Saturday, December 19, 2009
Tied up in Tinsel
by Ngaio Marsh
What would Christmas time be without reading an appropriately themed Whodunnit? I was also spurred on by Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise who challenged readers to report on their favourite Yuletide titles. This title was first published in 1972. My second-hand book shop find version is a 1980 Fontana edition.
Tied up in Tinsel starts with Roderick Alleyn's wife, Troy, as a guest at Halberd's Manor commissioned to paint a portrait of the Lord of the manor, Hilary Bill-Tasman. The manor's domestic arrangements are a tad unusual in that Hilary has staffed the house with former prison inmates, all of whom had been incarcerated for murder. Throw into the mix a pile of snobbish Christmas guests, an elaborate and beautifully pagan Christmas ritual and the disappearance of one of the guest's equally snobbish manservant, and you have a veritable feast of possible guilty parties. Alleyn is called in to help sort out the mess, and we all know he is not to be trifled with.
I greatly enjoyed this novel, and not just because of the fun and gripping story. I also enjoyed immensely Ngaio Marsh's writing. Her eye for description is delightful.
Take for example this passage in which she describes the first introduction of Cressida Tottenham.
"Cressida Tottenham was blonde and extremely elegant. She was so elegant that her beauty seemed to be a second consideration: a kind of bonus, a gloss. She wore a sable hat. Sable framed her face, hung from her sleeves and topped her boots. When her outer garments were removed she appeared to be gloved rather than clad in the very ultimate of expensive simplicity."
And this passage describing the storm swept, night-time manor:
"The voice of the storm was transmitted only through vague soughing noises, distant rattling of shutters and an ambiguous mumbling that broke out intermittently in the chimneys. There were characteristic creaks and percussion-like cracks from the old woodwork and, a long way off, a sudden banging that Alleyn took to be a bout of indigestion in Hilary's central heating system."
So I will highly recommend Ngaio Marsh's Tied up in Tinsel as a spot of festive murder mystery reading. It's a great story, beautifully written.