The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham – Book review

The Crime at Black Dudley is my very first Margery Allingham book. Reading more classic crime fiction has been on my TBR list for a while now so when I saw this in a charity shop, I snapped it up. Like all good crime fiction writers, Margery Allingham has a signature detective: Albert Campion. He makes his first appearance here in The Crime at Black Dudley but, interestingly, he’s not – and wasn’t intended to be – the lead character.

Opening sentence: The view from the narrow window was dreary and inexpressibly lonely.

So, just who is Albert Campion?

Well, we first meet Albert Campion as one of the group of people who go to the big manor house, Black Dudley for a weekend gathering. It soon transpires that Albert wasn’t actually invited by any of the other guests, so what’s he doing there?

Our narrator is pathologist George Abbershaw who takes the lead at Black Dudley when, during a playful (if slightly sinister) game involving a dagger in the dark, someone is actually murdered. Things then take a very scary turn when everyone becomes a suspect – and unintentional hostages. Layer in an international crime sub-plot and you have quite the plot line.

As a character, Albert worked for me as he was so not what I was expecting. Described as affable, the others think he’s a bit dim and don’t take him seriously. They should though. He also has a very intriguing aristocracy themed back story, which I’m keen to learn more about.

Yes, but where does the ritual come in?‘ said Albert Campion, in his absurd falsetto drawl.

Apparently Albert Campion was written as a character to essentially take the piss out of other fictional detectives of the time, most notably Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy L. Sayer’s creation, which is why he was a secondary character. But he was a delight on the page – stole every scene he was in, so can see why he grew in prominence.

Classic crime fiction

Written in 1929, there are some phrases that don’t translate and would offend now – such as the German character being referred to as a ‘Hun’ (not this type – although that would be amazing as we all know these huns rule) and the sexist language that often crops up in books from older eras. I take all these elements with a pinch of salt – they are a product of their time in that sense.

So, I’m very intrigued to see how Campion’s story develops now, I’ll definitely be reading more in this series. I’ve googled and apparently Traitor’s Purse is a must-read so I’m going to try that one next.

Have you read this series or any Margery Allingham books? Let me know below as I’d love some recommendations!

  • Get your copy of The Crime at Black Dudley here;
  • First published 1929;
  • 229 pages;
  • My rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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