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Monstrous Regiment of Murder Monday

This Monday will be less a roundup than a rant. I have a cold that just keeps getting worse, and I don't know what the hell is going on with The Fashion in Shrouds. The sexist asides haven't just been dialed up, they've invaded, like a plague of locusts. Here's a typical decorative detail, from a conversation between Val and Campion:

"Val leant back in the winged chair, unaware that she was irritating her brother, who, for some reason, did not like to see a woman sitting in it."

The whole book is full of moments like this. Is it supposed to be a satire? I can never tell with Allingham.

A minute later, he makes a point of coldly telling her that her manner of putting him onto some potential trouble was "hysterical" because she showed up in person instead of calling him on the phone. Campion, I was just beginning to like you a little! Don't be like this! Who has this level of hyper-awareness of gender about their own siblings, anyway? Is that common in some families? It reads very odd to me.

Also, this book contains THE WORST PROPOSAL. Maybe not the worst? I don't know, it's pretty bad. It beats out Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice because it's actively reactionary, where Mr. Collins is only socially inept. This is Alan Dell, Hotshot Engineer, making Val an offer she probably should refuse:

"Will you marry me and give up to me your independence, the enthusiasm which you give your career, your time and your thought?. . . in return, mind you (I consider it an obligation) I should assume full responsibility for you. I would pay your bills to any amount which my income might afford. I would make all decisions which were not directly in your province, although on the other hand I would like to feel that I might discuss everything with you if I wanted to; but only because I wanted to, mind you; not as your right. And until I died you would be the only woman. You would be my care, my mate as in plumber, my possession if you like. If you wanted your own way in everything you'd have to cheat it out of me, not demand it. Our immediate trouble is serious, but not so serious as this. It means the other half of my life to me, but the whole of yours to you. Will you do it?"

This rando has spent the entire book moping around the resident femme fatale like a sad little dishrag dog-puppet, and has had barely had a line in the whole show. Meanwhile, Val has been fretting about him and her own "femininity" for the same time frame, with not much sympathy from her brother (who is too busy worrying about WOMEN sitting in his MAN CHAIR? and whose "masculine mind" is referred to about 100 times, despite having given no very strong impression of "masculinity" in any of the previous books beyond things like "presumably wearing trousers" and "having a valet, sort of.") Satire?

Oh, and earlier in the book, Albert Campion tells Val (his sister!) that what she needs is "a good rape" to settle her hysterical little over-analytical head. She responds with scorn, to be fair, but then the plot moves in and the issue is never raised again.

Albert, no. Has everyone in this book been taking terrible relationship advice from Inspector Alleyn's mom? I think I'm just going to assume that's what happened. In a few days, everyone will realize that Lady Alleyn is a bad influence, shake off those Hollywood grab-and-kiss pretensions, and get on with their lives. If the next book is better, I'll know that they are no longer under her spell.

Oh, and Campion and Amanda get fake engaged as part of the case, then everyone thinks they're Real Engaged and is like, "ok, whatever, you kids do what you feel I guess," so Amanda has to break off the engagement officially as if it were real? Then Campion throws Amanda in the river for some reason?? and later they're like, "I guess technically we COULD get married FOR REAL if you wanted to!" Whatever, Allingham.

I don't know, maybe Margery Allingham is making fun of my fondness for Gratuitous Detective Romance and it's all actually a brilliantly acid satire of. . . something. I can't tell. I have a cold. :(

Luckily, there is Final Curtain -- but I'm too far behind to talk about Final Curtain right now, so I'll save it for next Monday, along with The Mystery of the Yellow Room and (maybe) Traitor's Purse.

ETA: I apologize for the grumpiness of this post. I will feel better once I can take some Ny-Quil, but I can't take Ny-Quil until I finish my Yuletide signups. Next week will be a better week, I promise.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 26th, 2015 08:41 pm (UTC)

{blink} {blink}

Well I hope it's satire... I thought it was hysterical, it would be tragic if I was giggling at something I shouldn't be...

Mind you, my tase for elderly and frequently bad books means that I have to keep my internal "the past is a foreign country and you were the one who went there!!!" filter in really good shape.
Oct. 26th, 2015 09:00 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, if it is satire, I don't think Allingham is quite able to pull it off. It's a little too messy, and the narrative cues are all over the place.

I think I've read enough Thirties-style detective books by now to be able to say that The Fashion in Shrouds is pretty bad by Thirties standards. Though the "good rape to clear your head" thing was definitely present in pop culture at the time, along with the related "you need a Strong Man to make your decisions for you!" thing, which the narration seems to approve of when Val accepts the Worst Proposal.

