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Dancers in Mourning

Page history last edited by Jon 13 years, 5 months ago

Allingham, Margery - Dancers in Mourning (1937) aka Who Killed Chloe?

 

By 1937 Margery Allingham was already feeling the urge to write 'serious' fiction -- that is, romances. Agatha Christie dealt with the same urge by creating an alter ego, Mary Westmacott, and keeping her detective fiction quite separate, but Allingham was unwilling or unable to part with her character, Albert Campion, (and her fans?) and so began to create uneasy hybrids, books with the style and structure of detective stories but with very little genuine detection. Dancers in Mourning is one of these. I am not qualified to comment on its success as a romance, but as a detective story it falls exceedingly flat.

 

The book is hugely overlong at 284 pages, but the plot can be summarised in a few sentences. Famous male dancer is being 'got at' by practical joker. Campion is called in to identify joker. Woman is killed at dancer's country house and joker looks like the perpetrator, but joker is blown up by a bomb at a railway station. Bomb must have been planted by someone in dancer's household, but who? At half the length it might have held the reader's interest, though there are far too few clues and the 'investigation' largely consists of groups of police sitting around with Campion and explaining what their informers have told them. But the padding is profoundly dull. Campion falls in love with the dancer's wife, though this goes nowhere and has no bearing on the investigation other than to explain his lack of activity. We have long-winded passages explaining how wonderful theatrical people are -- I suspect that Allingham was having her first dealings with the theatre about this time, for she comes across as stage-stuck as any ingenue. There are a few good moments with Lugg as a stand-in butler, adopting the dancer's daughter as his maid-of-all-work. There are silly names - 'Sock' Mercer, 'Slippers' Bellew, 'Beaut' Siegfried. Worst of all, the detective is floundering up to the last three pages, and only then manages to leap to the conclusion that the efficient police have already attained.

 

By Chapter 28 even the characters are getting fed up with it all: 'How long?' she said. 'Soon'... 'I hope so.'

 

This reader was a long way ahead of her.

 

Jon.

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