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Andrea K Höst

Australian writer of science fiction and fantasy.
The Fashion in Shrouds - Margery Allingham This book could essentially be renamed "A Tale of Three Career Women". Written 'between the wars', you can almost see the author wrestling with old and new conceptions of what it is to be male and female - sometimes using statements which are teeth-grindingly appalling. Some of these statements come out of Campion's mouth (including the memorable suggestion that what his sister wanted to cheer her up was a "good cry or a nice rape" - there's a word used in a way we don't usually use it!).The first woman is Georgia, an accomplished and completely self-absorbed actress. Furtherance of her career is one of the pivots this story turns upon, but it is more Georgia's self-indulgence rather than her career which drives her to go through husbands (and painfully neglect her sadly-situated child Sinclair).The second woman is Val - Campion's sister - an extremely successful couturier discovering love rather later than usual and suffering for it.The third is Amanda Fitton - aircraft mechanic, inventor, brilliant, valiant, cheerfully playing partner to Campion's detective endeavours.The mystery itself is intriguing and complex, but it is the way these three women deal with romantic possibility which is what the book appears to be about.Georgia is a 'timeless' woman - her self-absorbed 'outside society' approach could be found in any age. She is a serial user of men.Val is not nearly so modern as she thinks. She's immensely successful, head of her own company - and wearied by it, lonely, actually saying yes without hesitation to a proposal which starts: "Will you marry me and give up to me your independence, the enthusiasm which you give your career, your time and your thought?" It's really hard to feel pleased about that particular marriage, even though I've no doubt it's intended to be a happy one.Amanda is Amanda, indefatigable, entirely her own self. There's never a suggestion that Amanda stop being a mechanic, stop being an inventor. She is, once again, a partner in foiling a crime.Along with the imbedded sexism of a bygone age, there's also a sour dash of racism to stumble over. But, numerous wincing aside, it's a clever story and Amanda Fitton makes up for the rest.