Series: Roderick Alleyn #3
Published by Felony & Mayhem Press on October 16, 2011 (first published 1935)
Genres: Vintage Mystery
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When Britain's Home Secretary complained of abdominal pains, it seemed like a simple case of appendicitis. But minutes after his operation, the ill-fated politician lay dead on the table. When Chief Detective-Inspector Roderick Alleyn arrives to dissect the situation, he finds many a likely suspect, including a vengeful surgeon, a lovelorn nurse, an unhappy wife, and a cabinet full of political foes.
I’ve gone back and finally read the first 3 of Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn series, and actually read them in order to boot. Each one of these early entries is a bit better than the one before. In The Nursing Home Murder, which actually takes place in a hospital, we finally get to see a more polished Alleyn. He’s still witty, but there no moments that are completely out of character as there were in the first two. These first few have been even more formulaic than vintage mysteries usually are. We meet the suspect, the murder occurs, Alleyn investigates, and finally there’s a reconstruction where the murderer gives himself away.
This time around, the victim is the Home Secretary. When he is rushed to the hospital, we know he’s doomed, there are just too many people who want him dead, including the communists sympathizers who have been sending him death threats and a doctor who was one of his close friends. Also suspect are his sister, who keeps pressing him to take the “miracle cure” of the moment, and a nurse who is the doctor’s love interest.
The hospital setting is well-done, probably thanks to Henry Jellet, a noted gynecologist of the time, who co-wrote this one with Marsh. The mystery revolves around an overdose of hyoscine and the surgery room details get a little confusing, between the syringes, ampoules and measurements, three different nurses and three doctors, which I guess justifies the need for the reconstruction.
The secondary characters in this one weren’t as good as in others, but I like the larger role Fox plays and how the interactions between Alleyn and him are starting to become what I’m used to in the later ones. Alleyn’s “Watson” from the first two, Nigel Bathgate, is here again and his part is rather silly. I’m glad he’s being phased out.
The clues were definitely there to lead to the whodunnit, but I felt the motive was a little shaky.