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Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham

Death of a Ghost (1934)

by Margery Allingham

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Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham is the sixth book in her Albert Campion series and was originally published in 1934. This particular story brings the reader into the art world on the eve that a new painting by a famous yet deceased painter is unveiled. This is an annual ceremony engineered by the painter to keep his memory alive. When the ceremony is interrupted by a murder, suspicion falls upon the ex-girlfriend of the deceased who was tossed for an Italian artist’s model.

Luckily Albert Campion, a family friend was at the ceremony and although at first he too suspected the ex-girlfriend, he soon was convinced of her innocence and put his mind to bringing the real murderer to justice. Although we know all too soon who the villain of the piece is, it was fun seeing Campion attempting to find evidence and pull the threads together. Full of characters that are particularly eccentric and colorful, Margery Allingham gives us a stylish story that had excellent timing and showcases her creativity. Death of a Ghost was a very entertaining read for me. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Aug 23, 2017 |
Albert Campion is attending the unveiling of a new painting. Actually, the painting is very old but it has never been seen before. When the artist died, he left twelve paintings with the instructions that his family should wait ten years and then start having grAnd parties to show off one painting a year. This year, though someone dies. And, per mystery convention, there are plenty of people with motives. The answer is somewhat obscured but it's a great addition to the Campion canon. ( )
  Hanneri | May 20, 2015 |
Audiobook narrated by Frances Matthews who I'm beginning to enjoy, in the way I prefer James Saxon reading Ngaio Marsh books.

Through knowing Belle, the widow, Campion is invited to the latest unveiling of one of John Lafacdio's works - which are released at the rate of one a year after his death. The great and the good are at the unveiling, as well as some of the not so great, and during the party the lights go out (someone had failed to feed the meter). When the lights come back on, Tommy Dacre, Lafcardio's grand-daughter's fiance, is found stabbed to death with a pair of ornate scissors. Campion soon finds himself investigating not only Dacre's murder, the systematic loss of Dacre's work, another death and, ultimately, finds himself almost losing his own life after making a fool of himself in drink.

Belle's house is a rather Bohemian 1930s set up - the housekeeper is one of Lafcardio's Italian models (now well in her 60s), another inhabitant is another ageing ex-model now fascinated with auras and the such like. A married couple of artists, of varying talents, live in a studio in the garden, whilst Lafardio's paint mixer lives elsewhere on the estate. The granddaughter is an early candidate as the one time fiancée, and who is ditched for another Italian model called RosaRosa.

This book isnt really a "whodunnit" as Campion, the police and the reader know who the killer is fairly early on. All attempts to unmask the killer in such a way as to bring along a conviction fail at every turn. The denouement at the end means that Campion is going to be the final victim and it's luck and the police who prevent this from happening, rather that any major interaction from Campion.

Once the second murder has happened and the investigation dropped off, many of the secondary characters disappear, with focus being made purely on trying to prove that the murderer did it, and why. The story is spread over several months, with large gaps in between and everything appears to be a watching and waiting game. Campion has been asked to act as Belle's proxy with regards to the paintings and in this way he manages to put himself in danger, going out to dinner on the fateful night with the murderer and being manipulated into life threatening situations. The description of Campion being drunk and going around ton, making a fool of himself, is a rather decent set of telling.

Not perhaps my favourite Campion, but still has some interesting set pieces in it to change thi
  nordie | Oct 11, 2014 |
While a fascinating study of how the upper middle class in England lived during the inter war years not a very coherent murder mystery. Indeed, not much of a detective story at all as very few people, police included, actually detect. It is more the case that every once in a while one character deigns to share information with other characters that would have enlightened the whole business had they bothered to share it earlier.

The story is really predicated upon the idea that the rest of the world (foreigners and those ‘lesser’ classes) is quite separate from the world of our protagonists. Those others cannot truly judge or even comprehend this world of the intelligent, the well bred and the artistic. Like virtually all books written at this time it is swathed in layers and layers of sexism, racism, classism and elitism.

An interesting read, none the less, for those who want an image of how deadly a banal failed marriage was in the days when divorce was rare and often unobtainable and to get a sense of how this class saw themselves. ( )
  mmyoung | Feb 10, 2013 |
As I've been reading through Allingham's early Campion novels I've started to categorise them as either adventure/thrillers (sort of Prisoner of Zenda meets the Thirty-Nine Steps) or more traditional murder mystery/crime fiction. Death of a Ghost is a straight murder mystery set amidst the art world of Little Venice in the 1930s. Campion deduces 'whodunnit' fairly early on, but how and why it was done proves harder to figure out and almost impossible to prove. I enjoyed this a lot and my only criticism is that I felt slightly dissatisfied with one part of the ending. This seems to be a recurring problem I have with Allingham's stories and probably reflects my inability not to compare her books to later crime fiction. ( )
  souloftherose | Sep 9, 2012 |
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LAFCADIO, John Sebastian R.A., b. 1845, d. 1912. Painter. Entered studio of William Pakenham, R.A., 1861. Lived in Italy, 1865-1878. First exhibited Royal Academy, 1871; A.R.A., 1881; R.A., 1900; m. 1880, Arabella Theodora, d. of Sir J. and Lady Reid of Wendon Parva, Sussex. One son, John Sebastian, b. 1890. Killed in action, 1916. Best known works include: "The Girl at the Pool" (Nat. Gallery), "Group in Sunlight" (Tate), "Belle Darling" (Louvre), "Portraits of Three Young Men" (Boston), "Meeting of the Magi" and "Satirical Portrait" (Yokohama), etc., etc., also Loan Collection of forty works destroyed in Moscow, 1918. Cf. The Life and Work of Lafcadio, Vols. 1, 2, & 3, Max Fustian; The Victorian Iconoclast, Mrs. Betsy Fragonard; The Moscow Tragedy, Max Fustian; Lafcadio the Man, Max Fustian; Biographie d'un maitre de peinture a l'huile, Ulysses Lafourchardiere; Weitere Bemerkungen zur Wald der Bilder von John Lafcadio, Gunther Wagner. - Weber's Who's Who in Art

LAFCADIO, J., see Charles Tanqueray, Letters to (Phelps, 15/-) - Dent's Dictionary of Authors
"LAFCADIO...the man who saw himself the first painter in Europe and whom we who are left recognize as the last." - K.J.R. in The Times, April 16, 1912
To H. J. Allingham This Book Is Respectfully Dedicated by His Industrious Apprentice
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There are, fortunately, very few people who can say that they have actually attended a murder.
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The painter John Lafcadio was brilliantly talented and, it appears, a bit psychic: Certain that his reputation would improve dramatically after his death, he left several paintings with his agent, along with the instruction that the widowed Mme. Lafcadio should wait a suitable interval and then begin doling out the work to a newly ravenous public at the rate of one per year. Albert Campion, an old friend of the widow's, is among the guests at Lafcadio's eighth such posthumous vernissage. The event is a success for all but one of the attendees--a young artist who is brutally murdered while others are sipping champagne, later the wife of another painter is poisoned.… (more)

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