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Mr Campion’s Wings – Review

November 17, 2021

A life in academe is full of surprises, but being carted off by the security services during an honorary doctorate ceremony tends not to be one of them. However, that is exactly what happens to Lady Amanda Campion at Cambridge University while her aristocratic husband Albert looks on in horror. This is the opening scene of Mr Campion’s Wings, the latest and possibly the best of the recent Albert Campion mysteries.

Mike Ripley’s continuation novels in the Campion series have more than done justice to the toffish detective created by Margery Allingham. Mr Campion’s Wings is the second novel in the series this year, after the excellent Mr Campion’s Coven. In that novel the setting was the early 1970s, and the plot was littered with references to witches and esoteric beliefs. Here, it is 1965. Britain is letting go of the Empire piece by piece, the Special Relationship has been damaged by the unmasking of the Cambridge Spy Ring which has led our American Cousins to believe that MI6 has more leaks than the dodgy plumbing in a Butlin’s Holiday Camp. Perhaps new technology can save the reputation of the UK. Harold Wilson has promised a ‘Britain that is going to be forged in the White Heat of this (scientific) revolution’. As it happens, the detained Lady Campion had been working on the Goshawk Project, tasked with creating a new aircraft with the rather novel design of swept-forward wings. Campion must investigate whether a grisly death at the Goshawk hangar is connected to his wife’s detention, and discover whether Russian (or even American) spies have been stealing Britain’s military secrets.

Fans of Albert Campion will not be disappointed with Ripley’s latest entry in the series. It is a delightfully witty mix of murder mystery and industrial espionage caper, topped off with a terrific chase scene of characters punting on the Cam. Best of all though, the novel is an insightful portrayal of Britain transitioning from the Imperial Age to the Jet Age. Recommended.

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