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Sunday, August 27, 2023

Mystery Series - Roderick Alleyn

alt text Ngaio Marsh
(Edith) Ngaio Marsh was a New Zealand writer in the golden age of crime fiction. She is considered one of the top four of the era (with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Margery Allingham). She lived from 1895-1982.

In my opinion she's in the running for the best of the lot. Her forte is collecting a large cast of characters with relationships, animosities and ulterior motives. She usually has scenes with rooms filled with people, and the reader must pay close attention to who is saying what to whom in order to have a glimmer of the solution to the crime.

Inspector Alleyn is the police presence in all her mysteries. All but four of the books are set in England. The others are in New Zealand.

Recurring Characters of note:
Inspector (becoming Chief Inspector) Roderick Alleyn
Agatha Troy, his wife
Inspector Fox, his assistant

#1 A Man Lay Dead, 1934

#1 Enter a Murderer, 1935

#1 The Nursing Home Murder, 1935

#1 Death in Ecstasy, 1936

#1 Vintage Murder, 1937

#1 Artists in Crime, 1938

#1 Death in a White Tie, 1938

#1 Overture to Death, 1939

#1 Death at the Bar, 1940

#1 Surfeit of Lampreys/ Death of a Peer (US title), 1941
The Charles Lampreys are a family whose immediate head, Charles, is the younger brother of a peer, George. Consequently, he keeps going through money in the way he's been accustomed to live, but George is the one who inherited the family fortune. Several times, the Charles Lampreys have needed to be bailed out of financial hardship by George. Now George says (apparently), "no more."

The family is a lively bunch, currently living in a double apartment in England (after we first meet them in New Zealand). There are a pair of twins who have spent their lives joking/lying about which is which. The oldest daughter is an actress, and two younger children round out the group. Their favorite passtime is playing charades and they keep a large closet full of props and costumes. Of course there are servants.

George angrily visits after the next request for funds, but he is found in the elevator, seriously wounded by one of the famous props.

This is one of the best examples of Marsh's ability to confuse everything with a huge group of people who are experts at play-acting, and the twins make it even more complex.

#1 Death and the Dancing Footman, 1941

#1 Colour Scheme, 1943

#1 Died in the Wool, 1945

#1 Final Curtain, 1947

#1 Swing Brother Swing/ A Wreath for Rivera (US title), 1949

#1 Opening Night, 1951

#1 Spinsters in Jeopardy/ The Bride of Death (US abridged version), 1953

#1 Scales of Justice, 1955

#1 Off With His Head/ Death of a Fool, 1956

#1 Singing in the Shrouds, 1958

#1 False Scent, 1959

#1 Hand in Glove, 1962

#1 Dead Water, 1963

#1 Death at the Dolphin/ Killer Dolphin (US title), 1966

#1 Clutch of Constables, 1968

#1 When in Rome, 1970

#1 Tied Up in Tinsel, 1972

#1 Black As He's Painted, 1974

#1 Last Ditch, 1977

#1 Grave Mistake, 1978

#1 Photo Finish, 1980

#1 Light Thickens, 1982

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