MARGERY ALLINGHAM – Dancers in Mourning.

MARGERY ALLINGHAM Dancers in Mourning

Manor, paperback reprint, 1976. First edition: William Heinemann, UK, 1937. US first: Doubleday Crime Club, 1937. Also published as: Who Killed Chloe? Avon Murder Mystery Monthly #17, 1943. Many other paperback reprints including: Jonathan Press Mystery J32; Macfadden, 1967; Bantam, 1990; Carroll & Graf, 1996; Felony & Mayhem, trade ppbk, 2008.

   One wonders how many other novels first published in 1937 are still in print. Iím not wondering hard enough to actually sit down at the computer and do some investigating, mind you, but in any case, and this is the point, Dancers in Mourning is one of them. (I also have a feeling that of the set of novels first published in 1937 but still in print, a sizable percentage of them would be mysteries.)

   Iíve read two of Allinghamís mysteries that I remember: one with Mr. Albert Campion and one without, and the one with Mr. Campion I remember more than the other. But I donít remember Mr. Campion himself very well, and I think that Allingham rather wanted it that way.

MARGERY ALLINGHAM Dancers in Mourning

   I remember large spectacles and a sometimes vacuous look on his face from that book (title not remembered off-hand) and now this one. Other than that many of the other characters in this book consider him ďyoung,Ē Iíd be hard-pressed to describe him further.

   There is a convergence of two worlds in Dancers in Mourning. First, the world of the theatre, or musical comedy, to be specific, the world of superstar dancer Jimmy Sutane and his sell-out production of The Buffer, based on the fictional memoirs of Campionís friend, Mr. William Faraday (who also appeared in Police at the Funeral).

   And secondly, and more importantly, the setting changes to that of Sutaneís country home, where people in show business and with show business connections drop in and out, but the core of people around Sutane are all either good friends or family.

   But, and here is where Campion is drawn in, who is playing all of the small but nasty practical jokes on Sutane? And, as it happens, who killed Chloe, the aging songstress who invited her way down for the weekend? Or was it suicide, or a natural death before falling from a small bridge in front of Sutaneís automobile?

MARGERY ALLINGHAM Dancers in Mourning

   Campionís progress on the case is hampered by the discovery that is falling in love with Sutaneís wife, or that he could very easily, given any sign of reciprocation, even to extent of making several serious mistakes along the way.

   Some of the characters flit and out without being recognized as more than shadows of people, others I suspect I will remember for a long time. In terms of general atmosphere, I was reminded of John Dickson Carr more often than not, although the romance elements in Carrís work were never as crucial (or real) as they are in this one.

   On the other hand, there is no locked room mystery involved in Dancers in Mourning. Only a murderer with no compunction about killing, including a home-made bomb at a railway station. Once again it is Campionís preoccupation with other matters that make the ending work as well as it does.

   Of course the solution is obvious, and it should have been all along. And so help me, it wasnít Ė all the way up the final two or three pages