Albert Campion receives a somewhat cryptic note, rather poetic, in fact, but anonymous, connected to a funeral in the country. The deceased is an old school friend, affectionately (or non-affectionately) known as Pig. He arrives just in time for the graveside service, notes the few mourners, and then returns to London.
Months later, Campion is called to help in a murder investigation. The victim had been sleeping in a chaise lounge outside of a country club, when apparently someone had had the bad taste of pushing an urn from the roof directly on top of him. When Campion sees the body, he discovers it’s his old school friend Pig, the same man buried months before.
Mistaken identity? Or something else. Because this is an Albert Campion mystery by Margery Allingham (1904-1966), we know it’s going to be something else.
Originally published in 1937, Allingham’s The Case of the Late Pig actually requires Campion to solve two mysteries which may or may not be related. First, who pushed the urn on top of poor old Pig? And second, who was buried in Pig’s name months before? What looks like a clear-cut answer to the first mystery turns out to be complicated by the second, and Campion will soon discover his own mistake in the investigation.
And while the story includes the familiar character of Campion’s manservant, chauffeur, occasional bodyguard, and general factotum, Magersfontein Lugg, what is different than many of the other Campion mysteries is the Campion himself tells the story in a first-person narrative (the other mysteries noted below are third-person narratives). It’s an interesting twist for Allingham; and we learn things about Campion and how he thinks directly from the character himself.
A second murder occurs, and the killer may not stop there; Campion may soon found himself in personal jeopardy.
Campion starred in 18 of Allingham’s mystery novels and 20 of her short stories. He was one of famous and popular fictional detectives who emerged in the Golden Age of Mystery (1920s-1940s).
The Case of the Late Pig is a classic Allingham story. It includes an intriguing premise, difficult puzzles, a strong sense of scenery and setting, and a dash or romance or its possibility. It’s a well-written, well-plotted mystery.
Top Photograph: Peter Davison as Albert Campion in the 1989-1990 British television series Campion.