Clutch of Constables by Ngaio MarshClutch of Constables by Ngaio Marsh
Series: Roderick Alleyn #25
Published by Felony & Mayhem Press on May 1, 2015 (first published 1968)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 240
Format: eBook
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Five Days Out of Time

… that was how the ad had described the Zodiac cruise on the “weirdly misted” English river. The passengers were the usual, unusual lot: a couple of unpleasantly hygienic Americans, an aloof Ethiopian doctor, a snooping cleric with a wall-eye, an artist running away from her success…

But they were not all what they seemed.

For Inspector Alleyn knew that one of them was the faceless “Jampot”—the ruthless killer who could take on any personality, whose thumb was a deadly weapon. The problem was, which one?

Alleyn had five days to trap him, or the other passengers would pay with their lives—and one of those passengers was Alleyn’s wife!

This is the second boat mystery I’ve read recently. This one is a river cruise that Alleyn’s wife, Troy, has booked on a whim. David and I have talked before about doing a cruise on the Mississippi before and I started looking at options the other day, thinking that planning a vacation is always a good way to pass the time, especially when we’re all stuck inside. Looks like we could do a 5 day round trip in from New Orleans for between $2000-$3000 per person. I requested a brochure. We could plan one around Amber’s school schedule I think.

But, of course, the river cruise in Clutch of Constables includes a murder. All along, Troy has felt that something odd is going on. Granted, the folks on the ship are an unusual lot, as any random group of people in murder mysteries is, but even at that, she keeps getting strange feelings. I like Troy. She’s a well-known painter, smart, observant and her own person, not simply Alleyn’s wife. Her observations and feelings are given the weight they deserve.

The “Constables” of the title does not refer to police. At one point on the journey, Troy says “Oh, look! The place is swarming with Constables. Everywhere you look – a perfect clutch of them.” John Constable was a 19th-century painter who painted landscapes in the area.

By John Constable – Public Domain, Link

Alleyn gets involved in the case for two reasons. First, he fears his wife may be in danger. Second, there are some connections to an international all-around bad guy who the police of several countries and Interpol have been trying to get ahold of.

The mystery was good. Of course, there were some unlikely coincidences, but mystery novels are often built on those. Troy being on the boat with a killer in one of those. It is interesting that Alleyn is actually recounting the case as a lecture before an audience of young police officers still in training. The lecture is interspersed with the action, which is unusual. So in addition to the characters involved in the case, we also have those who are attending the lecture, especially one eager young man who seems to always have the answers.

The solution is well-done. I’m glad that the characters I liked weren’t involved, even though I did have my suspicions at times.

I do enjoy Marsh’s books. I only have a few left though, which is a bit sad.

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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