Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Dancers in Mourning: Review
Dancers in Mourning is Margery Allingham at her best. This is classic Albert Campion at his most charming and his most fallible. Campion is called in by theatre giant and dazzling dancer, Jimmy Sutane to get to the bottom of a spate of cruel practical jokes which begin backstage at the Argosy Theatre and follow Sutane to his country estate. At first the pranks are merely annoying....garlic scented flowers, smashed glass on his photograph outside the theatre, and people wandering through his garden at night. But the pranks take on a more sinister look when members of the cast of his current musical are killed one by one. Campion is happy to try to sort things out--not only for Sutane, but for "Uncle" William Faraday, author of the book upon which the musical is based. That is, until he meets, and subsequently falls in love with, Sutane's wife. He finds himself caught in any number of ethical dilemmas and committing all sorts of sleuthing "sins"from suppressing evidence and misleading the doctor called in on the first "accident" to delaying the finale as long as possible. He becomes more miserable the more evidence is gathered--all because he thinks the evidence can point in only one direction.
I think I found this mystery so delightful because of the dilemma in which Campion places himself. He is trying very hard to be the "good sportsman" and live up to British honor and all that...and all the while he really would like to have his host's wife. He doesn't feel like he can tackle the problem correctly since he is emotionally involved and takes himself off to London and out of the fray. That very wife comes to ask him to return and help them out of the mess. He can't refuse and risking personal heartache...as well as heartache for others...he returns to see the thing through. It was also endearing to see him misinterpret the evidence. I quite understand why he chose the culprit he did, but his involvement blinded him to the possibility that the facts could fit anyone else. I saw the other possibility well before Albert Campion-- a rare thing--and an added delight.
I make it sound--oh, I don't know--kind of soppy with "delightful" and "endearing." It isn't that at all. The mystery is quite well done and there are plenty of suspects to sort through. Allingham has done a very good job showing the temperaments and petty quarrels of stage life. Overall, a very solid and interesting novel. Four stars.