Book Report: The Fashion in Shrouds

This book, The Fashion in Shrouds, by Margery Allingham, is a reread but it’s been so long since I’d read it that I’d forgotten who the culprit was. All I remembered of it was that Campion’s sister was in it, and that this is the one where he finally hooks up properly with Amanda Fitton– who, quite frankly, was jailbait in 1933’s Sweet Danger. When I first started reading Allingham, I was a tween, so some things were lost on me. I developed a horrible crush on Campion, completely not seeing the slightly creepy age difference in either the novel or the adaptation of it (with Peter Davison, who is perfect).

There isn’t an adaptation of The Fashion in Shrouds, however, so the reader is left to his or her own devices to picture how Miss Fitton turned out. Campion doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to dating, so it’s nice to see him married off as happily as he can manage. 

One of the nice things about Campion, the intriguing things to me, is that while he’s not noir, he’s not exactly happy, either. Sometimes, reading as an adult, I think he’s kind of a jerk. While he’s shrewd at detecting, he has no idea how to handle his understandably distraught sister, and Amanda seems much more astute at assessing the relationships of other characters and of their own relationship. He’s there for the detecting, but in some ways he is just as clueless as he tries to make himself look. It’s like a double blind! He gives his sister horrible advice just so he can say something, anything, and she just about pats him on the back and cries elsewhere. As a tween/teen, I didn’t see these nuances, and didn’t appreciate the psychology running rampant through Allingham’s works. There is a world of difference between The Crime at Black Dudley  or Mystery Mile, and pretty much everything after Sweet Danger. Of course, the stylistic change was not just Allingham’s– there was a general shift at roughly the same time for most mystery authors. Take a look at Dorothy L. Sayer’s first Lord Peter mysteries, such as Whose Body or even The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club and then compare them to the Harriet Vane books, starting in 1930. Mysteries went from mostly plot to fleshed out mysteries with better motives. Well, the good ones did, anyway.

This is a village called Bisley, in the Cotswolds. As far as I know, it's not in any of the Campion novels, but it looks like the sort of place he'd have to go traipsing through with Lugg, doesn't it?
This is a village called Bisley, in the Cotswolds. As far as I know, it’s not in any of the Campion novels, but it looks like the sort of place he’d have to go traipsing through with Lugg, doesn’t it?

I almost feel as though I’m reading with two filters over the words. The first layer is the usual one, trying to figure out whodunit, but the other layer is my former self. Every time Campion is a bit of an asshat, I cringe, thinking, “What? Do you still like this guy?” and of course I do. The best detectives (and characters in general) have to make bad decisions, have some kind of bias– have real foibles. Upon first reading, he was perfect and I loved him for it. Upon the second reading, he’s imperfect and I love him all the more.

I find myself wondering, too, what sort of reader my daughter is going to be– what sort of girl, and what the inner workings of her mind are going to be like. She’s already analytical and astute, sometimes glaringly unfeeling of others, sometimes so attentive it will make you cry because of the sweetness. It’s a heady mix.

Yesterday, she bounced off the school bus so excitedly I thought she might just fall flat on the pavement. A boy had written her a note– not to her, but about her, and it had dropped out of his desk when he had moved desks. She found it on the floor. “Isobel, I love you. Evan.” Pretty simple. And for the the first time she was actually excited about a boy liking her! She said she was flattered, and that she doesn’t really know him, but that he’s not one of those mean ones. I tried not to pry, but did caution her to be nice-ish to him, since anything she says will probably seem like a big deal to him, even if it’s just a, “Hi.”

I’m pretty sure it starts here, the part where there’s a whirlwind of hormones. She looked taller to me this morning, and so I measured her and she’s grown half an inch in less than three months. Somehow, I think the love note made her grow overnight. It’s the fault of the love note, I’m sure of it. 

I wonder who her Campion is going to be, or if there will even be one. Maybe she will be more sensible and only fall in love with real people? I’ve done that, too, most notably my husband (ha!) but imaginary characters will always have a hold over me. Not so much the Mr. Darcys (though he’s a fine fixation, I prefer Mr. Tilney) of the world, but the detectives. Those stand up guys are great, but what about the flawed ones that flounder a bit and try to save the world anyway? I like those.


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