See Cambridge and die....

Having lived in Cambridgeshire for over 20 years, and loving crime fiction, it is perhaps inevitable that I should have formed a "Death in Cambridge" collection of crime fiction ranging from the classic (and unimaginatively named) Cambridge Murders by Dilwyn Rees to the more recent Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. One of the very best in the collection is Margery Allingham's 1931 Campion mystery Police at the funeral.

If you live in Cambridge this is a fun read, if only for working out the geography of the book. Many places are real, and those that aren't - Ignatius College, for example - can easily be fitted onto a map of the town. Ignatius, for those who live in Cambridge, would appear to be John's shifted somewhere near to Trinity Hall. While Socrates Close itself is, I suspect, modelled on the house with the Edwardian style conservatory, at the junction of Long Road and Trumpington Road. However Cambridge geography freaks aside, this is one of the very best Campion mysteries.

Albert Campion, the eccentric investigator, is called in to investigate when an old friend's fiancee becomes worried by the disappearance of her uncle. The uncle is shortly afterwards found dead, clearly murdered, and as the claustrophobic atmosphere of Socrates Close grows there are more unpleasant happenings.....

Allingham is always a hugely enjoyable writer, and this is one of her very best books. The murders are cleverly plotted, and I would defy anyone to guess the culprit. Yes, it is rather far-fetched; but Allingham depicts the dreadful atmosphere of Socrates Close so brilliantly that you truly believe in the conclusion that Campion arrives at. Characters are lovingly drawn, they're wonderfully over the top and there is a gloriously grand guignol feel to the plot; while Cambridge itself becomes an additional character in this fantastic classic crime novel. If you want to know why so many people think Margery Allingham's Campion mysteries are among the best classics of detective fiction you can do no better than read Police at the funeral.

Comments

Clare Wartnaby said…
I do enjoy reading your posts, Margaret. I love Margery Allingham, and Campion - and his wonderfully truculent manservant Lugg - are two of my favourite characters in crime fiction. I can't quite think how I've missed out on Police at the Funeral, but I'm really glad of the recommendation and intend to invest in a copy shortly!
Book-hound said…
Pleased you enjoyed the post. Police at the funeral is great! I've just started on your Christmas present, Kate Atkinson's Case Histories so there'll be more Death in Cambridge soon (it's a dangerous place to live :) )

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