The only thing that keeps pulling me back to "attempted satire" is just how weak a sauce Alan Dell is, throughout the book -- prior to the proposal, he has a handful of lines, is effortlessly manipulated by the Other Woman in the story, and presents as absolutely spineless. But I find Allingham a little hard to read even at the best of times, and this book is not the best of times.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 27th, 2015 04:42 pm (UTC)
Alas, no. It's right at the end of the book and the murdering has all been packed away. Nothing left to do but propose badly and be accepted for no good reason.
Oct. 26th, 2015 09:36 pm (UTC)
Traitor's Purse involves Campion having amnesia for at least a while. That is, he starts the book with amnesia, and Amanda and Lugg try to get him to do the things he needs to do for the super secret mission they're all involved with. It was published in 1940, so it's got war related stuff going on and, I think, spies (maybe counterfeiters?) as the main plot.

I'm not sure if it's better or worse than the other books. I think I remember being frustrated that nobody actually sat him down and explained what was going on, but it's been about twenty five years, so my memory is not reliable. Maybe it was that he hadn't told them anything concrete before getting bonked on the head. That would be in character, right?
Oct. 26th, 2015 10:40 pm (UTC)
That sounds really fun, actually! I am going to try not to get my hopes up too high. Anyway, if it has Amanda and Lugg working together, I'm bound to like it better than this one.
Oct. 27th, 2015 01:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, dear...

I do remember being frustrated by The Fashion in Shrouds (except that I always confuse it with Dancers in Mourning and have trouble believing it's the one where the Campion/Amanda is very unsatisfactory, what is this?). I don't remember why, except that Campion and Amanda were unsatisfactory.

I am a little sad, though, that this post stopped short of Final Curtain! *waits for next week*
Oct. 27th, 2015 04:40 pm (UTC)
Aww, I'm sorry! :( I should have prioritized Final Curtain because it's a million times better, but Shrouds got lodged in my brain with all its man-chair weirdness and I didn't! Maybe I will post about Final Curtain earlier than next week if I get the chance. It's taking me too long to do everything this week.

It was so disappointing, because I love fake engagement scenarios! and this was, honestly, a perfect setup for one: they need an explanation for why they're hanging out together in a night club (scoping out suspects), and Amanda just improvises. That was before the book got totally overrun with sexist asides.

And some of the fake engagement stuff is genuinely funny, or could be; it's just that it's trapped in the middle of this weird book full of weird proclamations about men and women, so it's harder to enjoy even when its working. And Allingham still has a tendency to run out of steam, I think, though she's gotten a lot better. Oh, well.

Final Curtain, though, = <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Oct. 27th, 2015 05:44 pm (UTC)
That's fine. You've got a Yule-letter and all sorts! You can always keep me happy by telling me if you're any further on with DW, too. (I'm like a passenger in the back seat: are we nearly there yet? Feel free to throw things at me.)

Fake engagement scenarios ought to be the best. Blah. :-/ Ah well. Such are the dangers of venturing into the past, but you also get shiny things for your efforts sometimes.

and oh oh oh oh: fic! Now that you've read Final Curtain, there you go if you haven't already seen it. :-)
Oct. 27th, 2015 06:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you!! :D I will save the fic for after work, but yay!

Hah, Doctor Who just keeps getting better and better! The Romans was adorable, and now I'm watching THE WEB PLANET, which is AMAZING, the best/worst/most earnest thing ever.

I keep thinking there's no way I could love William Hartnell any more than I do, and he just keeps raising the bar. It's so much fun to see him inventing this character in real time. And Vicki is great! I'm sure at some point in the next ~30 years I'll run into something I dislike, but right now it's pretty much golden.

I think when I get back from work I will add FAKE ENGAGEMENTS to my list of things I like for Yuletide, because my thirst has not been satisfied.
Oct. 28th, 2015 01:03 pm (UTC)
Fake engagements and marriages of conveniences are beautiful things. In the right places! :-)

I haven't watched The Web Planet yet (although I read a book of it and seen pics), but I am glad to hear that it is one of those things that is the right kind of terrible thing.

I keep thinking there's no way I could love William Hartnell any more than I do, and he just keeps raising the bar. It's so much fun to see him inventing this character in real time. And Vicki is great! I'm sure at some point in the next ~30 years I'll run into something I dislike, but right now it's pretty much golden.

Awwww. ♥ (My not-really-very-hardened old DW fan's heart melts at such statements.) I might have mentioned how much I love Vicki already, but I do. And Ian and Barbara being all seasoned TARDIS crew by now.

Oct. 27th, 2015 05:19 pm (UTC)
Wow! Well, I would be grumpy too, if I'd just read that proposal. For your sake I certainly hope that's meant to be satire, though it doesn't quite seem like it, to me. I hope the next book improves!
Oct. 27th, 2015 05:51 pm (UTC)
We'll see! Maybe as Allingham's writing ability improves, she will also just get weirder and more unsavory! Or maybe she's just been having a bad season; who knows?
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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