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Clutch of Constables

(Roderick Alleyn #25)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  4,043 ratings  ·  150 reviews
Five Days Out of Time

… that was how the ad had described the Zodiac cruise on the “weirdly misted” English river. The passengers were the usual, unusual lot: a couple of unpleasantly hygienic Americans, an aloof Ethiopian doctor, a snooping cleric with a wall-eye, an artist running away from her success…

But they were not all what they seemed.

For Inspector Alleyn knew that
Mass Market Paperback, 256 pages
Published 2000 by HarperCollins (first published 1968)
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Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
This is book 25 of the Inspector Alleyn mysteries and a revisit for me. This is told somewhat differently than the other Roderick Alleyn books I’ve read so far, starting with Alleyn recounting a case in which his wife Troy became unwittingly involved. The setting is a river cruise that Troy decides to take at the spur of the moment wanting to get away from things for a bit since she has just had her one-man show, and her husband and son are both away. Aboard the board, she feels things are amiss ...more
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the 25th Roderick Alleyn mystery, first published in 1968. I have been reading through the entire Alleyn series, and I think that Marsh had a sort of second wind in the Sixties.

This book sees Agatha Troy, Alleyn’s wife, on her own, with both Alleyn and their son away. Having just been working on her latest show (Troy, for those who are not aware of the series, is an artist) she comes across a five day cruise on the River Trent and decides, impulsively, to go. There are, of course, a mixe
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another very satisfying read, so I am feeling lucky. Next visit to my library I will grab a couple more of these books and see what happens. Two in a row now that I have really enjoyed. I don't know if Tory, the artist wife of Alleyn plays a large role in many (or all?) of these books, but this book again starts out featuring her (as happened in Tied up in Tinsel).

She has just finished up exhibits of her work and the social obligations that go with that activity, her husband is away from home w
This is one of my favorite books in an excellent series. I enjoy the way Marsh keeps both Troy and Roderick in the story though they are separated for much of the novel. I also like the frame of Alleyn teaching this to policemen in a class. I think creating a murder during a houseboat vacation is very clever - it's a twist on the usual isolated country house. And all of the characters are well drawn and quite interesting. In addition, the mystery is genuinely mysterious, as are most of Marsh's s ...more
Aug 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
The greatest mystery: why was the body moved (in such a bizarre way)remains unsolved. Unforgivable.
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Inspector Alleyn hears about the case from America, through Troy's letters of her riverboat excursion, and eventually turns up to finish up the plot of forgery, stolen identity, and murder. The art theme and inclusion of Troy as a mover in the plot was a good addition. ...more
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I can always rely on a Ngaio Marsh novel. Her writing is just so spot on, light but not frivolous, entertaining and smart. I love Alleyn & Troy's relationship. ...more
Feb 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interestingly, the structure of the story is told through a series of lectures that inspector Alleyn is giving in the United States at a police training seminar. Troy wrote some of letters to him while she was on a 5-day cruise in 'Constable' country in the east of England. Alleyn quotes from them during his lecture.

Excerpt from a letter - Ramsdyke. An incident. We were all on deck and the lock people and our Tom were doing their things with paddles and gates and all, and I noticed on the far b
Constables refers to paintings by the very real painter John Constable. Agatha Alleyn, aka Troy, gets a last minute berth on a river cruise in England while her husband is touring the States. Various odd things are going on, which Roderick is writing to her husband when one of the passengers goes missing, and she fears this woman has been murdered.

This is my first time reading anything by Kiwi writer Ngaio Marsh and since it is the 25th book featuring Mrs. Alleyn, I didn't realize at first that
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
Maybe even 4.5*

One aspect of this entry in the Alleyn series that I particularly enjoyed was the involvement of Troy. Her presence was especially fun as the case involved the discovery of a possible unknown painting by Constable.

