Vintage Murder Paperback – 18 Mar 2011
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‘The brilliant Ngaio Marsh ranks with Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers’
Times Literary Supplement
‘The theatre detail is engrossing.’
‘A far more ambitious novel than anything Marsh had attempted before.’
American Journal of Popular Culture
‘Her work is as nearly flawless as makes no odds. Character, plot, wit, good writing, and sound technique.’
‘The finest writer in the English languange of the pure, classical puzzle whodunnit. Among the crime queens, Ngaio Marsh stands out as an Empress.’
From the Back Cover
THE ALLEYN MYSTERIES
Caroline made her usual dramatic entrance. 'Darlings!' she exclaimed. 'What's all this? Too exciting – and all for me!'
She picked up the scissors. Dimly-lit faces peered at the beautiful woman who stood with one arm raised, while a small fat man bent over the table. Suddenly Alleyn felt intolerably fearful – but at that moment Caroline cut the cord. Something enormous flashed down among them from the hidden heights and Allen's growing sense of horror became reality…
"Her work is nearly flawless as makes no odds, character, plot, wit, good writing and sound technique."
"The finest writer in the English language of the pure, classical puzzle whodunnit. Among the crime queens, Ngalio Marsh stand out as an empress."
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Top customer reviews
Unfortunately as a death occurs, and is, of course, murder most horrid, and Alleyn was present at the scene of the crime, he begins as a witness and potential suspect, as the local police investigate. Quickly realising his impressive credentials – he is the author of the major manual for young Police Investigators in cop school – the locals are happy to have him join the investigating team. Far from viewing the locals as ‘hicks’ and crashing in with offensive superiority, there is a nice give and take between the New Zealand professionals and the Brit, with respect shown on both sides. Something I particularly like about Marsh is her relative freedom from the class and race attitudes which are rather prevalent in ‘Golden Age’ To be sure, prejudice does show, in attitudes towards another person present at the murder scene – a Maori physician – but Alleyn is interested to gain knowledge about a culture so very far from his own.
Ngaio Marsh continues to delight me with her wonderful crafted writing, depth characterisation, fiendish by believable plotting. She gets better, so far, book on book, and has effortless wit and style in the person of the marvellous Alleyn.
I was particularly enchanted, in this book, by the inclusion of various sketches from Alleyn’s notebook – the ingenious mechanism by which murder most horrid was done, and the methodical method by which Alleyn records the precise sequence of events, movements of suspects, locations, motives, alibis and all
What good fun she has. Unlike modern crime novels, there is a lack of grisly detail on the very bloody way violent death happens, which suits me fine, having a somewhat vivid imagination and delicate stomach!
Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn witnesses the death of Alfred Meyer, a theatrical manager, and has to work out which of the theatre company's members is responsible and whether Maori superstitions are in some way responsible.
The travelling theatre background is an excellent and ambitiously created example of Marsh's theatrical-related books with convincing characters and New Zealand backdrop. A noteworthy feature in this book is a floor plan of the theatre that, unusually, really is useful to solve the murder.
Do note that the solution to the author's earlier story entitled 'Enter a Murderer' is disclosed in this book.
This is definitely one of my favourite Marsh stories and I would recommend crime fiction readers to this one.
Ngaio Marsh set eight of her books in the theatre and four of them in New Zealand, her native land, In this one, an English touring theatre company in in New Zealand. The leading lady is stunningly beautiful and no one (including her lover) understands why she has married the pudgy producer, nice man though he is. Planning to give a surprise present to his darling wife, he dies a horrible death when a huge jeroboam of champagne strikes him. Was it she who rigged the trap that killed her husband during a cast party, or her lover, or some other person? Roderick Alleyn is on holiday in New Zealand when he finds himself cornered into having to try to solve this mystery...
The new Zealand setting is fascinating. Apart from a very unusual Maori doctor and an amusing, likeable antipodean policemen, Alleyn's picnic trip into the countryside is beautifully described. Miss Marsh loved her homeland and makes some enjoyable observations about what life is like there.
Ngaio Marsh knew the theatrical world very well, too, and her witty description of the lives and foibles of actors in a theatrical troupe enliven the plot; she was herself a successful theatre director. Her descriptions of the actors, with their artistic temperaments, the squabbles and tensions, the struggle to make a profit and the technical descriptions of handling props and flats open that world up to us.
As usual, this is a tightly woven, well-plotted story with plenty of surprises. Marsh is very skilled with words and her style is economical, witty and often rather beautiful. Most enjoyable!
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