Book Review: Black Plumes By Margeret Allingham


The slashing of a valuable painting at the renowned Ivory Gallery in London, followed by the murder of the proprietor’s son-in-law, Robert, sets the stage for another finely tuned Allingham mystery. The proprietor’s mother, 90-year-old Gabrielle Ivory, holds the key to the web of intrigue and danger that permeates the gallery.

Downloaded from Audible, read by Francis Matthews.

This is the first non Campion book I’ve read/listened to. For once it’s told from the point of view of one of the witnesses, which allows for noone to know what the police know, and we are not included in much of what goes on in the investigation itself.

In 1930s London, there are two adjacent houses, one house is the private residence of the Ivory family; their painting gallery business is housed next door. The story starts with Frances standing in front of her formidable grandmother Gabrielle, with the complaint that her brother-in-law, Roger (who is married to her rather unstable half sister Phillida), wants her to marry his unspeakable business partner. Lucar seems to have some unknown hold over Roger after a trip to Tibet which went horribly wrong, and which Lucar and Roger were the only survivors.

In the absence of her father, who’s out in China on a long business trip, Frances fears she will be forced to marry Lucar. Getting no help from her grandmother – who is as imperious but as dotty as possible,  Frances confides her fears to David Field, who immediately proposes a fake engagement so that Roger and Lucar will stop pestering her. Then Roger disappears, to be found murdered a week later.  At the funeral, the third person on the Tibetan trip – whom everyone thought dead – reappears. Lucar – on his way to the US and therefore a prime candidate for the death of Roger, rapidly returns, attempts to blackmail all in the house – only to turn up dead too minutes later

There are plenty of herrings littered about the place – red or otherwise – which makes you suspect most of the characters at some point or another.  Frances – who realises that she is in fact in love with David (who painted her portrait when she was 14) – has to face the fact that he might be a killer.

So secret passages, international travel (China to England by plane taking “only” about a week!), blackmail, murder, romance, mysteries….what more could you want?




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