When you pick up a Margery Allingham mystery for the first time, you can never be sure exactly what you'll get - a traditional puzzle-plot mystery, a thriller, a psychological drama, or something indescribable. In the case of Look to the Lady, her third Albert Campion book, published in 1931, Allingham gave us a thriller combined with some other, less easily described moments. Look to the Lady is the subject of today's Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
At the heart of this book is a plot to steal a priceless, ancient relic, a chalice, a treasure that has been held on behalf of English royalty by the Gyrth family for a millennium or so. A gang, working on behalf of a nameless unscrupulous collector, will stop at nothing to steal the Gyrth Chalice. There seems to be some terrible family secret concerning the chalice – and the locals do talk of a supernatural guardian that helps to keep it safe. Enter Albert Campion, the rather vague young man who seems to know a great deal about the effort to steal the chalice – and who may be the last, best hope of averting the national disaster which would accompany the theft of the priceless relic.
In the course of this duel to the death between the defenders and the thieves, we will be treated to – in no particular order – murder, kidnappings, art forgery, a cross-country car chase, a dramatic ride to the rescue on a wild and dangerous horse, witchcraft, gypsies, a gang of thugs, some horror that hides in the woods on the family estate, hidden rooms and panels, an elaborate secret family ritual and an ultimate resolution that may or may not have supernatural overtones. And I’m quite sure I’ve missed several elements in that list.
Quite clearly, Look to the Lady is more of a thriller than a traditional puzzle mystery. We learn the identity of the primary villain about two-thirds of the way through the book. The real fun, and it is real fun, comes in seeing the battle between the villain and the chalice's defenders. It's delightfully silly, as any good thriller should be, and we are introduced to several memorable characters. Originally published in the United States as The Gyrth Chalice Mystery, Look to the Lady has been republished by the Felony & Mayhem Press under its original name. I think you'll enjoy it.
As part of my continuing commitment to the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog, I am submitting this to cover the Bingo square calling for one book with a woman in the title. For details about the challenge, and what I'm doing for it, please click here.