As the cover of this newly republished novel proclaims, 'Maxwell March' was a pseudonym adopted by Margery Allingham for a handful of novels she wrote for serialisation. Although she'd already started publishing her Campion novels, they hadn't really yet taken off, and she produced these by way of having a second string to her bow. Pot-boilers is how they have been described and I'm sure that's fairly accurate.
As you may well have noticed, I'm a huge fan of Allingham, who is one of the few authors I regularly re-read. So I was more than curious to see how this one measured up. Well, I enjoyed it quite a lot - Campion it's not, but it's a lively romp and I get the feeling she rather enjoyed writing it.
The central figure here is Detective Inspector David Blest, an attractive and clever young man -- in fact his good looks tend to bely his intelligence. The events of novel begin with his investigation into the death of a member at the Senior Buffs Club in London - David thinks it's suspicious, but it is dismissed as suicide. In order to pursue the case he takes himself off to a seaside resort on the south coast, ostensibly on leave but actually interested in a very devious and suspicious seeming old chap called Sir Leo Thyn.
David hasn't been in the hotel long before he meets a beautiful girl, Judy Wellington. Lovely she may be, but she is very pale and delicate, and apparently suffering from a long-standing mystery illness. David falls for her in a big way, and soon discovers that the illness is fake - her guardian is trying to get her married off and this is her way of resisting. Before long, the man who is her potential fiancé is found murdered in his room, and suspects abound. In fact the whole place is awash with dodgy people and Judy feels beleaguered and doesn't know who to trust. Unfortunately she makes the wrong decision when she accepts an offer of sanctuary from the stunning but wicked Margaret Ferney, who has reasons of her own for wanting Judy out of the way.
So - lots of action as David puts his own life in danger attempting to save the woman he loves. Will he succeed? I expect you can guess the answer to that.
OK, we have to admit that this lacks the refinement and wit of Allingham at the top of her game, but here she is writing in a different genre and having fun doing it. Why not plunge in and try it for yourself?