Light Thickens by Ngaio Marsh

Light Thickens by Ngaio Marsh Light Thickens by Ngaio Marsh
Series: Roderick Alleyn #32
Published by Jove Books on September 1983
Source: On shelves
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 232
Format: Paperback
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three-half-stars

"Is this a dagger which I see before me..."


Four murders. Three witches. A fiendish lady. A homicidal husband. A ghost. No wonder "Macbeth "is considered such bad luck by theatre people that they won't mention its name out loud. But the new London production of "the Scottish play" promises to be a smash until gruesome pranks begin plaguing rehearsals. And when the last act ends in real-life tragedy, Chief Superintendent Alleyn takes center stage-uncovering a heartbreaking secret, murderous jealousy, and a dark, desperate reason for "murder for foul..".

This was Marsh’s last book and it seems appropriate that she returns to the theater as her backdrop. We know her as a mystery writer, but probably her great passion was the theater, and it shows. The real strength in this story is the play production. The murder actually doesn’t take place until may two-thirds through the book with Alleyn only entering the story then.

The play is Macbeth and the director is making it a memorable performance. The characters are wonderful, some maybe stereotypical, gabby and egotistical and “actory.” But they all manage to work together. Apparently there are a lot of superstitions revolving aroung Macbeth and the story plays off them well, with some believers and some clearly not. I enjoyed seeing how they did scenes and practiced fights, witnessing the bickering and wooing.

Alleyn is not a detective who lets us in on every little clue he sees, but he does pay attention to everyone, even children. He’s a gentleman and was at the theater to see the play, but of course, as usually happens to him, a murder disrupts his enjoyment of the evening. He’s one of those people you don’t want to be near at a theater or on a ship or on vacation.

The solution to the whodunit it is actually pretty weak, at least as far as motive goes. But that’s okay. I just enjoy Marsh’s books. For me, they’re fairly light mysteries with good characters. They don’t take a lot of thought and they aren’t making any kind of social commentary. They’re distanced from today, which gives them all a rather vintage feel, even this one published in the early-80s.

Maybe I should add a kind of flow-chart to my reading. Like this one makes me feel like re-reading Macbeth, and I’m pretty sure Amber has a graphic novel version of it that has the original text but adds the images. Maybe I’ll ask to borrow it.

About Ngaio Marsh

Dame Ngaio Marsh (23 April 1895 – 18 February 1982), born Edith Ngaio Marsh, was a New Zealand crime writer and theatre director. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1966.

Internationally Marsh is known primarily for her creation Inspector Roderick Alleyn, a gentleman detective who works for the Metropolitan Police (London). Thus she is one of the “Queens of Crime” alongside Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Gladys Mitchell, and Margery Allingham.

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