Book Review: Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham

Death of a GhostThe first killing took place at a crowded art show, in full view of the cream of London society. For the second killing, only the victim and the murderer were present. Now the scene was set for the third–a lavish dinner party with vintage wines, and with Albert Campion’s death as the main course.

Audiobook narrated by Frances Matthews who I’m beginning to enjoy, in the way I prefer James Saxon reading Ngaio Marsh books.

Through knowing Belle, the widow, Campion is invited to the latest unveiling of one of John Lafacdio’s works – which are released at the rate of one a year after his death. The great and the good are at the unveiling, as well as some of the not so great, and during the party the lights go out (someone had failed to feed the meter put in place during the war). When the lights come back on,  Tommy Dacre, Lafcardio’s grand-daughter’s fiance, is found stabbed to death with a pair of ornate scissors. Campion soon finds himself investigating not only Dacre’s murder, the systematic loss of Dacre’s work, another death and, ultimately, finds himself almost losing his own life after making a fool of himself in drink.

Belle’s house is a rather Bohemian 1930s set up – the housekeeper is one of Lafcardio’s Italian models (now well in her 60s), another inhabitant is another ageing ex-model now fascinated with auras and the such like. A married couple of artists, of varying talents, live in a studio in the garden, whilst Lafardio’s paint mixer lives elsewhere on the estate. The granddaughter is an early candidate as the one time fiancée, and who had been ditched for another Italian model called RosaRosa.

This book isnt really a “whodunnit” as Campion, the police and the reader know who the killer is fairly early on.  All attempts to unmask the killer in such a way as to bring along a conviction fail at every turn. The denouement at the end means that Campion is going to be the final victim and it’s luck and the police who prevent this from happening, rather that any major interaction from Campion.

Once the second murder has happened and the investigation dropped off, many of the secondary characters disappear, with focus being made purely on trying to prove that the murderer did it, and why. The story is spread over several months, with large gaps in between and everything appears to be a watching and waiting game. Campion has been asked to act as Belle’s proxy with regards to the paintings and in this way he manages to put himself in danger, going out to dinner on the fateful night with the murderer and being manipulated into life threatening situations.  The description of Campion being drunk and going around town, making a fool of himself, is a rather decent set of telling.

Not perhaps my favourite Campion, but still has some interesting set pieces in it to change things around a bit

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