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Flowers for the Judge - Margery Allingham.
I was brought up with books of all descriptions, not least Margery Allingham and the Campion series.
A brief synopsis of the book. A scandal hits a publishing house called Barnabas. One of the directors of this sober publishing house is found dead in the strong room! We discover his wife was having an affair and naturally suspicion falls on her lover, who also happens to be the junior partner in the firm. As Mike Wedgewood goes to trail for murder, Campion needs to unravel a number of different mysteries to uncover the truth. They range from an unpublished comedy, to the disappearance of another director of the firm some 20 years earlier.
About Allingham and her writing. Allingham was born in 1904, and her father was an established author in his own right (H. J. Allingham). Allingham is best known for the Campion series of books, of which she wrote a total of 21, and although comparisons have been made to Dorothy L. Sayers and her character Lord Peter Wilmsey, Campion did create his own niche in the market and Allingham is now regarded as one of the Queens of the age, alongside Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and of course, Agatha Christie.
Of these writers, I believe that Allingham is the least mystery minded. Her questioning always revolves around why something happens. What drives the human psyche, and as such I do tend to find her characters more rounded and most certainly less snobby than some of her counterparts. Her desire to look at characters was very advanced for that period and that genre of writing, and even though you are in a bygone age as you read, even today you sense it holds up as well as a modern writer does.
You find yourself looking at different areas of a person and their personality. Flowers for the Judge is no different in this, as you find yourself looking at people who from the outside initially seem weird, but then find themselves in a situation that suits them perfectly and it now shows how they find their own level of normality. A character in this book called Richie is a prime example of how Allingham achieves this. A rather odd and awkward character nevertheless, Campion befriends him and at the end, you find Richie in his element involved with the Circus.
Allingham also had a wonderful ear for the quirks of language, and this also comes across in her writing. Again, Flowers for the Judge really brings this ability to the fore, with wonderful reflection of reality and human oddities. Allignham also presents a wonderful sense of place and her ability to convey the areas around which the book is based are also fascinating to read.
And, as with most writers of the era, the plots themselves are often camp! But this is mainly because Allingham does so well at pushing aside the real discovery of what happened, and pulling in the more psychological aspects of what happens around the characters and whether the good guys are able to catch the bad guys!
This book was first published in 1936, and you’re left in no doubt this is the era that it was written in. Allingham tends to stay firmly within the years that she wrote them, and particularly after the war, respond precisely to the changing landscape and environment of Britain. Therefore you get a wonderful sense of period in her books, and this is no exception.
Where Allingham succeeds is that she has a fantastic ability as a novelist to create wonderfully rich characters, which despite the period gap are so rich and so real they stay with you and don’t seem out of place to read about.
It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but even if you don’t think this is for you and you’re a fan of thriller/crime writers I would still recommend you have a look at picking the book up and reading. I do think often people are surprised on how much they enjoy Margery Allingham’s stories.
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