Friday, January 22, 2010
by Ngaio Marsh
This is the first of Ngaio Marsh's Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn novels to be set in New Zealand, so it was fun to see what picture of New Zealand the author painted. In fact the picture she painted would have done the boffins at the New Zealand tourism industry proud; clean, green and beautiful.
Of course this book wasn't all about New Zealand, there was a murder involved here. The majority of her mysteries are set in Alleyn's homeland of Britain. He is in New Zealand on holiday, recouperating from surgery and happens to be sharing a train with a company of touring actors who are taking their show to the fictional town of Middleton. He gets to enjoy their opening show and comes along to the opening night party only to witness, along with those present the untimely demise of the Company co-owner by a sabotaged suspended jeroboam of Champagne. Ngaio Marsh gets full marks for unusual murder weapons.
Not one to be able to turn down helping to unravel a murder, Alleyn finds himself assisting the local constabulary.
The last Ngaio Marsh book I read that involved a theatre group and actors (Enter a Murderer) drove me a bit nuts (flaming actors) so I was a little apprehensive about starting this one. I was pleasantly surprised. There were many things I enjoyed about this book. Another good murder mystery. The New Zealand setting. The fact this novel was published in 1937 and the way that is reflected in the language and the social attitudes towards Maori characters and traditions. The tiny little name hidden in the text that caused a serendipitous aha moment for another piece of research I am doing.
So overall Vintage Murder was a good read, and good, vintage Marsh.