About the author: Margery Allingham was born in London in 1904. Her first novel was published when she was 17. In 1929 she published The Crime at Black Dudley and introduced the character who was to become the hallmark of her writing - Albert Campion.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By FictionFan on 27-01-17
Campion's first appearance...
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Dr George Abbershaw has gone down to Black Dudley Manor to join a house party for the weekend. The house is owned by George's friend, Wyatt Petrie, but is occupied by Wyatt's uncle by marriage, Colonel Coombe. The elderly wheelchair-bound colonel likes the company of young people, so often asks Wyatt to bring a group of his friends down for the weekend. George, though, is there mainly because he's fallen in love with a girl who is also a guest, Meggie Oliphaunt, and he hopes to find an opportunity to propose to her. Colonel Coombe has also invited a few friends of his own.
In the evening, talk turns to old legends and Wyatt reluctantly tells of the ritual of a dagger that hangs prominently on the wall. The ritual involves turning off the lights and running around the house in the dark, passing the knife from person to person. What jolly fun! However when the lights come up Colonel Coombe is found dead. His friends tell the assembled company that his death was expected as he was very ill, and hasten to get a cremation certificate signed and hustle the body off the premises, so as not to spoil the weekend (!). But it soon becomes obvious to George that there's something fishy going on (!) – and when something goes missing, suddenly the young people find themselves the prisoners of the Colonel's friends...
This is apparently the book in which Allingham's regular 'tec, Albert Campion, makes his first appearance, although in this one, George is the main focus and Campion is a secondary character. George is a sensible young man, but Campion appears to be a foolish fop, like Bertie Wooster, only with fewer brains and a falsetto voice. He does develop a bit more depth as the book progresses, but it's a strange first outing.
There is much running to and fro through secret tunnels, which are nearly as complex as the convoluted plot involving criminal gangs, mysterious papers and suchlike. Despite the darkness of the plot, and some episodes of viciousness on the part of the baddies, the general tone is light and fun. George and Meggie are both likeable characters, and their romance is handled nicely, not overwhelming the story but giving the reader something to care about amidst all the mayhem. Campion adds a lot of humour to the story, partly laughing with him and partly laughing at him. He's shrewder than he first appears, but in the end it's down to George to solve the puzzle of what it is the colonel's friends are looking for, and who killed the colonel. And of course to engineer the escape from the baddies. In fact, Campion more or less disappears towards the end and plays no part in the final denouement – presumably at that point Allingham didn't see him as her central character.
I listened to the audiobook version, and I have to say I felt David Thorpe's narration was great! I've seen some critical reviews of it, mainly from Campion fans objecting to the falsetto voice he uses for Campion and for the foolishness Thorpe puts into his character. But this is how he is written in the book and I felt Thorpe was paying attention to the words of this one, rather than basing his characterisation on how Campion develops in later novels. Thorpe brings out all the humour in the story, but also does an excellent job with the darker sections. He held my attention throughout, which doesn't always happen with audiobooks. A 5 star narration, in my opinion.
However, I've never rated Allingham as highly as the other Golden Age Queens of Crime: Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy L Sayers; and truthfully I'm not sure that this book has changed my mind. I found it enjoyable, but too convoluted and not at all credible, and apart from George and Meggie, too many of the characters are caricatures. I didn't feel it was fairplay at all – the eventual solution seemed to come from nowhere, though of course it's possible I missed hidden clues along the way (even good audiobooks have a tendency to induce occasional napping). I'm glad I listened though – I think the narration actually made me enjoy the book more than I might have, had I been reading a paper copy. So overall, a fun listen of a reasonably entertaining book, but probably not the best one to start with to get a feel for the character Campion eventually becomes.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
By Allegra on 07-01-16
I had to stop listening after thirty minutes
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
A different reader
Who was your favorite character and why?
I didn't get far enough into the book to be able to say.
What didn’t you like about David Thorpe’s performance?
