Mr Campion’s Fault
In 1969, Perdita and her husband Rupert, both Londoners, arrive in the Yorkshire coal mining village of Denby Ash. Perdita, a ‘resting’ actress, jumps at the opportunity offered by her godfather, the local school’s headmaster, to direct Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus. Rupert, the son of famous detective pensioner Albert Campion, is also asked, surprisingly, to coach the rugby team, likely because he’s an old Rugbeian. The vacancies came about after the sudden hit-and-run death of the schoolmaster and coach, Mr Browne. While Browne’s demise is being regarded as accidental, it had curiously occurred right after he experienced earthquake-like tremors in a council home, which the owner believes is the work of a poltergeist. However, when some robberies occur, a conman goes missing, and Rupert is arrested, Campion hurries up north to look into the situation firsthand. Although the Yorkshiremen do not give the gentleman sleuth from the south an easy time, Campion’s unsanctioned investigation yields unexpected results.
This is Mike Ripley’s third murder mystery featuring the renowned late Margery Allingham’s creation, the squire-detective Albert Campion. Ripley had previously completed the last unfinished novel written by Allingham’s husband (Mr. Campion’s Farewell, 2014), which was very well received. England in the 1960s is brought wonderfully alive, not only through portrayals of people’s lives, the local dialect, details on coal mining, and period norms, but also through references to significant events, such as the staging of the musical Hair. Campion’s character is presented in his typical sarcastic, facetious, and humorously entertaining style, just as Allingham might have done. Yet Campion is thorough, and as one police chief put it, “It’s hardly Campion’s fault that he is always underestimated—you might say it’s his greatest asset.” Again with this outing, Ripley is holding high the torch passed on to him. Recommended.