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Death in a White Tie by Ngaio Marsh

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Death in a White Tie by Ngaio Marsh Death in a White Tie by Ngaio Marsh
Series: Roderick Alleyn #7
Published by Felony & Mayhem Press on December 15, 2012 (first published 1938)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 329
Format: eBook
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Ah, the London Debutante Season: Giggles and tea-dances, white dresses and inappropriate romances. And much too much champagne. And, apparently, a blackmailer, which is where Inspector Roderick Alleyn comes in. The social whirl is decidedly not Alleyn’s environment, so he brings in an assistant in the form of Lord “Bunchy” Gospell, everybody’s favorite uncle. Bunchy is more than loveable; he’s also got some serious sleuthing skills. But before he can unmask the blackmailer, a murder is announced. And everyone suddenly stops giggling.

I love Marsh’s books. They tend to be decent puzzles and I adore the characters. In Death in a White Tie we have a glimpse of upper society London, with it’s gossip and cruelty and caring too. Some of the characters are quite self-important, but other realize how amusing it all can be. Bunchy, the victim, is someone we as the readers actually like, someone who enjoyed the season, but who understood it’s underside too. We’ve gotten to know him before he’s killed and are genuinely sad, although not surprised, when he’s dead one.

Alleyn is determined to find the killer and sure that it’s connected to the blackmailing. Alleyn is a little tough on some of the spoiled brats young people he interviews – which is good. The clues all tie together well in the end and the whodunnit was actually a bit surprising.

One of the highlights of this particular book is the developing relationship between Alleyn and Agatha Troy. I’ve been reading these out of order, picking up some at used bookstores and some on audio or my Kindle, but it’s still interesting to see the attraction between them in the early part of their acquaintance. I do wish Alleyn hadn’t been quite so over the moon though.

The dialogue is wonderful, witty and amusing. The descriptions are well done and even though there are a lot of characters, we get to know them pretty well. The plot was well done with enough red herrings to keep things interesting. I don’t feel like we were kept in the dark much this time. Sometimes Alleyn keeps things he notices from the rest of us, but I think for the most part in this one, we knew what Alleyn knew, although I for one didn’t put it together. Death in a White Tie is probably over all one of the best in the series.

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.

Tied Up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh

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Tied Up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh Tied Up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh
Narrator: James Saxon
Series: Roderick Alleyn #27
Published by Hachette Audio UK on October 1, 2015 (first published 1970)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery, Christmas
Length: 7 hrs 20 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Christmastime in an isolated country house and, following a flaming row in the kitchen, there’s murder inside.

When a much disliked visiting servant disappears without trace after playing Santa Claus, foul play is at once suspected - and foul play it proves to be. Only suspicion falls not on the staff but on the guests, all so unimpeachably respectable that the very thought of murder in connection with any of them seems almost heresy.

When Superintendent Roderick Alleyn returns unexpectedly from a trip to Australia, it is to find his beloved wife in the thick of an intriguing mystery....

As is often the case, Marsh spends a lot of time with the set-up and introducing the characters. This time around, we have a country house murder committed at Christmas. We spend the first half or so of the book meeting all the folks who are spending the holidays at the home. The owner of the house, Hillary Bill-Tasman, is having his portrait painted by Agatha Troy a well-known artist who also just so happens to be the wife of Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn. The house is full of eccentric guests, including the fiancée, Cressida, whose character is the only one that really screams 60s/70s to me. If it weren’t for her, it could have been set in the 30s, which might have been a bit more fitting overall. There’s Uncle ‘Flea’ and Aunt ‘Bed’, a gruff old Colonel and his wife who arrive with a devoted manservant. All of the other servants are convicted, but paroled, murderers. On Christmas Eve there is a traditional and extravagant entertainment planned for the village children. Uncle Flea dresses up, not as Father Christmas, but as a Druid to distribute the presents. And, of course, the unplanned part of the entertainment is a murder and Alleyn, happily, has just come home from Australia and decides to join his wife. Naturally, he eventually takes charge of the investigation, aided by Inspector Fox.

Tied Up in Tinsel is kind of like spending the holidays with old friends. I always enjoy Marsh’s books, even more so when Troy puts in an appearance. I think part of the reason is that she does spend so much time introducing the characters. The plot itself here is actually pretty good. Often, we don’t know what Alleyn’s thinking or what clues he finds, but this time around I feel like the reader actually got a sporting chance at solving the mystery. I didn’t guess who dunnit, but I don’t usually try.

Saxon did a good job with the narration over all. He managed to make the characters eccentric and slightly ridiculous without pushing them over in to the roll your eyes, unbelievable area. My one complaint is with his rendering of Cressida. She sounded just a little too manly for me and out of place.\

I’m thrilled with the recent republishing of Marsh’ mysteries as Kindle books and on Audible. It makes it so much easier to get my fix than having to search through used book stores, even if that’s still how I prefer them – old musty paperbacks.

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.

Killer Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh

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Killer Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh Killer Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh
Series: Roderick Alleyn #24
Published by Felony & Mayhem Press on February 15, 2015 (first published 1966)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 235
Format: eBook
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At the newly restored Dolphin Theatre, murder takes center stage.

The once-dilapidated Dolphin Theater, now restored to its former glory, is open again—and all of London is buzzing about its new play, The Glove, inspired by the discovery of a genuine Shakespearean glove. But on one unfortunate evening, the Dolphin opens its doors to the harshest critic of all: death. Now Superintendent Roderick Alleyn must find out who stole the scene with a most murderous act.

Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn books are comfort reads for me. When I’m tired or grouchy or don’t know what I feel like reading, I pick one up. Whenever I see one at a used bookstore I pick it up, but I’m thrilled that they’ve published a bunch for the Kindle.

This one opens with an odd set of circumstances that ends with Peregrine Jay restoring the Dolphin Theater and the opening production is his original play, The Glove, with the Shakespearean glove itself on display. The first half of the book lets us peak backstage. We meet the various actors, witness their petty feuds and jealousies. I enjoy this part of Marsh’s books in general, the characters are always fun, sometimes stereotypical, but she always pulls together great casts. And of course, you’re wondering who’s going to die, because someone is.

The second half of the book deals with Alleyn’s investigation, which consists of lots of interviews and some clue-searching. I really like Alleyn, he’s smart, classy, but a truly nice guy too. He doesn’t have all of the “issues” that most leading detectives seem to have these days. And actually in this one we get most of the clues; I just didn’t put them together.

It’s an enjoyable mystery and I like the glimpse of the theater, fictional though it may be. It’s a fun read, not great, but just what I was looking for.

Peregrine Jay shows up again in Light Thickens, which I read earlier this year. It also centers around a death in the theater and Shakespeare. He doesn’t have the best luck for a director.

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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