Moira Fogarty's Reviews > The Crime at Black Dudley

The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham
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Nov 29, 11

it was ok
bookshelves: mystery
Read from November 14 to 29, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

Alas, I did not enjoy this mystery. The pacing was awkward, the locale aggressively gothic, the romance element flat and stilted, and the setup for the crime absurdly over-the-top, with a level of emotional maturity and depth similar to what you'd find in a Scooby-Doo cartoon.

If you want to read The Crime at Black Dudley, please do so. Brace yourself for a story that feels remarkably like a transcription of the movie "Clue". Members of a random house party wander around a large isolated mansion with the lights out and a dagger being passed around. Murder! Later, a strange hostage situation develops where nobody can escape and people move around in pairs searching the house, looking for the bad guys. Where is Tim Curry? Where's the singing telegram? Sheesh.

Allingham occasionally falls prey to intensely Purple Prose. One short example: "You can call it absurd with your modern platonic-suitability complexes," he said, "but I fell in love with a woman as nine-tenths of men have done since the race began and will continue to do until all resemblance of the original animal is civilized out of us and the race ends--with her face, and with her carriage, and with her body."

I mean, come on. Allingham has a male character identify a woman's fingernails as "hideously over-manicured". What does that even mean? How is it a sinister impediment to matrimony? Worried about my own nails now.

Published in 1929, this was written in the space between the world wars, shortly after Dorothy L. Sayers began publishing. Their work follows similar lines, but their upbringing and education differed widely, and it shows in the resulting tone of their writing.

The real core of my dislike for this book is Albert Campion, who mimics my beloved Lord Peter Wimsey in many ways but inevitably falls short. They are both amateur detectives born into the British aristocracy, both talk piffle, both employ menservants and both bachelors who later marry.

Why is Peter better than Albert? Sayers once commented that Lord Peter was a mixture of Fred Astaire and Bertie Wooster. Albert seems to be more a combination of Adam Sandler and a Great Dane.

Peter has the superior manservant; Lugg is all well and good, but can't really be compared with Bunter. Peter speaks and acts like a real gentleman, bringing patience, genteel condescension and gallant civility to his associations with colleagues, ladies and the lower classes.

Above all, Peter has good manners; he is courteous and affable. Albert is unrefined, pompous, vacuous, lacking in tact and suavity. Even if Albert's foolish manner is supposed to be just a clever "front" for his underlying good breeding, it is too convincing a mask and too rarely removed to be allowed to be a costume of necessity. Albert's rudeness and general ass-hattery is a full-time facade, overwhelming his nobility.
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Reading Progress

11/14/2011 page 74
29.0% "What an odd little mystery. At first, it felt just like playing a game of Clue, with everyone wandering around a large isolated mansion with the lights out and a dagger being passed around (great idea, house guests!) but then it moved into a weird hostage situation. Waiting for Campion to reveal himself and his real reason for attending/crashing this house party. Very dark and gothic setting and characters, v. moody!"
11/24/2011 page 164
64.0% "Pace of the book certainly picked up in the last few chapters, with new developments for our unwilling captives. I was flabbergasted at the rapidity of movement in the romantic subplot, which seemed to come out of nowhere. Also, sad that Albert Campion seems to me but a pale shadow of my beloved Peter Wimsey. He talks piffle, but not as well. He quotes ads, but not as wisely. He lacks a Bunter. He lacks class. Alas."

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Adam Sandler and a Great Dane!! I love you for saying that. I can see why they chose Peter Davison to play Campion in the TV series...from gormless lazy Tristan Farnon to gormless silly Campion was just a step.


message 2: by C. (new) - rated it 2 stars

C. I made no comparisons nor labels, like "purple prose". I allowed the author her descriptiveness and just stood back to decide if I liked what I was reading. I didn't. I'm with you there.


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