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Mr Campion’s Visit – Review

July 18, 2019

It’s 1970 and an aging Albert Campion is appointed Visitor to the newly constructed University of Suffolk Coastal. Campion finds the role of Visitor as baffling as the murky world of academe itself. It’s not clear what his employers expect him to do, except give the occasional speech to oversexed undergraduates. The campus has been built on the site of Black Dudley, the stately home which, forty years earlier, was the setting of the very first Campion novel. It’s tempting to say Campion hasn’t changed much over the intervening forty years even if the architecture has. Medieval cloisters have been swept away in favour of modernity and the Brutalist architecture which was popular in 1960s and 70s Britain. Campion himself is still urbane, flirtatious and masking a sharp mind behind his other-worldly manner. That said, the excellent Mr Campion’s War revealed the murky acts of espionage Campion committed for Blighty during the war have hardened his soul, and the rapid changes happening in post-war Britain have given him reasons to become more cynical with age. Despite this, he still lights up at the thought of a good lunch and a mystery to be solved.

It’s not long before a death on campus gets Campion back to his more natural role as a sleuth. Professor Pascal Perez-Catalan is a geochemist whose brilliant career is cut short when he is found with a knife in the back. The Latino Don was noted for his fiery left-wing views (he supports Salvador Allende in his native Chile), and his unparalleled skills of seduction. So was his murderer a right-wing fanatic, a rival colleague, spurned lover or a jealous husband? Campion must get to the bottom of it all. On his way, he stumbles across the mysterious ‘Phantom Trumpeter’, who plays the Last Post every midnight without fail, and wrestles (almost literally) with giant outdoor chess pieces. Budding chess players on campus can play a game against one of those newfangled computers, an invention which Campion’s loyal manservant Magersfontein Lugg confidently predicts will never catch on.

Mr Campion’s Visit is another triumphant addition to the Campion series by Mike Ripley. It’s both engrossing as a mystery and frequently very funny in its depiction of academe. This reviewer has visited the campus on which the University of Suffolk Coastal is based –trust me, Ripley nails it! In fact, one might say that Mr Campion’s Visit has all of the elusive qualities of an ideal academic– it’s eccentric, effortlessly witty, detached (in the best possible way) from the real world and fizzing with great ideas.


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