July 19, 2003

Death of a Peer, by Ngaio Marsh

If I were going to give this review a title it would be "Eating Crow and Liking It!" I have previously given a Ngaio Marsh mystery a pretty tepid review and was gently chided by Will. Since I have been reading Will's reviews for a couple years and comparing notes on the books we both have read, I have found him normally spot on when it comes to matching my taste. There's been a few glitches. I'm not too keen on the Aubrey/Maturin series and some of the sci-fi I donít find terribly compelling but mysteries he's pretty good at hitting right on the note. Now do I just quietly agree to disagree or do I go back and give Marsh another shot, perhaps finding a prolific writer I enjoy and then having to fess up? I'm not particularly proud. I can fess up.

I liked this one!

From what I can tell, Death of a Peer follows Marsh's general technique of creating a cast of eccentric characters, tossing a murder in their midst and then bringing in Inspector Alleyn to figure who did what and when. There is always a reference or two or three to New Zealand and this one also had references to Mac Beth as well. It's almost as if she's writing prose plays using a cast and one or two sets where most of the action takes place.

This novel concerns the Lamphreys, a family of gaily kooky aristocrats who are constantly short of money and never bothered by it. They have invited a young friend from New Zealand to spend a few weeks with them in their London flat. Business has gone bad for the father of the family, the money is running out and he asks his brother, the heir to the family wealth and a distinctly unlovable man, for a loan to tide them over. The brother comes and after a heated argument, leaves, only to be found in the lift with a meat skewer thru his eyeball. His wife is hysterical and also dabbling at witchcraft, the servants are fiercly loyal to their master and mistress and no one saw or heard anything. Inspector Alleyn must sort out who did what when, who saw what when and how many others besides the father of the family had motive to kill the icky old man.

What's interesting is that she gives you the whole scenario. You see all the action played out and then you get to watch Alleyn and his sidekick, Fox, replay it finding the important clues along the way ruling out suspects, finding multiple folks with motives and ultimately making the correct decision on who did it.

So, crow pie for me tonight after a first course of hasty pudding. MmmmÖ..tastes good, too.

Posted by Deb English at July 19, 2003 08:30 PM