David's Thorpe narrative voice is quite unsuitable for this period piece: he sounds far too modern. But the thing that made me stop listening was his ridiculous rendering of Albert Campion's voice: while it is true that Campion is described as foppish in this book, it is a great mistake to rob him of all dignity by making him sound like a squeaky-voiced fool. For a perfect reading of the Campion novels, listen to the audio books narrated by Philip Franks; I was highly misguided to think another reader could come anywhere near him. Or for an excellent portrayal of Campion on screen, watch the Peter Davison version.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Meep on 16-11-13
I LIKE this narrator quite a lot!!!!
What did you love best about The Crime at Black Dudley?
I am not going to answer all these questions, I'm just going to write my review. I am writing this review primarily in defense of the narrator, who I think does a very good job, and as of my writing there are nothing but complaints about him in the written reviews posted. He does Margery Allingham the courtesy of reading her work the way she wrote it, and I appreciate that in a narrator. I did not like the narration of Frances Mathews, who read the only unabridged versions of Allingham on Audible prior to the full series coming out with David Thorpe reading, and I think Thorpe is much better.
Some have complained that in this book, Campion has an annoying, high pitched voice as read by Thorpe. Allingham tells us clearly in this book, on multiple occasions, that Campions voice is annoying, high pitched, and falsetto and Thorpe has the integrity and courage to read the character the way Allingham wrote him. Additionally, I find it annoying in some readers when they aren't familiar enough with the work to give the lines of dialog that occur before the explanations of them the correct emotional tone, an error Thorpe never makes. An example of the kind of thing I mean is a character will say, "I'm coming back now" and the reader will read it in a cheery tone of voice, and then the next line in the book is "he said sadly", and there we are with the jolt of a line read incorrectly by a reader that didn't do his or her homework and prepare properly for reading the the story. Thorpe has done his homework, he doesn't' make mistakes like this, his delivery is completely true to what Allingham meant it to be. There is no higher tribute a reader can pay to an author and it's one as a listener I REALLY appreciate, especially when I am fond of an author as I am of Allingham. Also, Thorpe reads with energy and sounds as though he is enjoying and appreciating the story as he reads it, and finally and perhaps most importantly, he GETS THE JOKES and reads the text in such a way that we can get them too. There is nothing sadder with these lovely examples of English humor than a reader who doesn't get the subtle humor and ruins it for the listener by reading it wrong. Allingham has some very funny lines, and Thorpe gets them all perfectly.
I do concede that he's not very good at country accents, and there is a "yokel" character in this book that has quite a few lines and is really a bit hard to take overall what with the bad accent and the unfortunate tone of voice used as well, but still I feel he does a great job overall for the reasons mentioned above, and does not deserve the hammering he's been taking here in the review section.
However, I've listened to almost the entire series now, and this is my least favorite, so all but the truly obsessed should probably skip this one and move on to the next in the series (Gyrth Challice) as a start. This book is clearly not the best Allingham has written by a long shot, though it's interesting to have because it IS the first in the series, and Campion was not meant to be the hero when she started writing, the series hero was meant to be the Doctor Abbershaw. If you do decide to start with this one, you can see why Campion became the series hero instead, he's far and away the character with the most pep, humor, interest, and energy, and a great deal smarter than the doc as well.
Overall I gave both the book and the performance four stars for the problems mentioned above, the rest of the series gets five stars for performance and story from me. Thorpe does tone down the falsetto voice on Campion as he goes on with the series, since Allingham does not continue to insist on it, and I find this fidelity to the author completely admirable in a reader.
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Crime at Black Dudley?
Which scene was your favorite?
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
Any additional comments?
37 of 37 people found this review helpful
By majkia on 02-04-13
The very beginnings of the Campion adventures
A surprise, as I'd read several later books. Here Campion is really just a bit player, with others doing the detecting and solving of the crimes. Campion comes across as far too silly for my tastes and it's hard to take him seriously given the voice used for him, despite the fact he does a good job doing the few things we know about.
I'll continue listening to the series, though, because I know he matures and grows to become the detective I know of old.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful