Valentine Feris is a designer of one of London’s top fashion houses. She finds herself falling in love with the owner of an airplane manufacturing company, until stage actress Georgia Wells manages to mesmerize the man.
Wells has something of a history: her first fiancé disappeared and his remains only found very recently. He had killed himself. She’s married to something of an obnoxious aristocrat, whom she met while she was engaged. And now she’s on to Val’s boyfriend.
This is a Margery Allingham mystery novel, and you might expect Georgia to become a murder victim. Instead, her husband is killed, and superficial evidence points to Valentine and a case of a poisoning meant for Georgia going wrong.
Fortunately for Valentine (nicknamed Val), her brother is Albert Campion, the amateur detective known for his ability to solve difficult cases. In fact, it is Campion who finds the body of the unfortunate suicide.
Allingham’s The Fashion in Shrouds was originally published in 1938, and it is just as entertaining and intriguing today as it was almost 80 years ago.
The author wrote numerous mysteries and other works, and what’s interesting about this one is how much attention is paid to the descriptions of the characters. At times, the narrative becomes a series of almost psychological character studies. We get inside the characters’ heads in ways I haven’t seen in the previous Allingham novels I’ve read.
Campion finds himself solving a nest of crimes connected to the suicide and murder, while desperately trying to keep his sister from being arrested. He moves from the glamour of high society fashion and hotels to the low life of Soho dives. And he eventually finds himself in personal danger.
The Fashion in Shrouds is an excellent, satisfying mystery, showing Allingham at the height of her writing power.
Top photograph: women’s fashions in 1938.