Review: Death of a Ghost

Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This golden-age classic is the literary equivalent of Babe Ruth calling his shot in the 1932 World Series. She points out her target, squares up to the plate, and hits a soaring home run.

With only a handful of mysteries under my own belt, I still worry about revealing too much too soon and spoiling the dramatic tension. Allingham the master tells you when the murder will happen, who the next victim will be, and has her well-beloved detective Albert Campion deduce the killer shockingly early — well before the halfway mark. And you still can’t look away.

Like Babe Ruth’s homer, the dramatic tension leaps from “what’s going to happen?” to “can she really pull this off?”

Reader, she does.

Death of a Ghost is based among the household and friends of the renowned and long-dead painter, John Lafcadio. Allingham establishes his personal legend so deftly, his fame, style and public reputation filter into your consciousness as things “everyone knows.” By the end of the book, it’s hard to remember Lafcadio is fictional.

The vibrancy of Lafcadio’s presence comes from the richness with which Allingham builds the characters in his milieu. Like a true artist, she shapes the central figure by detailing everything around him: she draws him in the negative space.

But the story is so much more than a character study and a display of authorial virtuosity. It’s a ripping good murder tale, where every supposed “spoiler” in fact sets a ticking clock of danger. The evolution of Campion’s task from whodunnit to howdunnit to whydunnit to save-the-innocent, make a consummate page-turner.

A must-read for any classic mystery lover.┬áDame Agatha Christie called Allignham “the best of mystery writers.” This is one of her best novels. And if two of your favorite authors like it, you know it’s good. (See what I did there? *snerk*)

2 thoughts on “Review: Death of a Ghost”

  1. I was pretty convinced that my bare feet cut pretty dirty from running around the place in that book. My goodness, what a great book. Loved the connection that was for forged through several books and ultimately to him marrying the girl mechanics– I can’t remember her name right now.

    – from one of your fans waiting anxiously for the next Mr. Mottley

  2. Amanda! She first appeared in the one about the scavenger hunt for the crown, with the family of redheads living in the old mill. Title’s on the tip of my fingers.

    I did not like the way she was played in the TV adaptation. Overly coy and precious. Amanda’s charm, as I saw it, was in her un-selfconsciousness.

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