Series: Roderick Alleyn #30
Published by Felony & Mayhem Press on November 1, 2016 (first published January 1, 1978)
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A spa stay turns into a homicidal holiday...
A bit snobbish and a trifle high-strung, Sybil Foster prides herself on owning the finest estate in Upper Quintern and hiring the best gardener. In fact, she is rapturous over the new asparagus beds when a visit from her unwelcome stepson sends her scurrying to a chic spa for a rest cure, a liaison with the spa's director...and an apparent suicide. Her autopsy holds one surprise, a secret drawer a second. And Inspector Roderick Alleyn, C.I.D., digging about Upper Quintern, may unearth still a third...deeply buried motive for murder.
I’m running out of Ngaio Marsh books. 🙁
A Grave Mistake is one of the last of Marsh’s books. It was written in the late 70s but set earlier than that I think and still has the Golden Age feel that most of her stories do. We have a small English village, a beautifully maintained Georgian house owned by Sybil Foster, a rather snobbish, but attractive middle-aged widow who has recently hired a talented gardener. She has a daughter who is engaged, much to Sybil’s annoyance, to the son of a Greek millionaire instead of a man with a title. Sybil goes to a nearby hotel/spa for rest and maybe to secure the attentions of the doctor on staff. Of course, she ends up dead. At first, it’s considered suicide, but evidence soon points to murder, which is why Alleyn is called in.
Alleyn has Fox with him on this case, and I do enjoy the pair of them. They get along so well, and each has strengths that the other lacks, and together that can be pretty amusing. Marsh’s books are fun.
We’ve got plenty of motives, money being chief among them, and plenty of suspects, including the gardener, the doctor, the ne’er-do-well stepson, even the daughter’s future father-in-law. Marsh does a good job with the characters here. The secondary characters, whether they be eccentric or hard-working or duplicitous, are all vividly drawn.
The mystery had a few twists and turns. You can guess the killer early, but the Marsh has you looking so many other ways that you’re sure you’re wrong. The whodunnit was well-done, but I’m not so sure about the actual end of the book.