Audio book of the week: The Beckoning Lady by Margery Allingham

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The Independent Culture

As amateur sleuths go, Albert Campion is not as posh as Lord Peter Wimsey nor as forensically deductive as Sherlock Holmes. Tall, fair, thin, bespectacled and, when occasion demands, surprisingly athletic, he is as comfortable in the company of old lags as he is with gently declining aristocrats: above all, he is coolly unflappable.

Margery Allingham's urbane hero first began solving murders in the 1930s and continued until his creator's untimely death in 1966. His exploits are being released on audio every few months and they are as enlivening as a glass of champagne on a balmy evening. The latest is set, as usual, in Suffolk. It's 1955 and Mr Campion has married and is on holiday with his new wife and their young son when a corpse is found in the river, his head smashed in by a ploughshare.

The plot centres on a lavish summer party. It involves another two suspicious deaths, some unscrupulous city boys on the make and a languid beauty called Prune, for whose charms a stolid Chief Inspector falls like a felled oak. Besides the large and colourful human cast there is, of course, a dog. The seductive joy of this series lies in a sublime combination of the kind of witty writing that has you laughing aloud with the perfect timing and light tenor timbre of Philip Franks (left). Don't start listening to these books unless you are confident that you can handle addiction.