First published 1949; cover shown is the 2007 Vintage Books (UK) paperback edition. Cover art by Keith Marten. 234p.
This was my first meeting with Margery Allingham's series detective, Albert Campion. Campion is an unlikely protagonist when compared to his Golden Age contemporaries. Not as suave as Alleyn, not as eccentric as Poirot, not as predictable as Miss Silver. He seemed to make at least one foolish remark in each chapter (Allingham's inference, not mine) and I was a bit taken aback at his somewhat meek attitude.
The story itself was almost flawless, with a cast of interesting characters and a number of unusual crimes. Campion, while deliberating on whether to accept an overseas post as governor (which would mean letting go of Lugg, his faithful manservant), agrees to take a room in an old friend's large London residence. The surviving members of the Palinode family have rooms in the house, and Campion is sent in to investigate the recent poisoning death of one of the elderly sisters.
Campion meets with the various eccentric Palinodes (my favourite being Miss Jessica, who has a meagre allowance and survives by boiling weeds she finds in the local park), and in turn the local shopkeepers and the local Divisional Detective Inspector, Charlie. Charlie proves to be of invaluable help as together they delve deeper into the mysteries surrounding the Palinodes and Apron Street - the biggest of which appears to be a very fishy undertaker whose coffins keep disappearing. But it will be Campion, of course, who uncovers the biggest secret of them all.