When in Rome by Ngaio Marsh When in Rome by Ngaio Marsh
Series: Roderick Alleyn #26
Published by Minotaur on Sept 15, 1999
Source: On shelves
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 242
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon
Add on Goodreads

Murder takes a Roman holiday.

On an exclusive guided tour of Rome's ancient ruins, a motley crew of tourists gets more than the price of admission. For amidst the serpentine passages of an underground crypt, the shady tour guide disappears, a mysterious murder occurs, and Inspector Roderick Alleyn-undercover on an international drug bust-must focus his keen eye on more than just Rome's breathtaking sights...

When in Rome is my first TBR challenge pick. I haven’t decorated my TBR jar yet, but when I do I’ll post a picture. I have a jar and put about 11 titles in it, but I’ll add to it as the year goes by. They’re a mix of ones that have been sitting on my shelf for a while and recent additions to the list. Usually I wouldn’t read two Marsh’s so close together, but you just can’t argue with random from a jar.

When in Rome was first published in 1970 and you can tell in some of the dialogue and phrases, like groovy. It’s also very drug heavy and there’s a “party” that fits into the fictional version of the era. Aside from that, it’s a typical Marsh mystery. Some interesting characters, Inspector Alleyn being his usual handsome, intelligent self.  The characters are a particularly interesting lot: a Dutch couple clearly in love; a man and his aunt, both rather spoiled and prone to addiction; an author and a woman who works for his publisher, who arrived separately but are drawn to each other; a “Major” who is maybe just a tourist; and the tour guide, a bad guy who disappears fairly quickly. With such a small list of potential suspects, a couple of whom are clearly not the killer, I was still kept guessing right up to the end.

If you have any intention of reading this one and hate when an ending is spoiled, don’t read any further. If, however, you’re like me and don’t mind spoilers, tell me what you think.

This is one of those books where the murderer gets away. Alleyn knows who the killer is, but chooses not to share that information. He does not hide any information from the Italian authorities, they just don’t put it together right. I’m happy with that. Yes, someone who was innocent of the crime is believed to the murderer. But that character dies from an unfortunate accident and was certainly a bad guy anyway. The bad guys get blamed, the good guys are free, everyone’s secrets are safe, and all live happily ever after. Maybe that means justice was served. I know I’ve read other mysteries that haven’t ended with the killer being apprehended. I don’t think it’s ever been handled in a way that truly bothered me. If you read mysteries, do you need to have the killer pay for his crime, or are you okay when maybe the moral choice isn’t exactly the legal choice and the detective follows his/her conscience?

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.