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by Mike Ripley
Severn House, May 2021
ISBN: 0727890832

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Perhaps the only thing worse than an author ending a much-loved series of novels is having someone else take up the project after their death. All too often the second author is simply not up to the task, and scores of readers are left disappointed and, one might say, dispirited. Happily that is not the case with the resurrection of Albert Campion, as imagined by his twenty-first century expositor, the redoubtable British crime writer Mike Ripley, whose engaging series of Albert Campion novels fully live up to the series originally created nearly a century ago by the legendary Margery Allingham.

In his latest outing the eighth in Campion's resurrection at Ripley's hand we are treated to a typically over-the-top adventure involving suspicions of sorcery dating back to the days of the Salem witch trials, and forward to nefarious deeds and cryptic cover-ups during the 1970s. Along the way we are introduced to an array of oddballs and eccentrics who would feel right at home in a reunion of bit-players from RADA, or perhaps a gathering at London's notorious Bedlam.

The tale unfolds on the East Coast of America in1963: Albert Campion's son, Rupert, now a student at Harvard University, finds himself at a cocktail party, not under the influence of any alcoholic concoction but rather under the equally intoxicating influence of professor of anthropology Kathryn Luger. Over the course of the evening she persuades him to accompany her to a place called Hawkers Island, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where he is charged with listening to local resident Nathaniel Whybrow in order to determine his origins from his way of speaking. It proves to be no small task, given that Whybrow is extremely parsimonious with words. But eventually, after repeated overtures, he does utter enough for Rupert to place the man as having speech patterns in common with the denizens of East Anglia, a specific region of England a surprising revelation, given that Whybrow was born and bred on the island on which they are standing.

That Englishmen should migrate to America is not in itself especially noteworthy, however; after all, many people who felt themselves oppressed or persecuted for their beliefs left England, and were among the first settlers in what was then a wild and sometimes savage land known as America. However, Professor Luger informs Rupert that this particular group had originally landed in Salem, Massachusetts during the 1690s, and shortly thereafter moved further south to the Outer Banks -- which raises the possibility that their journey had perhaps been influenced by the Salem witchcraft trials that were taking place at the time.

So unfolds the eighth episode of the renewed adventures of Albert Campion. Before it has ended this latest flight of fancy will find Campion, his wife Amanda, son Rupert and his own good lady, Perdita, together with Campion's inimitable manservant Magersfontein Lugg, on a mission to recover an aging London actress's missing pet poodle, Robespierre. Along the way Campion considers the mystery of why her experienced yacht captain should run his craft aground in a narrow channel near the very embarkation point of those original settlers who wound up on Hawkers Island so long ago, and then, apparently, drowned trying to walk ashore in the treacherous mud. It's all deliciously madcap fun, and will leave Allingham's many fans, and indeed all who appreciate the writings of England's Golden Age of crime fiction, calling for more. Highly recommended as a much-needed antidote for our depressingly mundane times.

In addition to being a reviewer with over six hundred reviews to his credit, Jim Napier is the author of LEGACY and RIDLEY'S WAR, in the Colin McDermott mystery series.

Reviewed by Jim Napier, July 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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