Written by Margery Allingham writing as Maxwell March — The Golden Age author Margery Allingham is often lauded as a worthy contemporary of the beloved Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers. Allingham’s work deals with the same puzzle-like structure that British crime fiction from the 1920s and 30s is known for. But more so than her contemporaries, Allingham added a personal and psychological component to her books that makes them as much character studies as they are whodunits.
Rogues’ Holiday is a new re-issue from publisher Ipso Books and is one of the three novels Allingham wrote under the pseudonym, Maxwell March. The book is a minor addition to the Allingham canon, a holiday murder mystery with a love plot thrown in to propel it forward.
The book opens at Senior Bluffs Club where a gentleman has turned up dead in what is deemed a suicide. The body is found in a locked room with the window stuffed with paper. The young inspector David Blest is brought onto the case. Blest’s feeling is that the death is not a suicide and instead a murder but his superior instructs him to not make trouble where there isn’t any, and sends the inspector off on his planned holiday.
On his trip, Blest meets Judy Wellington, a woman he instantly becomes enamored with. As a reader, you find out that Judy Wellington is set to inherit a large fortune, though she doesn’t know this and neither does Blest. Her uncle Jim and a conman named Johnny Deane are aware of her coming fortune and are looking to marry her off to someone in on the scheme so they can gain access to the money.
Allingham’s style is nuanced and inventive at times, especially so for a book that was written in 1935. Her prose occasionally shines. Noir descriptions peak out here and there, especially during the outstanding carnival at night scene. However, some of the action tends to be jumbled and can be harder to follow.
Things do pick up when Blest learns that conman Deane has been killed. Blest links up with Scotland Yard and goes back to work while on holiday. The murder case gives us something to focus on and because of this the action gets easier to follow.
Rogues’ Holiday bounces back and forth between the criminals and the innocent. You slowly watch as these two elements head towards a collision. The cat and mouse game can be fun at times but the pace is slowed by filler scenes and plotting conversations that go on too long.
Allingham is known for having romantic subplots in her books and Rogues’ Holiday is no exception. The romance does add tension to the story, but the characters aren’t well developed and you aren’t too invested.
The book ends well, steaming along towards a cataclysm. Everything comes together, with some surprises thrown in, and the last 50 pages fly by. Overall, Rogues’ Holiday is not wholly like the work the writer produced under her own name. Diehard fans of Margery Allingham, Golden Age of mystery lovers, and Agatha Christie fans will be able to forgive the flaws and sink their teeth in here. Recommended for the diehards and those with patience to explore a writer’s rougher works.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars