Artists in Crime

Ngaio Marsh’s Detective Alleyn books have become almost a fall back for me. When nothing else is grabbing my attention, when I’m not sure what I want to read or listen to, I know that I’ll enjoy her mysteries, they won’t be too long and they’ll be fairly clever. I’m reading/listening to the series out of order, but I was especially looking forward to Artists in Crime, where Alleyn meets his future wife, painter Agatha Troy.

This time around the murder occurs at Troy’s house. She is an artist, but also an instructor and has several students, mostly painters and one sculptor, staying at her home and studying with her. The dead woman is the class model, killed while getting in position by a dagger hidden in the drapery she lays down on. The model is a difficult woman and most, if not all, of the students have a reason for wanting her dead.

Marsh does a wonderful job, as always, of giving motives to each of her rather quirky suspects, and parceling out the clues but in a way that they are easily missed, allowing her to lead us down the wrong path right until the twist at the end. For me though, the highlight here was the interactions between Troy and Alleyn, the tension, the misunderstandings, and Alleyn’s trying to keep his feelings seperate from the case. Troy is, after all, a suspect. The blooming romance is a good edition, it doesn’t take over the story, just complicates things a little, at least for Alleyn.

The book was first published in 1938 and it feels like that, but I enjoy vintage mysteries. I like the style, the era, the phrases. I think this may be one of my favorite of Marsh’s books, probably because of Alleyn and Troy. I also liked all the artists, each with their own personalities, secrets, loves. It’s a good cast and fits well with the returning characters.

I think this would be a fine first Marsh read if you’re not against reading series out of order. We get a good feeling for who Alleyn is and most of the major players are included, like Alleyn’s mom, a great woman, and his partner Fox, who makes a wonderful contrast to Alleyn himself. It’s a pleasure to read, well actually to listen to in my case.

4 out of 5 stars

Category: Mystery- Police Procedural

Amazon | IndieBound

Roderick Alleyn #6
First published 1938
9 hours 2 minutes
Narrated by Nadia May

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


  • It’s great to meet a fellow Ngaio Marsh fan, Carol. In a burst of literary enthusiasm, I read most of her books in one fell swoop a while back. Re-read them, actually, since I hadn’t picked up a Marsh book in many years. Boy, am I glad I did. What took me so long?

    I am currently re-reading SINGING IN THE SHROUDS during lunch and while it’s not topnotch Marsh, it’s quite good enough.

    I have fall-back books too. Mine are Marsh, Agatha Christie and Rex Stout. Don’t know what I’d do without ’em. 🙂

    • I didn’t discover Marsh until last year. I don’t know how I missed her. I listened to Singing in the Shrouds a while ago and didn’t love it, but not every one can be a winner.

      I love Agatha Christie too, although it’s been a while since I’ve read one of hers.

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