Another unusual aspect was the way the story was told in alternating points of view: Troy as she experienced the events and Alleyn at some future time recounting the case to a class at the police college.
Jan 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mine, 2010, crime-mystery
I wasn't expecting much from this as I hated the only other Ngaio Marsh book I've read (Death at the Dolphin), and chose to read it only so that I could get rid of it and clear a space on my shelves. That backfired though, because I found it pretty compelling. It was good enough that I think I'll have to borrow my sister's Ngaio Marsh collection. ...more
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-series
1. A five day river cruise and the passengers, excluding Agatha Troy Alleyn of course (and I'm right that her name is an homage to Mrs. Christie, correct?) are our suspects. Perfect, and different, setting.

2. Troy. I'm going to be honest. I didn't understand Alleyn's attraction to her. Yes, she's a famous painter, and I appreciate that, but that isn't what Roderick loves about her, and I guess that in their two "courting" books, I just never got it. And I still am not sure I do. She's a good, u
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
in Clutch of Constables by Ngaio Marsh, the greatest painter in England, Agatha Troy Alleyn, has been at a show of her artwork in Northumberland when she spots a sign at a travel agency that a single cabin on the river cruiser M.V. Zodiac is suddenly available. So on impulse, she takes the berth, transporting her into a big adventure. With her husband, Chief Superintendent Roderick Alleyn, traveling in America on Scotland Yard business, Troy sets off to get to know her fellow passengers and conv ...more
Alan Teder
Troy & Alleyn hunt a Con Man / Murderer
Review of the Fontana paperback edition (1977) of the 1968 original

Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn's artist wife Agatha Troy is the main lead for most of this book when she takes a last minute river cruise to relax after one of her art exhibitions. Alleyn is away in America but Troy is writing to him regularly (actually the most unbelievable part of the book is how fast the mail seems to have traveled in those days). Events on the boat cruise take a dark tu
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good to the Last Page, in my opinion. This is the second time I had read it, but did not remember much of it. Enjoyable and found out Inspector Fox's nickname is Teddy. First time I even knew his first name was Edward, I think. ...more
John Beckett
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ngaio-marsh
The construct of this book is very different from her others. The setting is on a river boat - with nothing to do with the theater. The protagonist is Troy for the first two-thirds of the book before the police take over. I found it to be refreshing.
Laurel Hicks
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In which Alleyn’s famous wife, Troy, stars.
Terence Manleigh
Terrific fun, with echoes of classic early Hitchcock throughout.
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want proof of NM's fundamental cruelty, you have only to witness her treatment of that most loathsome of objects -- a person with a head cold.

Dorothy Sayers could be equally unsparing, but in general, her impartial catalogs of human frailty make her readers feel compassion, rather than embarrassed contempt. Her pitiless recitation of weaknesses -- petty flaws, awkward moments, hypocrisies, gaffes, people exposing themselves so dreadfully -- has the affect of making those people seem worth
Sep 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: re-reading
It’s a very long time since I last read a book by Ngaio Marsh. My mother suggested I try Agatha Christie when I moved up from the junior library and a while later, when I’d brought home pretty much every book by Agatha Christie that the library had, she suggested that I might like Ngaio Marsh. I did, and again I brought home all of her books that the library could offer over a period of time. But I haven’t read anything that she wrote since.

The books didn’t call me back. But a couple of weeks ag
Simon Mcleish
Apr 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in May 1999.

Instead of the cruise liner so beloved by crime writers, Clutch of Constables takes place on a small riverboat cruise, on a river described rather vaguely as 'in the north country' and in 'the fens'. Troy Alleyn, exhausted at the end of a successful one man show, takes a cancelled berth on this trip, while her husband is in the States at a criminological conference.

