In Scales of Justice, Marsh takes a calm little town, throws in a murder, and exposes the dark corners of everyone’s closets. It’s an enjoyable whodunnit. By the way, think fish scales when you read the title. It reminds me of the titles of many of today’s cozies, with their play on words and puns.

Swevenings is picturesque village where the upper class may be a little snobbish and eccentric, but overall it’s a pleasant place, no scandal, no black spots. Well, that is until Colonel Cartarette is murdered, his body found lying beside the peaceful trout stream. Inspector Roderick Alleyn is called in to investigate, and all the residents’ secrets, jealousies, and past indiscretions come out. And they are quite a mixed group, from the widower with too many cats to the older, heavy-set woman who enjoys painting. There’s also a young couple quite obviously falling in love, as often appears in Mash’s mysteries.

First of all, I have to say I loved how Marsh framed this mystery. We start with the travelling nurse surveying the town, picturing it as hand-drawn map, complete with people doing their usual things. And we end with the same nurse looking a map that was painted for her, even though there had to be some corrections made due to the death and its consequences. It’s a well-thought out book, not just in the clues, but the whole structure, which I appreciated.

Inspector Alleyn is at his best in this one. He and Fox are on the case immediately, thanks in part to a call from one of the local gentry. I love how they interact with each other, and in this one I felt like I got to know Fox a little better than I had. He’s a good man. Marsh, as alwyas, lets us see all the clues just as Alleyn does, but throught the book, I felt like he still knew more than I did, had already put everything together while I was still in the dark.

A lot of the plot revolves around class. Though the upper class exists, we feel like they are not held uup on the pedestal that they had once been, but in the end convention holds true, which is slightly disappointing. On the other hand, the most likeable of the townsfolk is the village nurse, who still does see the rich as above her, as unimpeachable, at least most of the time.

Overall, I have really come to enjoy Ngaio Marsh’s books, and this one is a good example of her work. It can certainly stand alone. Alley and Fox are recurring characters, but each mystery is new, beginning to end.

I should have mentioned that I listened to this on audio, as I have all of her series so far. They’re simple enough to follow easily and fun enough to keep my attention.

4 out of 5 stars

Category: Mystery- Police Procedural

Amazon | IndieBound

Roderick Alleyn #18
First published 1956
8 hours 8 minutes
Narrated by Nadia May

March Mystery Madness is hosted by Christina at Reading Thru the Night.

Book source: Library

Roderick Alleyn Series

  1. A Man Lay Dead
  2. Enter a Murderer
  3. The Nursing-Home Murder
  4. Death in Ecstasy
  5. Vintage Murder
  6. Artists in Crime
  7. Death in a White Tie
  8. Overture to Death
  9. Death at the Bar
  10. Death of a Peer (APA: Surfeit of Lampreys )
  11. Death and the Dancing Footman
  12. Colour Scheme
  13. Died in the Wool
  14. Final Curtain
  15. A Wreath for Rivera (APA: Swing, Brother, Swing)
  16. Night at the Vulcan (APA: Opening Night)
  17. Spinsters in Jeopardy (APA: The Bride of Death )
  18. Scales of Justice
  19. Death of a Fool (APA: Off with His Head)
  20. Singing in the Shrouds
  21. False Scent
  22. Hand in Glove
  23. Dead Water
  24. Killer Dolphin (APA: Death at the Dolphin)
  25. Clutch of Constables
  26. When in Rome
  27. Tied Up in Tinsel
  28. Black as He’s Painted
  29. Last Ditch
  30. Grave Mistake
  31. Photo Finish
  32. Light Thickens


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