Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Margery Allingham, Coroner’s Pigdin (Pearls Before Swine in the US)

Margery Allingham, Coroner’s Pigdin (Pearls Before Swine in the US)
Ipso Books, 2015 ebook reissue of 1945 original
© Estate of Margery Allingham 1945

Had you told me there was an Albert Campion story I had not read, I would (a) have laughed and (b) tried to find it immediately.  I ran across a mention of this book (I forget where) and did not recognize the title, or the description of the book.  So I acquired it and read it.

It’s 1944; Campion has returned to London (a stopover on his way home) after an extended undercover assignment, presumably for a British intelligence service.  Stopping by his London flat to bathe before catching a train, he is interrupted by the arrival of his manservant Lugg and Lady Carados.  They have brought a corpse to his flat, in an attempt to disguise the fact that the death actually occurred in the flat of Lady Carados’s son Johnny.  Johnny is to be married in a couple of days to the widow of one of his comrades-in-arms (RAF); he had promised to take care of her.  And the body, we quickly learn, was found in Johnny’s bed. The widow, Susan Shering, also arrives, and shortly thereafter a US Army Lieutenant (Don Evers) also arrived.

So we now have 5 living and 1 dead in Campion’s flat.  And Johnny is apparently on his way.  And he arrives, with /Evangeline (Eve) Snow, an actress and Johnny’s long-time lover, and with Dolly Chivers, a sort of administrative secretary to the Carados family,.

If this sounds like the setup for a farce, well, it does—even with the corpse in the bedroom.  (Actually The Corpse In The Bedroom wouldn’t have been a bad title for the book.)

And, finally, we learn the name of the dead woman—Moppet Lewis, a hanger-on in the crowd around Johnny.

Everyone thinks it’s suicide, but, of course, it’s murder, and the police are shortly to hand.  And Campion, far from taking the train home to wife (Amanda Fitton, who runs a very successful aeronautical engineering company) and son, is stuck with his part in the investigation.

The investigation has its moments, although there’s an extended interruption involving stolen art works, and, while I thought Campion really had very little to do except finally point out where the police were going wrong, the book is quite readable.  Not really a first-rate work, probably really not enough going on for a novel,, but satisfactory. 

(The cover illustration is particularly jarring, as no one was shot or stabbed or bled profusely.)

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