Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
A most mild-mannered detective proves more than a match for a few hardened criminals in this first-series collection of the BBC's Campion, four splendid period mysteries adapted from the 1930s novels of Margery Allingham. Peter Davison portrays Albert Campion, a rather unconventional detective hero who is assisted in his sleuthing by his butler-cum-henchman, Lugg (Brian Glover). They're an odd crime-fighting duo to be sure: Campion's a well-bred, rather eccentric smart aleck in round glasses, given to cryptic remarks delivered with a grin, and with a penchant for singing quietly to himself. Lugg, on the other hand, is a man of the streets, a former tough with a Cockney accent as thick as molasses. They're a quirky pair, and Allingham's mysteries are quirky, too. "Look to the Lady" finds Campion trying to prevent the theft of an unusual family treasure, a 1,000-year-old chalice that becomes the center of a case involving witches, Gypsies, and even a monster. And while "Police at the Funeral" unfolds as a more classic whodunit on an estate where family members are being killed one by one, "The Case of the Late Pig" is anything but conventional, as the death of Campion's grade-school nemesis kicks off an unusual mystery involving murder at an exclusive country club. It's a beautiful example of Allingham's stylistic strengths, as the case is not laid out neatly but congeals gradually out of a swirl of odd characters and clues. And while "Death of a Ghost" mines an all-time classic scenario (in a crowded room, a murder is committed when the lights go out!), it develops into the most unpredictable -- and dangerous -- of the four mysteries. Campion is an intriguing protagonist, meandering affably through his cases while keeping his suspicions and conclusions to himself, and Davison neatly evokes his sense of boyish pleasure in the art of sleuthing. And as sidekicks go, Lugg is quite a package, bringing his own keen powers of observation and deduction to the table while providing some necessary muscle. As good as Davison's Campion is, Glover's Lugg often steals the show during some feisty verbal sparring with his employer. It all adds up to a quartet of sparkling "golden age" mysteries that, despite their high stakes, are executed with a decidedly light touch.