Genre: Historical Mystery
Publisher: Severn House
Pub. Date: December 1, 2018
“Pop has never talked about what he did in the war.” But at his 70th birthday party, the Englishman Albert Campion (Pop) entertains his guests with his account of his wartime experiences in Vichy France during WWII. The story is also very much a mystery since, besides family members, the guest list includes a scar-faced German (spoiler: who during the war attempted to kill his host at least twice), and other unknown guests. The English author, Mike Ripley, is known for writing comedy thrillers and can indeed write in a playful manner. But let me start off by admitting that I was grateful to be reading this tale on a Kindle where I only needed to tap on a word to learn its meaning. For example, in one paragraph you will read about the German military intelligence units such as Abwehr, Sicherheitsdients/SD, and Himmler’s SS. On the English side, there are the military agencies M15 & M16. Okay, I am obviously familiar with the last two. We all have heard of the notoriously evil SS, and who hasn’t seen a Bond movie to not know what “M” stands for.
Let me also say, that in researching this novel, I learned that the author Margery Allingham (1904-1966) wrote a mystery series (24 novels) revolving around Mr. Albert Campion. Nor is this the first time Ripley has picked up where Allingham left off. So for me, the protagonist is read with fresh eyes. However, it might explain why there is so much alphabet soup (military acronyms) without any previous explanations on their existence in the story. In alternating chapters, the story goes back and forth in time. In the present day (at the party) it is told in the third person. During the war, the tale is told in the first person with Albert Campion’s voice— a clever way to write the story as both a mystery and a historical fiction. All chapters have a propensity for humor. As a spy in the war, our protagonist is assaulted by two men in an alley. He is just about to lose consciousness when he is rescued by a policeman. But do policemen usually have silencers on their weapons? He thanks his savior and says, he was just about to teach them a lesson, “Once I got my breath back.” In the present, the whole party is like a game of “Clue.” I found the humor to be especially funny in those chapters. Campion’s wife is every bit as witty as her husband. “It’s amazing we wartime mothers survived at all, what with absentee husbands, the air raids and rationing, not to mention the ingratitude of one’s offspring.” This fun novel is stuffed with historical facts. The story could drag for those of us who were never much of a “Clue fan.” And, if I didn’t really find all the characters believable, that did not interfere with the tale. “Campion” is written as a tongue and cheek read.
I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
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