A friend from college days at Cambridge asks Albert Campion to talk with his fiancé. She’s part of the Faraday family in Cambridge, a family dominated by an elderly woman, and one member of the family has disappeared. Campion agrees, and talks with her. Within days, the body of the disappeared cousin is found in the river in Cambridge, bound and shot in the head.
In Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham, her detective goes to Cambridge to try to help solve the crime. Within days, another member of the family dies, poisoned. And the case takes on a haunting reality all its own, with more family members threatened. Something evil is happening inside the Faraday home.
Allingham was a full member in good standing of the Golden Age of British mystery writers, which roughly spanned the 1920s to the 1940s. In her case, she continued to write until her death in 1966. She wrote some 21 Albert Campion mysteries (many saw him as a kind of response to Lord Peter Wimsey, the detective created by Dorothy Sayers). Allingham also wrote some 10 other works, including non-Campion mysteries, novellas, and an autobiography. She also wrote three mysteries under the pen name of Maxwell March.
Police at the Funeral, first published in 1931, has all the classic Allingham trademarks – a complex mystery using involving murder; a bit of romance (if not involving Campion himself, then two of the other Protagonists), a sense of growing menace as the tension builds, the characters sometimes believing that supernatural forces are at work (Allingham and Campion know better), and a denouement followed by a long discussion among the characters at the end, tying yup any loose ends and laying the mystery out in its basic outline.
In fact, Police at the Funeral contains all the standard Allingham trademarks except one majot one – a clever role for Magersfontein Lugg, the former convict who is now Campion’s servant, chauffeur, cook, butler, investigation assistant and general factotum. Lugg has only a tiny part at the very end of the story.
The story is vintage Allingham, and is currently being published as one of three mysteries in The Margery Allingham Box Set #1 (the other two books in the set are Look to the Lady and Sweet Danger.)
Top photograph by Anna Langova via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.