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Sweet Danger

Sweet Danger is a crime novel by Margery Allingham, first published in October 1933, in the United Kingdom by Heinemann, London and in the United States by Doubleday, New York as Kingdom of Death; later U.S. versions used the title The Fear Sign. It is the fifth adventure of the mysterious Albert Campion, aided as usual by his butler/valet/bodyguard Magersfontein Lugg.

Plot introduction

When Averna, a tiny but oil-rich principality on the Adriatic, becomes a vital port after an earthquake, Albert Campion is called in to track down proof that the land belongs to an English aristocratic family, believed long died out. With an unscrupulous financier and his hired thugs also on the trail, Campion and his confederates must unravel the mystery, while defending the Fitton family, claimants to the title, in the strange Suffolk village of Pontisbright.

Plot summary

Guffy Randall is surprised to find his old friend Albert Campion in a French hotel, accompanied by a mountaineer and a prospector, masquerading as minor Royalty. When Campion explains that they are seeking proof of British rights to a small territory, recently disturbed by an earthquake and turned into a strategically important harbour with its own fuel, Randall joins the team. Following their adversaries, headed by a secretive financier named Savanake, they travel to the village of Pontisbright in Suffolk, former seat of the heirs to the crown of Averna.

After a night in the local inn, the Gauntlett, during which Lugg sees a corpse wrapped in a winding cloth on the nearby heath, they move to the local mill, run by an impoverished family with claims to be the lost heirs of the Pontisbright name. Amanda, the middle child, has an interest in electricity and radio, running a dynamo from the watermill; her aunt Hattie recently disturbed a burglar in the house, who Campion immediately identifies as "Peaky" Doyle, an old associate of Savanake who recently shot at Campion on the continent.

Amanda shows them an ancient inscription on a slab of wood cut from the Pontisbright estate, which speaks of a crown hidden by a split diamond, and other proofs, believed to be the missing deeds and titles, marked by a bell and a drum. Campion and his friends visit Dr Galley, the local medic, a bizarre, eccentric old man who tries to scare them back to London with talk of a curse on the village. Back at the house, they find a drunken Lugg and Scatty Williams, the Fittons' servant, have beaten up a burglar found looking at the inscription; it is Peaky Doyle, who Campion insists they leave, unconscious, on the heath, revealing that he informed Doyle of the inscription in hopes of getting some help solving the riddle.

Campion is called to a meeting with Savanake, who insists he take a job in Peru, leaving immediately; when Campion's friends receive a note saying he has run out on them, they resolve to stay to finish the business, but are at a loss as to how to continue. The house is invaded, and everyone left bound and gagged in the dark while it is searched, but they are mysteriously released later.

A letter arrives addressed to Campion, which the men read after Amanda has opened it; it describes a drum belonging to the Pontisbrights, currently in a Norwich museum. Amanda reveals she has come into £300, and plans to buy a car and some radio equipment; when Farquharson and Eager-Wright arrive at the museum to retrieve the drum, they find Amanda and Scatty Williams have already taken it.

At the mill, Hal meets Dr Galley, who tells him he has found evidence that Hal is the Pontisbright heir, and insists they all visit him the following night for dinner. Amanda arrives, and Hal locks her in the grain store, taking the drum. When the others return, he goes to tell them he has it, but when they return to his room the skin is gone from the drum and Amanda is free.

Next morning, Lugg and Scatty leave early in the new car, laden with radio equipment. Two policemen arrive, and take Farquharson and Eager-Wright away, accused of trying to defraud a museum of its drum. Aunt Hattie disturbs a man rifling her jewellery, which leads to a gunfight in the yard; the thief is driven back into the house by Campion, dressed as a woman. He explains that he switched with a friend to evade being sent abroad, and has been hiding in the house, secretly helping out.

He tells them he arranged for the two men to arrested by friends, so they could safely take the drum-skin bearing the deeds to Averna to London. He identifies a necklace of Hattie's as the ancient crown of Averna, and gives everyone instructions to go to Galley's and flee by boat when they get his signal. When he hears some stories about Galley from Amanda, he realises the old man is insane and plans to kill his guests. They rush to his house, arriving just in time to stop him drugging everyone, and Campion heads off on his mission.

Amanda enters Galley's, and he begins a ceremony to conjure a demon. They learn he had tried this before, and had mistaken Peaky Doyle, who arrived during the ceremony, for Astaroth; he did Doyle's bidding for a time, until he found him unconscious on the heath, from when he believed he had control of the demon, and tried to feed him with bizarre herbs. He unveils Doyle, bizzarely dressed and near death, just as the sound of an enormous bell rings loud around the valley; the others overpower Galley, lock him up and flee in a camouflaged boat prepared by Amanda.

Campion follows an echo of the bell, broadcast by a duplicate of the old Pontisbright bell in a foreign convent and amplified by Amanda's equipment. He finds an old well, but must hide in a tree when Savanake arrives with his well-armed gang. They remove an iron box from the well, but Campion has knocked out Savanake's chauffeur, and driving him and Parrott away with the box, heads to the mill and gets out, feigning engine trouble.

He knocks Parrott out, but Savanake draws a gun on him; he knocks the box into the water, and he and Savanake fight. As Campion is about to drown in Savanake's mighty hands, Amanda opens the stops and flushes Savanake away. Campion is exhausted, and Savanake climbs out of the water; Amanda distracts him and grabs the box, but takes a bullet from Savanake's gun as she shuts a door on him. Savanake tries to get round to them, but falls through a rotten walkway; when Campion tries to help him, he shoots at Campion, losing his grip as he does so, and is washed into the waterwheel and killed.

The army arrive and clear everything up, taking the precious deeds found in the box to the government. Hal has proof, found in Galley's house, that he is the Pontisbright heir; Randall and Mary plan to marry; and Amanda's wound is not serious. She and Campion talk, and she makes him promise to take her into "partnership", when she is a little older.

Characters in "Sweet Danger"

  • Albert Campion, a mysterious adventurer of noble blood
  • "Guffy" Randall, an old friend of Campion
  • Farquharson, a famous prospector, on Campion's team
  • Eager-Wright, a mountaineer, also working with Campion
  • Amanda Fitton, a beautiful and precocious young girl
    • Hal Fitton, Amanda's serious younger brother
    • Mary Fitton, Amanda's sensible older sister
    • Miss Harriet Huntingtower, the Fittons' kindly aunt
    • "Scatty" Williams , Amanda's assistant at the mill
  • Dr Galley, the rather odd local doctor
  • Brett Savanake, a secretive and powerful financier
    • Mr Parrott, Savanake's right-hand man
    • "Peaky" Doyle, a thug in Savanake's employ

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The story was adapted for television by the BBC, the fifth 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 of the first part was 12 January 1990. The series was shown in the United States by PBS. Amanda Fitton was played by Lysette Anthony.

References

External links

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