Campion goes to Ruritania

Margery Allingham, the third lady of the golden age of detective fiction along with Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, is one of the hardest authors to categorise. Although much of her output starred her leading man, Albert Campion, the novels were hugely diverse ranging from straight forward detective fiction (Police at the Funeral), thrillers (the very fine Tiger In The Smoke) to Ruritanian romances such as Sweet Danger.

Of course this kind of story was very popular in the 1920's and '30's and Allingham handles it with a great deal of aplomb. Sweet danger manages to be charming and funny, and also a cracking good adventure story with a hint of detection and black magic thrown in for good measure. The story opens on the French Riviera, where Campion is spotted in the guise of the King of Averna. What at first appears to be a practical joke turns out to be rather more serious, Campion is working for the British government, who are trying to track down the (British) heir to the kingdom of Averna, while a top crook is also attempting to get his hands on the proofs of heirship, for Averna, a minute nondescript country, has just become politically important after an earthquake unexpectedly provided the nation with a port on the Adriatic.

Campion and pals head off to Pontisbright, an idyllic Suffolk village, where young Hal Fitton, his two feisty sisters, and their aunt, the wonderfully named Hatt Huntingtower, are endeavouring to prove Hal's claim to the title. A treasure hunt then ensues, closely pursued by crooks, greedy millionaires, and a doctor who fancies himself as a black magician.

The plot is a bit unwieldy, it sometimes feels like several different plots cobbled together, but it is very inventive, often funny, and a great fun read. It's also the first introduction to Amanda Fitton, who will become increasingly important in the Campion books.

Not my favourite Campion, but not atypical of the series, and a lot of fun.


Popular Posts