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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

‘Mr Campion’s Fox’ by Mike Ripley

Published by Severn House,
27 February 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8478-7

At an embassy party the Danish Ambassador, Aage Westergaard, confides to Albert Campion that he has concerns about his eighteen-year-old daughter Vibeke who has ‘formed an attachment to a most unsuitable young man’. Despite discreet enquires nothing had actually turned up against the young man. And while the next step would be a private investigator in his position it could be a risk if it came to the attention of the Sunday papers.  Protestations from Campion that he is now retired cuts no ice with Westergaard who insists that he just wants Campion to keep an eye on the boyfriend Frank Tate, photographer, who lives and works in Soho.

Campion sets his out-of-work actor son Rupert to the task of surveillance.  Despite some rather odd behaviour on the part on Frank Tate before Rupert can draw any conclusions both Frank Tate and Vibeke disappear. It had been a regular practice for Frank Tate to visit Vibeke each weekend at a village on the Suffolkcoast where she is working as an au-pair to the Sandyman family. So when a body is found on the outskirts of the village it is to Suffolk that Rupert and his wife Perdita repair. As Rupert was at school with Torquil Sandyman they are invited to stay. On arrival the lady of the house Victoria in the twink of an eye press-gangs Perita into acting as au-pair to her three children.  When Perdita says ‘I’m sorry I don’t think I could do that. ‘Oh. But you offered to do anything…’ sulked Victoria’

The book is rich in well-drawn fleshed out eccentric characters. The village which centres round a small brewery, the history of which was somewhat convoluted, but if one grasped the fact that the sisters Mister owned everything you were on the right lines. I loved the sisters Marigold and Hyacinth, who leap off the page at you.  And the village policeman – a colourful character whose accent becomes broader when asked questions he doesn’t want to answer.

While Perdita struggles with the four-year-old twins, George and Jasper, never working out just who is who, Lady Amanda on her arrival has no such problem – colour coding them immediately.

It is a complex plot with many stands that seem to go in all directions but which are masterly all pulled  together to form a satisfactory conclusion. The dialogue is sparkling and witty and I greatly enjoyed the whole book. Highly recommended.  
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Mike Ripley is the author of the award-winning ‘Angel’ series of comedy thrillers.  He has won the Crime Writers Association 'Last Laugh Award' twice, first in 1989 with Angel Touch and then again in 1991 for Angels in Arms. Mike was also a scriptwriter for the BBC comedy-drama series Lovejoy (1986–94), which starred Ian McShane as a lovable rogue antique dealer.
For ten years Mike served as crime fiction critic for The Daily Telegraph and on the Birmingham Post for a further eight, reviewing in all over 950 crime novels.
In 2003 he suffered a stroke, and wrote an account of his recovery, Surviving a Stroke, which was published in 2006.
 He is also the series editor at Ostara Publishing, which specialises in reprinting classic mysteries and thrillers.

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