LJ's Reviews > Enter a Murderer

Enter a Murderer by Ngaio Marsh
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Apr 09, 2009

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bookshelves: england, female_author, golden_age_1918-1939, mystery, mysterybookclub, police_procedural

First Sentence: On May 25th Arthur Surbonadier, whose real name was Arthur Simes, went to visit his uncle, Jacob Saint, whose real name was Jacob Simes.

When Inspector Roderick Alleyn accepts an invitation to the theater from his friend, newspaper journalist Nigen Bathgate, he doesn’t expect to be witness to a murder. During a scene in the play, actors Arthur Surbonadier and Felix Gardner struggle over a gun.

The gun had been loaded by Arthur but, in the struggle, fired by Felix and Arthur dies. Unfortunately, the planned blanks were live and the stage death is real. The question is, was it murder or suicide? Who exchanged out the blanks?

It is a delight to read Ngaio Marsh right from the first page. It is a wonderful period; during the Industrial Revolution and between the wars. Police inspectors were highly educated; in this case an Oxford man. I always love the literary and historical references Alleyn uses in his conversations.

Even for the period, however, the dialogue does seem a bit stilted to me. I am always amused by Alleyn’s irreverence and apparent facetious manner. The lack of expletives is refreshing: “Props uttered a few well-chosen and highly illuminating words. “He was” were the only two of them that were printable.” I was also amused when a character would be mentioned but you were immediately advised that character was not germane to the story.

In today’s world, you would never find a detective using a journalist to do their investigative work but a confrontation between Alleyn and Bathgate was effective in legitimizing their working together.

It is plot that drove the story; who did it, how and why? It is a bit frustrating knowing that the author holds back information from the reader until the final confrontation.

ENTER A MURDERER (Pol. Proc-Insp. Roderick Alleyn-England-1930s) – G+
Marsh, Ngaio – 2nd in series
St. Martin’s Dead Letter, 1998, US Paperback – ISBN: 9780312966706


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