Series: Roderick Alleyn #14
Published by Felony & Mayhem Press on December 15, 2012 (first published 1947)
Genres: Vintage Mystery
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Beautiful Troy Alleyn, artist wife of Inspector Alleyn, had been warned about the famed old Shakespearean actor, and his eccentric household. But she was not prepared for their acts of malice and mischief.
Now Sir Henry was dead, after a large and lethal birthday dinner of champagne and crayfish, and after changing his will in favor of his glamorous young fiancee. And Troy was suddenly star witness in one of her husband's most sensational cases to determine which of the flamboyant characters brought down the final curtain, and turned a drawing room farce into tragedy.
The Final Curtain has a lot of similarities to many of Marsh’s other mysteries. We’ve got a country house party. Inspector Alleyn doesn’t show up until about halfway through. We’ve got a young couple who are meant to be together but have difficulties in the way. We’ve got a tie to both art and the theater. But Marsh winds these bits together with a pretty terrible family and comes up with an enjoyable mystery that had me stumped.
WW 2 is over and Agatha Troy is waiting for her husband, Inspector Alleyn to return from New Zealand. To pass the last couple of weeks, she accepts a commission that takes her to Ancreton Manor to paint a portrait of Sir Henry Ancred, a famous Shakespearean actor in his Macbeth costume. The first half-ish of the book shows us the Ancred family from Troy’s point of view and they are overall a melodramatic, argumentative bunch, not people to enjoy spending time with. Then Sir Henry dies. The assumption at first is that it was from natural causes, but the whole thing just doesn’t feel right. And then the anonymous letters accusing the gold-digger fiancee show up and Alleyn, who is finally home, is put on the case.
As always, I enjoy Alleyn and his assistant, Fox. They are a perfect pair. Alleyn is a member of the upper class, and even though he doesn’t seem snobbish, those who are well-to-do consider him one of their own and confide in him differently than they would Fox for example. Fox is amazing at interviewing the servants, who accept him and give him tea and tell all their secrets with him barely asking any questions. They both make contributions, although Alleyn is always the one who manages to put it all together, with Fox usually a step or two behind.
We also see a lot of Troy in this one and her worries about how the relationship between herself and her husband may have changed during the three years he was away were well-done. Romantic relationships are not generally one of Marsh’s strong, but here I thought it added some nice background to the story and the era without dragging the book down.
While not entirely original, Final Curtain is a good read and Troy’s parts make it stand out from many in the series.