Thursday, May 10, 2007


(Image shows Peter Davison playing Albert Campion for the BBC).

I have spent the past week or so with Albert Campion, specifically re-reading Mystery Mile (the second mystery in which he appeared, but the first with him in a starring role) and reading for the first time, The Case of the Late Pig and More Work for the Undertaker. At this point, I have read about a dozen of the Campion mysteries, written by Margery Allingham between 1929 and 1949.

I enjoy classic British mysteries anyway, but I admit to finding this series to be particularly charming. There’s a soothing aspect to opening Pig and finding Campion in bed with his breakfast with Lugg reading obituaries from the Times to him. Campion’s noble birth makes this type of coddling to be expected, but Lugg is a delightful eccentric. A gentleman's gentleman with something of a clouded past, Lugg is generally gloomy but particularly put out when his charge (of noble -- perhaps even royal -- birth) refuses to behave according to the appropriate norms of society as Lugg has determined those norms to be. It is important to understand that peculiarity of their relationship, that Campion wants to break free and do something useful even as Lugg wants him to settle down and not be an embarrassment to his family. Lugg is too melancholy to be warm and fuzzy in tone, but he does prefer predictability now that he's gone straight in life.

Actually *most* of the characters in the Campion mysteries have a certain element of eccentricity about them. There are artists and theatrical types, faintly criminal sorts from Lugg's past (no murderers, mind you), wealthy, elderly ladies, vicars, saintly and otherwise, each and everyone a pure delight in their battiness. There is such innocence in the world that Allingham offers to us.

Albert Campion is an unlikely sort of fairy godmother to the people who engage him to solve their problems. As his card reads, he works on nothing vulgar, sordid or plebian and prefers deserving cases, which explains all the sweet young things that he puts on the road to love and happiness. I particularly enjoy the fact that for the first ten cases or so, Albert Campion is rather a wash-out with girls himself. Some one else always is engaged to the sweet young thing by the end of the book.

So that is what I have been reading this week. The good news is that the publisher at Felony & Mayhem has e-mailed me reassurances that they will be continuing to reprint Allingham's novels so I will be able to replace my badly aging paperbacks that are falling to pieces.

Reassuring, soothing books are required as I adjust to the idea that Offspring #1 graduates in two days from college (Phi Beta Kappa, the proud mother notes, and off to grad school in two months...). Offspring #2 (having made Dean's List) is also done with his first year of higher ed, in residence here for the summer. It was only when they both left for college last fall that I actually managed to find time to blog with any regularity....