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When describing the elements of a mystery novel, Margery Allingham felt the structure was similar to “a box with four sides—a killing, a mystery, an inquiry, and a conclusion with an element of satisfaction in it.” Published in 1929, Allingham’s first foray into the genre, The Crime of Black Dudley, was exactly that. At the ancient, sprawling Black Dudley country manor, a house party goes awry when an eerie ritual known as the Black Dudley Dagger leaves Colonel Coombe dead. With the smell of foul play in the air, the guests of the party soon realize that the gas has been drained from all of their cars. Now they are stuck in the house with a murderer among them, and it’s up to surly pathologist George Abershaw to end this dangerous game that’s unraveled before them. Filled with Allingham’s signature atmospheric storytelling, the book introduces her beloved mystery character, the deceptively naïve detective Albert Campion, who—while only playing a supporting role in The Crime at Black Dudley—would go on to be featured in another 17 of Allingham’s novels and more than 20 short stories. Campion has become one of the most iconic sleuth characters to this day—his adventures have been adapted into numerous movies and TV shows, and, over Allingham’s nearly 40-year career, cemented her standing as a master of detective fiction. —Rachel Sonis

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