Series: Albert Campion #9
Published by Agora Books on January 31, 2019 (first published 1937)
Genres: Vintage Mystery
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When entertainer Jimmy Sutane falls victim to a string of malicious practical jokes, there’s only one man who can get to the bottom of the apparent vendetta against the music hall darling—gentleman sleuth Albert Campion. Soon, however, the backstage pranks escalate, and an aging starlet is killed. Under pressure to uncover the culprit and plagued by his growing feelings for Sutane’s wife, Campion finds himself uncomfortably embroiled in an investigation which tests his ingenuity—and integrity—to the limit.
My problem with Dancers in Mourning is that while the plot itself is well-done, Campion is not his usual self. He’s over-emotionally involved and it’s affecting his decisions and involvement with the case.
To start off, Campion visits the theatre with ‘Uncle’ William Faraday, who has found his mostly fictional memoir turned into a hit musical comedy. The star is dancer Jimmy Sutane, who is unsettled by a series of practical jokes and needs Campion’s help. Campion and Faraday head to Sutane’s house, where they meet a group of theater/musical people. Not long after their arrival, another guest is dead, maybe accident, maybe murder, hard to tell. That’s just the first of the deaths, there are three or four more before the killer is found.
Clearly, one of the people in the house is a murderer, and Campion has his suspicions. The problem is that Campion has fallen in love with Sutane’s wife. I wish he hadn’t. First off, he barely knew the woman. Second, it affects his attitude. He pulls away from the people, the house, the case. He does send Lugg, his manservant who is a former burglar, down to help out when Linda’s butler quits. Lugg and the Sutane’s young, often over-looked daughter have a couple of cute scenes. It’s the detectives who keep pulling him back in – he knows the folks, he can help them solve it. But Campion doesn’t really want to solve it.
I liked the end, the reveal of who the killer was. It made sense and was interesting to see how Campion’s feelings had clouded his judgment, not allowed him to see what could have been obvious.
As a mystery, it’s well-done. As a Campion story, it’s not my favorite.