The Beckoning Lady
It was no time for dying. The summer had arrived in glory, trailing fathomless skies and green and gold and particoloured as fresh as sunrise, yet death was about, twice. The Beckoning Lady, Margery Allingham
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In The Beckoning Lady, we find Albert Campion returned to Pontisbright with Amanda, Rupert, and Lugg in tow to attend a midsummer party given by friends. Allingham’s descriptions of the countryside, the town, the houses, and the people are one of the best parts of this mystery.
In Sweet Danger, Allingham introduced us to Pontisbright and Amanda Fitton. And now, 10 books later, we find ourselves once more in this strange and interesting little country town. The cast of characters is just as large as the first time around, and just as varied and unusual.
I found that I couldn’t remember any of these characters from the first book. Perhaps they do not overlap, which would make the most sense as there have been many intervening years and war. But I also had the sense, while reading, that I should have known some of the major characters at the least. I think this is actually the ingenious way that Allingham gives the reader the feeling of being an outsider to the town. Amanda says, several times, that she knows something because she’s from the town. She has the insider knowledge of having been raised in Pontisbright and can understand some things that just don’t make sense to anyone on the outside. I felt I was missing out at first, but then came to enjoy that sensation of being the outsider and feeling as Campion must.
The mystery in The Beckoning Lady is good, but also doesn’t seem to take up the most space. The party and preparations take center stage and are fun to read about, especially when Minnie is delegating tasks to the children. The children steal the scene several times with their antics and helpfulness. But the mystery almost takes a backseat to the party.
Charlie Luke returns in this one, as well. I enjoy this character quite a bit. The way that Allingham describes him as animated and illustrating his stories with his movements and facial expressions brings him to life in such a vivid way. He’s a smart policeman, too, and when he and Campion work together it’s enjoyable to read.
Overall, this wasn’t my favorite of the Campion mysteries. I don’t know if it’s that Campion is more subdued now that he’s older and has a family, or if the stories just aren’t as compelling this late in the series. I suspect it’s just this book, though, and perhaps the rural setting. Campion is still my favorite of the Golden Age detectives. Especially when he’s with Amanda and they have opportunity to play off each other. She is a delightful character, and it was nice to read her back in her natural habitat, interacting with the townspeople, tinkering, and playing with Rupert.
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