Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Surfeit of Lampreys

By Ngaio Marsh

There are lots of reading challenges that circulate the blogosphere. Why only last year I failed dismally at Dorte's Global Reading Challenge. So why would I put myself through the prospect of another? Well, considering how much I like our dear Ngaio, and her mate Agatha how could I possibly resist a Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge?! Bev, over at My Readers Block, has issued the challenge, where the rule is the book has to have been written before 1960 and be from the mystery category. There are several challenge levels, and I have decided to be ambitious and opt for the Get a Clue level of 7 to 9 books.

I intend to keep enjoying my Ngaio Marsh books, throw in some Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Marjorie Allingham. I've also found a few vintage mysteries at the local second hand books stores that need to be read, so the way I see it I should reach my target easy peasy. (Don't bother reminding me that's what I said about the global Reading Challenge!)

Anyway, first off the starting block is Ngaio Marsh's Surfeit of Lampreys. (1941)

The Lampreys are that special form of London society family that has plenty of charm and peculiarities, but no cash. they seem to lurch from one cash crisis to the next and when things get desperate again they are forced to appeal to Uncle Gabriel to bail them out. But Uncle Gabriel isn't noted for his charitable spirit, especially to his relatives, so he refuses the request. Mere moments later Uncle Gabriel meets a particularly nasty end in the elevator of the Lamprey's apartment building. Naturally suspicion falls upon the family and it is up to Detective Chief Inspector Alleyn to find the truth amongst an endless sea of lies.

I took a wee while to get into this novel, but then I came to love it. I enjoyed the cast of characters and another unique method of knocking off the victim - Ngaio Marsh is rather inventive in that department. I also liked that the family had lived in New Zealand and Roberta, a visitor caught up in the mess was a visitor from the antipodes. The knowledge that the Lampreys were based upon Ngaio's friends the Rhodes family, the same family that invited her over to London where her crime writing career started, I can't help but look fondly on this book and imagine the character Roberta could just have easily been called Ngaio...

Another great read from the Kiwi Queen of Crime.


Anonymous said...

Vanda - So glad you enjoyed this novel. I agree with you that the cast of characters is unique! So is the murder method. I liked this one very much, too, and I was glad to see your take on it as a Marsh fan.

Joanne Ganley said...

I'm also signed up for the same challenge! I'm looking forward to reading my first Ngaio Marsh. I liked your review and picked up Surfeit of Lampreys at a book fair for 50c last year.

Bev Hankins said...

Glad to see your first review! I always love Ngaio Marsh. I don't know if it was the title or what, but I remember being put off a bit when I began this one. It does turn out to be pretty decent...although not one of all-time my favorite Marsh books.

Vanda Symon said...

Hi Margot, I remember you saying how much you enjoyed this book in one of your blog posts.

Joanne, saw you'd signed up for this too - race ya (-;

Hi Bev, good on you for hosting the challenge. Now I just have to rise to it!