The Beckoning Lady

March 28, 2018 at 3:56 pm Leave a comment

by Steve Savage

Published in 1955, The Beckoning Lady, by Margery Allingham, drags Albert Campion, her gentleman sleuth, into the countryside once more. A grand rural party is being arranged. Campion’s old school friends, or at least old schoolfellows, crop up here and there – Tonker Cassands and also Gilbert Whippet of the ‘MOLE’, who communicates with Campion using bunches of flowers – each flower has a traditional meaning. Whippet featured in The Case of the Late Pig. And of course there is Lugg with his rhyming slang, and there is Amanda.

Recently I came across a story of Allingham’s (‘Safer than Love’) set in a boys’ school, that featured a different detective, Fred South, a very characterful police superintendent nicknamed Uncle. I wondered if he was going to reappear in other books, and in point of fact he turns up in The Beckoning Lady. In ‘Safer than Love’, Fred South has been in the town of Tinworth, apparently for over thirty years. In The Beckoning Lady, Superintendent Fred South ‘of the rural CID’ turns up in Pontisbright, described as a ‘new superintendent’. Perhaps unfortunately, South has to play second fiddle to Campion in The Beckoning Lady, and his character is flattened and lessened.

There are three murders to be solved, and various topical themes. Should the county council arrange euthanasia for the useless elderly? Can divorce be tax efficient? And there is a massive scheme to build a new racecourse at Pontisbright, with a dodgy figure looming in the background, a foreigner whose main interest would appear to be money laundering.

In other ways, of course, life has moved on since Margery Allingham wrote her books. Here and there we are struck by a phrase or a sentiment that would nowadays be unacceptable. But the continuing pleasure she gives the reader is the pleasure that derives from appreciating the construction of an intricate world that mingles the real with the fantastic.

Steve Savage

Book: THE BECKONING LADY

Author: Margery Allingham

Publisher: The World’s Work

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Entry filed under: Reviews. Tags: .

Margery Allingham Jane Harper

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