Thursday, March 12, 2020

"Some Months Previously Henry Brownrigg Had Decided That He Must Become a Widower Before the End of the Year"

HERE'S A RELATIVELY rare story by Margery Allingham, one that doesn't feature her greatest creation, Albert Campion; instead, we have a suspenseful narrative about a serial philanderer, a carefully-planned murder plot, and why . . .

"They Never Get Caught."
By Margery Allingham (1904-66; Wikipedia HERE).

First appearance: Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine, November 1934.
Reprinted in Argosy (U.K.), August 1941; Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (EQMM), June 1946; EQMM "Overseas Edition for the Armed Forces," June 1946; and Ellery Queen’s Anthology #1 (1960). [FictionMags data.]

Collected in Mr. Campion and Others (1939).
Short story (15 pages).
Online at FadedPage (HERE; go down to page 236).

     "That is the peculiar sort of idiot mistake I have yet to make. I haven’t reached my wife’s level yet."

The perfect murder, that tantalizing but unattainable goal of hubristic killers everywhere . . .

Major characters:
~ Henry Brownrigg:

  "You love me. I love you and you love me. You know that."
~ Phyllis Bell, the "rather pretty" one:
  ". . . was different from the others. He would lose her. Unless that obstacle were removed."
~ Millie Brownrigg, the obstacle:
  ". . . was so simple-minded, so utterly unsuspecting."
~ Doctor Crupiner:
  ". . . was a vast, dusty old man."
~ Bill Perry:
  ". . . did not think Millie was half so daft as the Old Man made out."

Noteworthy passages:
   "At the outset of his present project he had thought of forgoing it until his plan was completed, but he realized the absolute necessity of adhering rigidly to his normal 
course of life, so that there could be no hook, however small, on which the garment 
of suspicion could catch and take hold."
   ". . . unprepared for the savagery of the sudden pain in his breast when he saw her, 
and the writhing, vicious, mindless passion which checked his breathing and made 
his eyelids feel sticky and his mouth dry, frightened him a little also."
   ". . . the first glimmering of the dreadful truth percolated his startled mind."
   ". . . to himself he was a quiet, all-powerful ghost, seated, comfortable and protected, 
in the shell of his body, able to see and comprehend everything, but too mighty and too important to direct any of the drivelling little matters which made up his immediate 
   "In a few minutes now he would attain the peak of that ascendancy over his fellow-

mortals when the body, so important to them, was for him literally nothing; not even 
a dull encumbrance, not even a nerveless covering but a nothingless, an unimportant, 
unnoticed element."

Typo: "signed his name on the back of the little blue bill with a nourish".

- "a small percentage of digitalin": "A standardized mixture of digitalis glycosides used as a cardiotonic in the treatment of congestive heart failure." (Medical Dictionary HERE).
- Eternal Triangle: "A love triangle (also called a romantic love triangle or a romance triangle or an eternal triangle) is usually a romantic relationship involving three or more people. While it can refer to two people independently romantically linked with a third, it usually implies that each of the three people has some kind of relationship to the other two." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "a Thérèse Raquin paralytic": A reference to an 1868 novel by Emile Zola. "They must also tend Madame Raquin, who suffered a stroke after Camille's death. She suffers a second stroke and becomes completely paralyzed (except for her eyes), after which Thérèse and Laurent accidentally reveal the murder in her presence during one of their many arguments." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Nine drachms of the tincture": A druggist's (or British chemist's) measure. (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Even the great Tardieu had been unable to state positively if it was digitalin that had been used in the Pommeraise case": Auguste Ambroise Tardieu was "a French medical doctor 
and the pre-eminent forensic medical scientist of the mid-19th century." (Wikipedia HERE). 
For more about the "Pommeraise case," see Geri Walton's article (HERE).
- "Crupiner would not advise a P.M.": That is, a post-mortem examination or autopsy. (Wikipedia HERE).
- "one white with a deckle edge": "Paper with a feathered edge is described as having a deckle edge, in contrast to a cut edge." (Wikipedia HERE).
- A couple of Mystery*File reviews of Mr. Campion collections are (HERE) and (HERE; republished on the GAD Wiki).
- The collection Mr. Campion and Others (1939; online at FadedPage HERE) contains:

  Mr. Campion's Case Book, 9 stories:
  (1) "The Case of the Widow"
  (2) "The Case of the Name on the Wrapper"
  (3) "The Case of the Hat Trick"
  (4) "The Case of the Question Mark"
  (5) "The Case of the Old Man in the Window"
  (6) "The Case of the White Elephant"
  (7) "The Border-line Case"
  (8) "The Case of the Frenchman’s Gloves"
  (9) "The Case of the Longer View"
  . . . and 5 non-Campion stories:
  (10) "It Didn’t Work Out"
  (11) "They Never Get Caught" (above)
  (12) "Publicity"
  (13) "The Perfect Butler"
  (14) "The Mistress in the House".

- FadedPage's collection of Albert Campion novels and short stories is (HERE), while the GAD Wiki has more (HERE and HERE).

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