Albert Campion, the enduring and endearing amateur sleuth created by Margery Allingham, continues to show up in new adventures, even half a century after his creator's death. Mr. Campion's newest outing, to be published next week by Severn House, is called Mr. Campion's Fault, and it is written by veteran mystery writer Mike Ripley with the blessing of the Allingham estate. The publisher supplied me with an e-book version for this review.
In Mr. Campion's Fault, which is set in 1969 (when Campion surely would be in his upper sixties), Campion travels to Yorkshire, to a small, tightly-knit coal mining community, to investigate some peculiar and ominous events taking place in and around a boys' school. One of the school's masters has been killed by a hit-and-run driver in what may or may not have been an accident. There is a missing - and much-hated - embezzler who has robbed and cheated many people in the town. Meanwhile, a local woman is dealing with what seems to be a poltergeist wreaking havoc in her house at more-or-less regular intervals. And there is a local woman, widely thought to be a witch, who may know a good deal more than she is saying about what is really happening in the town.
In all the mystery, a number of the series characters who frequently appeared in the original novels by Margery Allingham have a role to play - Campion's wife, Amanda, and son, Rupert (now married to a young woman named Perdida), his "gentleman's gentleman" (NEVER butler) Magersfontein Lugg, and his old friend Charlie Luke, now Commander of the Metropolitan Police. Campion fans will recognize those names with some pleasure.
As a character, Albert Campion has had quite a career. He began with an appearance in Allingham's The Crime at Black Dudley, published in 1929, in which he really plays only a supporting role, though an important one. Apparently his character caught on very quickly with readers, as he assumed the leading role in 1930's Mystery Mile and has starred in most of Allingham's works thereafter. When Allingham died, her husband, Philip Youngman Carter, completed one of her novels and then wrote two more Campion books before his own death. In 2014, a remaining fragment of an unfinished Campion book by Carter was completed by Mike Ripley, who has now written two additional Campion books, with Mr. Campion's Fault, out next week, being the newest one.
It is no secret that a lot of popular series characters whose creators are no longer among us are now finding themselves in "continuations" - new books written by new authors with the blessings of the original author's literary heirs. I am on record as being considerably less than thrilled by some of them, because it is always very difficult for a new author to breathe convincing new life into a character while retaining all the recognizable quirks and personalities that make those characters so popular. In the case of Mike Ripley's new Campion stories, I think this is not as much of a problem, mostly because of Campion's continuing development and maturing personality over the years, with first Margery Allingham, then Philip Youngman Carter and now Mike Ripley allowing for further growth by the same character. I think Allingham fans are likely to enjoy Mr. Campion's Fault.