RogerBW's Blog

Spinsters in Jeopardy, Ngaio Marsh 09 June 2017

1954 classic English detective fiction; seventeenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Alleyn is combining work for the Sûreté with a family holiday in the South of France, but sees a possible murder from the train, and then things get even more complicated. US vt The Bride of Death.

There's a great deal of coincidence here. The things Alleyn sees (three years before 4:50 from Paddington) are taking place in the very castle that's the target of his investigations; and an old lady on the train is taken ill with appendicitis, and there's no doctor in the village so she has to be taken to the castle where one of the guests can help her; and Troy has been receiving letters from a distant and apparently somewhat dotty relative in the town…

The whole thing rests on these coincidences, and the investigative plans are sloppy in the extreme. It's not surprising when the Alleyns' six-year-old son is kidnapped; on the other hand Marsh paints a very fine picture of his parents feeling frantic about it but still trying to behave sensibly. (And young Ricky is that rare thing, a child character I didn't detest.)

There's a drug- and sex-cult of the idle rich and those who don't know any better, coming over very much an expression of the author's terror at the beginnings of the post-war jet set (reefer madness!), but at least each of the members has a reason for being part of it; much as in Death by Ecstasy from twenty years earlier, these work as real people rather than just as extras.

Unfortunately they're not needed as real people, because there's very little in the way of mystery here. Dr Baradi is a horrible greasy foreigner who gives extravagant compliments to Alleyn's wife; clearly he's a Bad Man, as is the cult leader, and the only questions are which of them might have committed any particular bit of frightfulness, and what specifically they're up to just now. This is really more a thriller than a detective story, and it suffers as a result; it doesn't keep up the fast-paced action that a thriller needs.

It's still Marsh, and still well-written (not to mention a passing reference to "the days when there was steak in England"), but this is definitely not one of the better entries in the series. Followed by Scales of Justice.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

See also:
Death in Ecstasy, Ngaio Marsh

Previous in series: Opening Night | Series: Roderick Alleyn | Next in series: Scales of Justice

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1