the Judge to move himself and his family to Mystery Mile at the residence of his two friends Biddy and Giles Paget. This has an inauspicious start when Swithin Cush, the vicar, commits suicide after a session with a palm reader. In short order the Judge disappears and Biddy is kidnapped. The Judge's children Marlowe and Isopel get entangled with the Pagets and typical Allingham version of a Chinese fire drill comes to pass. Allingham's books rarely lack for action, and Mystery Mile is no exception.
Campion often loses in love, but Mystery Mile proves he can win our hearts. He lacks the brilliance of Sayer's Lord Peter Whimsey, but he is by far the cleverer. Bit players like Thomas Knapp and his terrifying mother never fail to enchant, as Allingham shows off a knack at capturing British dialects. This volume spells the establishment of one of mysteries most loved series. One that you will enjoy for many years to come.
Summary: Early Campion and an endangered judge
Review: When a Judge Lobett's life is threatened with murder by a deadly gang that no one can stop, Campion takes the challenge to save the judge's life. "Deserving cases preferred" takes on a whole new meaning when it becomes clear that the judge has a clue to the identity of the gang's secretive leader. Campion brings the judge and his daughter to the house of old friends in order to try to keep the killers back. Campion has to protect the judge, decipher the clue, and find a killer in order to keep Lobbett from hearing the seventh whistle that would spell his doom. Mystery Mile is clearly a very early Allingham without some of the maturity of later works, but contains all of the elements that made her a great lady of mystery.
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