When her letter telling him this reaches him - the post to San Francisco must have
Rog Harrison
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
I read this as part of an omnibus which also included "When in Rome" and "Tied up in tinsel". This was first published in 1968 so I probably first read it sometime in the early 1970s. This is a pretty silly story where Troy Alleyn goes on a short cruise on a river (possibly in south Yorkshire?) and one of the other passengers is an international criminal! One of the other passengers disappears and the main part of the book is which of the small cast of characters is the criminal. At the end Chie ...more
Jj Li
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I actually really like this one. First of all, there was Troy, who I always enjoy, and because I know she's already happily married to our star detective, I won't have to deal with any idiocies with young lovers. Secondly, it was a fascinating treatment of racial relations (note that this one first came out the year MLK was assassinated, several years after the start of the civil rights movement). Thirdly - all the red herrings! Are they really red herrings? Who is the guilty party? Satisfying s ...more
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have a real fondness for this series. Have no memory of which ones I've read before, and it's certainly been decades since I'd read any, but have recently read several and have found them all enjoyable. Troy, Alleyn's wife takes a riverboat cruise on her own and, of course, becomes embroiled in a mysterious death. The writing's good, and while the series was written over the course of nearly fifty years, I think they hold up pretty well. ...more
Oct 23, 2011 rated it liked it
is this my favorite Marsh? no, i guess it's not totally better than the ones with more of the Troy/Roderick interchanges.

somehow Marsh still fooled me with all the info and red herrings. i still couldn't see who was the bad guy even with only 2 choices left.

well-told, great setting, fabulous mystery!
May 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
I've come to expect a lot from Ngaio Marsh and I'm rarely disappointed. This novel, however, failed to deliver the goods. The outcome was predictable (that's saying a lot because I'm usually blindsided), while there were still several questions and loose ends remaining after the last page was turned. ...more
Claire Jones
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love this book so much. I keep reading it again on the vain hope that it's a different murderer because I really like the murderer! ...more
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I enjoy this book every time I re-read it. Probably because Troy Alleyn is one of the major characters and I always enjoy the books that she is in. With husband and son both away, Troy is killing time waiting for the London train when she sees a notice of a last-minute cancellation on a 5 day river/canal boat cruise. On impulse she takes it, and meets the rest of the mixed bag of passengers as they wait for the boat, the Zodiac, to arrive. The chapters alternate between Inspector Alleyn addressi ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the setting for this story. Troy decides, on the spur of the moment, to take a last-minute booking on a short river cruise. She gradually gets to know her fellow passengers and there seems to be something slightly suspicious going on. Interspersed with her story are short sections where her husband, Detective Alleyn, is retrospectively explaining the case to some young police officers. This is an unusual set up and I liked it.

The descriptions of the boat and the surrounding area were e
Bruno Noble
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
I am pleased to have - finally - got around to reading Miss Marsh. Enid Blyton, Capt. WE Johns (Biggles!), the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, John Buchan, Hammond Innes, Alistair MacLean, Agatha Christie… Ngaio Marsh simply seems next on line, despite a gap of decades. Formula fare: a murder (or two), a mystery (or several), an exotic location (or an unusual one), a cast of suspects and a sprinkling of clues all stirred by an intrepid and intelligent detective. Much fun but... “Life’s too shor ...more
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Dame Ngaio Marsh, born Edith Ngaio Marsh, was a New Zealand crime writer and theatre director. There is some uncertainty over her birth date as her father neglected to register her birth until 1900, but she was born in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand.

Of all the "Great Ladies" of the English mystery's golden age, including Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh

Other books in the series

Roderick Alleyn (1 - 10 of 33 books)
  • A Man Lay Dead (Roderick Alleyn #1)
  • Enter a Murderer (Roderick Alleyn, #2)
  • The Nursing Home Murder (Roderick Alleyn, #3)
  • Death in Ecstasy (Roderick Alleyn, #4)
  • Vintage Murder (Roderick Alleyn, #5)
  • Artists in Crime (Roderick Alleyn #6)
  • Death in a White Tie (Roderick Alleyn, #7)
  • Overture to Death (Roderick Alleyn #8)
  • Death at the Bar (Roderick Alleyn, #9)
  • Death of a Peer (Roderick Alleyn #10)

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