Dancers in Mourning (1937) – Margery Allingham
Dancers in Mourning is a fine mystery with some classic Golden Age touches: a country house setting, a murder among the rich and famous, a small circle of suspects, an upper class sleuth. It is also a great example of the use of misdirection by a mystery author. (To say more about this would give too much away.)
This is the eighth book in Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion mystery series. Here, Campion is initially called in to discover the person attempting to sabotage a London show that stars the legendary singer/dancer Jimmy Sutane (who bears a strong resemblance to Fred Astaire, both in appearance and talent). But when the ‘pranks’ played on Sutane escalate to the murder of another dancer in the cast of the show, Campion joins with the police — his old friends Superintendent Oates and Chief Detective Inpector Yeo — to find the murderer.
Unfortunately, Campion becomes too infatuated with Linda Sutane, Jimmy’s wife, to think as clearly as he usually does. Though he eventually comes to the correct conclusion, this is one book in which the police actually arrive at the solution to the case ahead of the detective.
I enjoyed many aspects of Dancers in Mourning, but I was never quite convinced by Campion’s love for Linda. The irony of the final conversation between Campion and Jimmy Sutane was, on the other hand, perfect. I also missed Campion’s ‘assistant’, Magersfontein Lugg, who appears much too briefly in this book. When Lugg does come on the scene, the book brightens considerably: his interactions with the Sutanes’ neglected daughter Sarah are hilarious and heart-warming, and show Allingham at her best.