by Margery Allingham
William Heinemann Ltd., 1929 (reprinted 1970)
George Abbershaw is invited to a weekend party at Black Dudley, a gloomy old building set in rural Suffolk. The good doctor is a logical, level-headed man, who has fallen headlong in love with the beautiful Margaret Oliphant, who, at his request, is also at the gathering.
When Wyatt Petrie, the event's host, tells the story of the "Black Dudley Ritual Dagger" and the group decide to reenact the ritual, mystery and tragedy ensue. One of the party is killed, and it isn't long before the rest are taken hostage by a dangerous and determined crew, who claim that something valuable has also gone missing. Our sleuth Abbershaw sets out to solve the crime and protect his girl.
Although this story was written almost a century ago, it has not lost its appeal for modern readers. Told in the style of the great mystery writers, and Allingham's most celebrated book, the author succeeds in creating three dimensional characters, weaving an intriguing plot, and introducing several red herrings along the way. In the end, we have a satisfying whodunit that leaves the reader eager for more. Since I have just learned that one of the story's main characters appears in 18 more of Allingham's novels and stories, I think it's safe to say that I'll be seeking out more of her work.
Highly recommended for lovers of the genre.