Written by Margery Allingham, completed by Mike Ripley — When Margery Allingham died in 1966, she had published 18 novels featuring her Golden Age private detective Albert Campion. She left behind several unfinished manuscripts, and her husband Philip ‘Pip’ Youngman Carter – who collaborated with her in her writing – went on to complete Mr Campion’s Farthing and Mr Campion’s Falcon in the late 1960s. At the time of his death in November 1969, he was working on a third untitled manuscript, which was then bequeathed to Margery’s sister, Joyce. It contained revisions and minor corrections, but no plot outline, character synopsis or plan. When Joyce died in 2001, the manuscript passed to the Margery Allingham Society, and in 2012 author Mike Ripley approached them requesting permission to complete the story. The result is Mr Campion’s Farewell.
On the surface, Lindsay Carfax may look like your traditional Suffolk chocolate box village, but scrape away that veneer and something dark and very strange is going on underneath. It’s a village steeped in history with strong links to the wool trade of old. At its heart is Carders Hall, a building dating back to the medieval period when a mysterious group of nine men, known as Carders, controlled what went on in the village. It appears they still do.
According to the local constabulary, Lindsay Carfax is a crime-free zone… or is it just that the anonymous Carders are a law unto themselves and are exercising their own brand of justice? The local school teacher, Lemuel Walker, has just turned up after what the villagers call a Nine Days’ Wonder. This event isn’t a frequent occurrence but usually targets those members of the community who aren’t towing the line. So what could he possibly have done to cause such offence, and why isn’t he talking?
In the East End of London, Mr Albert Campion is quietly enjoying a pint in a favourite hostelry with his old friend Superintendent Charles Luke of the Met’s Criminal Investigation Department. Luke doesn’t much care for mysteries and is quite keen to get to the bottom of this phenomenon known as the Nine Day’s Wonder. It’s already cost at least three lives that were chalked up as tragic accidents.
The swinging 60s are coming to an end and Albert may not be the young man he was, but intrigued by his friend’s story he decides to head up to Suffolk to do a little unofficial snooping. On hand to assist him when he arrives is his wife’s niece, who just happens to have moved into the village a year earlier and is making a living painting quaint Constable-esque scenes for the steady flow of tourists who visit.
Albert’s arrival in this small village doesn’t go unnoticed, nor does his sleuthing as someone decides to put an end to it at a shoot held by a local landowner. What they’re shooting at isn’t specified, but poor old Albert finds himself in a hospital bed with his somewhat unimpressed wife by his bedside. Lugg, his former manservant, is itching to go and hunt down whoever put him there. Albert is not one to give up and continues his investigation in the academic surroundings of Cambridge University, whilst he dispatches his son Rupert to Monte Carlo with wife, Perdita, to spy on a retired Carder, Lady Prunella Redcar. Gradually the pieces of the puzzle come together and it’s back to Lindsay Carfax for the final reveal, in dramatic style.
This is a lovingly crafted book, and Ripley has confidently taken Margery Allingham’s character and made him his own. What stands out the most is that Albert’s personality is retained without feeling like a homage. Ripley has taken all the material he had available to him and used his own skill as a writer to produce a book that will draw new readers to their earlier novels in this series, and keep them wanting more new adventures. Keep up the good work Mr Ripley!
CFL Rating: 5 Stars