Flowers for the Judge
First edition cover
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Preceded by||Death of a Ghost|
|Followed by||The Case of the Late Pig|
Flowers for the Judge is a crime novel by Margery Allingham, first published in February 1936, in the United Kingdom by Heinemann, London, and in the United States by Doubleday, Doran, New York. It is the seventh novel to feature the mysterious Albert Campion, aided by his grouchy manservant Magersfontein Lugg.
The story starts in 1911 with the mysterious disappearance of one of the members of the Barnabas family, a leading publishing house in London. After the initial investigation, the mystery soon disappears from the public's mind, and the remaining cousins continue the family business. Twenty years later, another member of the same family has also gone missing, and Albert Campion, a friend of the family, is brought in to find the wayward cousin.
This time, the missing cousin shows up dead. The obvious suspect is the youngest of the Barnabas cousins, who also happens to love the dead man's wife. Campion must delve deep into the Barnabas family history to find the real murderer, but finds much more than he expected.
The Barnabas family is no stranger to mystery, one of the founder's nephews, Tom Barnabas, having disappeared from the street in broad daylight never to be seen again. When it is remarked, at a Sunday evening gathering held by Gina Brande in her flat next door to the offices, that Paul Brande, her husband, has not been home for three days, no-one finds it too remarkable. Shortly after the arrival of his old friend Albert Campion to look into the vanishing, Mike, Paul's younger cousin and clearly in love with Gina, goes to the vault to fetch some papers for the eldest cousin, the Barnabas MD, John Widdowson, and returns looking shaken, but says nothing.
Next morning, Paul's body is found sprawled in plain view at the front of the vault. The doctor is called, sees Paul has been dead for several days, and a decision is made to move the body upstairs. Mike is sent to warn Mrs Brande. Campion investigates the scene of the crime, and finds a recently broken ventilator to the rear of the vault, leading to a garage. Questioning staff, he discovers that the position of the body made it impossible for Mike to have missed him the night before. The police find a length of rubber pipe stained with soot.
At the inquest, the doctors and police reveal that Paul was killed by carbon monoxide inhalation, the pipe having been used to connect the exhaust of Mike's car to the vault ventilator. A neighbor testifies she heard the car running for some time on the night Paul disappeared, from six to nine. Mike says he was out walking the streets until eight, but admits to running for a while around nine to warm up. Gina's housekeeper says too much about her mistress's relationship with Mike, and Mike is arrested for the murder.
Campion befriends Ritchie, an odd and rather awkward cousin - the brother of the vanished Tom, and with his help questions Miss Netley, Paul's suspicious secretary. He tracks down Paul's mistress, but finds she knows nothing, except that he missed an appointment with her on the night he died. He learns of a valuable unpublished manuscript of a play by William Congreve owned by the firm and regarded as a financial asset, which Paul hoped to display, and of a visit Paul paid to a London district, on business concerning a key. From Lugg, he learns that a renowned underground key copier lives in the area mentioned, and together they investigate, using Lugg's criminal past to persuade the man to help – he provides a copy of a key he made for Paul.
Campion visits the Barnabas offices, with Ritchie's help, and finds someone in the vault. They fight, and Campion subdues the man, who he finds to be the accountant Rigget. Rigget confesses to having made a copy of the vault key, and sneaking in there at night to pry for valuable information. On the night after Paul's death, he entered the room and found Paul curled up in a corner, the vault unlocked; he had locked it, but taken Paul's key. He also took the vault key from inside the door, locked it and returned the key to its normal place.
The trial begins the next day, and Campion, exhausted from his long night, attends. Things look bleak for Mike, but Campion has found out, from an uncle at the British Museum, that the document in the vault is not the original manuscript. He visits John Widdowson's flat with Ritchie, looks around and questions the maid. He leaves a note for Widdowson, who calls him later and tells him to visit the firm's other offices, where he will find the original in a certain locked cupboard. Campion gets there, still without sleep, and almost hurls himself at the jammed door. Changing his mind, he kicks it, and discovers it leads outside, to a terrible drop. He realizes that Widdowson killed Brande to prevent his discovering that the original of the play, which he wants to exploit and which is regarded as a financial asset, is gone.
At court next day, the case is suddenly called off. Widdowson has been found in his bath, an apparent suicide using fumes from a gas water-heater. Campion learns that the windows were wedged shut and the heater sabotaged, and that Ritchie has vanished. Later, holidaying in France with Mike, Campion finds the long lost Tom Barnabas, who tells him he took the old manuscript to buy a circus, in which Campion sees Ritchie performing, in his element as a clown. Campion realizes that Ritchie was, in the case of Widdowson, "the king's executioner."
Characters in Flowers for the Judge
- John Widdowson, head of the Barnabas publishing company, and nephew of the founder
- Paul Brande, another Barnabas nephew, also employed by the company
- Gina Brande, Paul's attractive but neglected American wife
- Mrs Austin, their maid, a kindly but tactless woman
- Mike Wedgwood, the youngest of the nephews, a junior partner in the firm
- Albert Campion, an old friend of Mike, an adventurer, detective and universal uncle
- Magersfontein Lugg, Campion's manservant, a temperamental ex-burglar
- Ritchie Barnabas, an apparently simple nephew employed in minor duties, a long-armed man
- Tom Barnabas, the long-missing brother of Ritchie, thought to have vanished into thin air
- Miss Florence Curley, an efficient lady, long employed by the Barnabases
- Peter Rigget, an accountant with the firm, a stocky and sneaky man
- Mr Scruby, the family's lawyer
- Alexander Barnabas, a famously dramatic barrister, son of the founder of the company
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
The story was adapted for television by the BBC, the seventh of eight Campion stories starring Peter Davison as Campion and Brian Glover as Lugg. Originally broadcast as two separate hour-long episodes, the original UK air date was 23 February 1990. The series was shown in the United States by PBS.
- Allingham, Margery (1988). Flowers for the Judge. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-012242-7. First published as a Penguin Book in 1944
- Allingham, Margery (2006). Flowers for the Judge. London: Vintage, Random House. ISBN 978-0-09-949282-5.
- An Allingham bibliography, with dates and publishers, from the UK Margery Allingham Society
- A series of Allingham plot summaries, including many Campion books, from the UK Margery Allingham Society
- A page about the book from the Margery Allingham Archive
- Fantastic Fiction's page, with details of published editions
- Flowers for the Judge (1990) at the Internet Movie Database