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Spinsters in Jeopardy (Roderick Alleyn #17)
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Ngaio Marsh Buddy Reads > Spinsters in Jeopardy (1953) (aka The Bride of Death) by Ngaio Marsh - SPOILER Thread

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Susan | 9308 comments Mod
Our May Challenge Title is Spinsters in Jeopardy (1953) (aka The Bride of Death) by Ngaio Marsh, the 17th Roderick Alleyn mystery.

Inspector Alleyn has decamped for the South of France for a family vacation. Well, that and a little official poking around. Unfortunately, the object of his poking the cult-ish denizens of a sinister and luxurious chateau are not fond of being poked, and they have a particularly unpleasant way of getting their point across. More a thriller than a whodunit, this is a fresh take for Marsh, while retaining the cleverness and vivid characterizations that her fans demand.

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.


message 2: by Jill (last edited Apr 30, 2019 06:45AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1812 comments Well, this book certainly broke away from the others books we have read of Marsh's. We get "gangs" kidnapping, drugs and a religious cult. Allyen decides to take his family with him to France, where he will be working undercover for MI5. Right from the start they are pulled into the affairs of the gang he has been sent to investigate.
I thought the kidnapping was dealt with pretty poorly. At first the parents acted as you would think they would, but then they seemed to be very casual about it. The whole book I felt, was very akin to a comic hero book.
Had to laugh at the doctor on the train being dressed like Poirot.
And what was all that "slewing " going on. Eyes, people, all slewed!


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8318 comments Mod
Ooh, I don't think I'd noticed the doctor being dressed like Poirot, Jill. Is Poirot actually mentioned?! And the slewed eyes had also passed me by!


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1812 comments The doctor was described as a small man , pinstriped trousers, patent shoes , and I think a waxed mustache. Doubt if I could find it now


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8318 comments Mod
Thanks, that certainly seems to fit the bill!


message 6: by Sandy (last edited Apr 30, 2019 12:50PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sandy | 2499 comments Mod
I just returned my book to the library so can't look up the description but I noticed the Poirot similiarity and assumed it was intentional. I'm pretty sure Poirot wasn't mentioned.

Didn't notice 'slewed'.


Lesley | 383 comments The Poirot similarity registered with me as well. Also I had a feeling of déjà vu with the incident on the train - 4:50 from Paddington?


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1812 comments Yes I checked on that and apparently this was published in 1953 and the 4:50 was 1957. So Marsh got there first.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8318 comments Mod
Yes, I thought the same, checked and found that Marsh did this first! Must be annoying for an author if you think of something and then somebody else comes up with a similar twist which becomes far more famous. Although maybe someone else did it even earlier?


message 10: by Bicky (new) - rated it 1 star

Bicky | 332 comments I thought that the only clever part of the book was the the title Spinsters in Jeopardy. Of course, Bride of Death is a ridiculous title.

So the kidnapping was meant only to ensure that the body was not identified as not true?


Louise Culmer | 106 comments Lesley wrote: "The Poirot similarity registered with me as well. Also I had a feeling of déjà vu with the incident on the train - 4:50 from Paddington?"

Even earlier in the Deanna Durbin film Lady on a Train (1945)


Louise Culmer | 106 comments I'm not particularly keen on this one, it is an absurdly melodramatic story, and all those long descriptions of esoteric rituals are very tedious. I like Raoul and Therese though, they are amusing. And I would like one of those luminous goats.


message 13: by Rosina (new)

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 630 comments Louise wrote: "I'm not particularly keen on this one, it is an absurdly melodramatic story, and all those long descriptions of esoteric rituals are very tedious. I like Raoul and Therese though, they are amusing...."

The luminous ghost is about the only thing I can remember. And I must have read it at a very early age, because my memory of it seems to predate learning the relevant French, (Il s'illume?). And I started learning French in the first year of secondary school.

I'm not sure if I ever re-read it ...


message 14: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8318 comments Mod
This is a link to my review:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Looking back at what I wrote, I see I noticed some similarity between the depiction of the religious cult here and in Death in Ecstasy - both seem pretty unrealistic to me, though I have no personal knowledge of such cults, and they do give Marsh scope for some theatrical-type sequences.


message 15: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8318 comments Mod
Louise wrote: "I'm not particularly keen on this one, it is an absurdly melodramatic story, and all those long descriptions of esoteric rituals are very tedious. I like Raoul and Therese though, they are amusing...."

I liked Raoul and Therese too, but wasn't so sure about the way they talk, with French idioms often translated word for word into English!


message 16: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8318 comments Mod
A lot of the reviews of this one criticise the unrealistic portrayal of drugs, specifically pot - this seems to be a problem in quite a few GA novels! I suppose at least Marsh was addressing the issue, but it isn’t very convincing - then again, nor is the whole cult aspect’


Sandy | 2499 comments Mod
One of the books we (or I) read recently implied the addict could simply be sent to 'dry out' and all would then be well. I think society knows much more about drug addiction today.


message 18: by Bicky (new) - rated it 1 star

Bicky | 332 comments Of course, her portrayal of pot smoking is hilariously reminiscent of "Reefer Madness". But, then such views were still being manifested in thrillers and police procedurals even decades later.

I just wonder how much of the drug world she encountered in the theatre.

Because of the Reagan era drug wars, India illegalized various forms of cannabis in the 80s. Then, the only sure place to obtain pot was the temple because it was an essential part of the way of life of various religious orders - whom the government dared not touch.

Otherwise India had a long history of cannabis consumption, especially during a particular festival - Holi. Because of the ban and modernization, the cannabis consumption was replaced by alcohol - this was not an improvement, as this festival included a lot of teasing between males and females. Definitely worse, when the men are drunk as compared to stoned.


Jemima Ravenclaw (jemimaravenclaw) | 79 comments Spinsters in Jeopardy (Roderick Alleyn #17) Spinsters in Jeopardy by Ngaio Marsh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Spinsters in Jeopardy tells the story of the time Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn chose to take his wife and six year old son on holiday to provincial France to visit a family connection and combine it with his work, required by Scotland Yard, to assist the Sûreté in investigations of a notorious gang dealing in and manufacturing drugs in the region. This slightly improbable plot device certainly calls into question the mental stability of said DCI and results, not unsurprisingly, in the perilous predicament he falls into when the two purposes of his visit intertwine disastrously.

The story is quite fantastic and has both the hallucinatory and psychedelic qualities of the avant garde paintings, produced by one of the characters and the effects of smoking marijuana, as favoured by central members of the bizarre religious cult, whose characters people the fantastic, castle-fortress, mountain setting. More of a spy thriller than the more usual detective procedural, Spinsters in Jeopardy was not my favourite of Ngaio Marsh's works. There were some shining moments, however, in the midst of the gritty unreality.

I really enjoyed the family interactions between Alleyn and his wife Troy and their precocious son, Ricky (comically Ricketts to his French police acquaintances). Troy really shone as the one point of honest realism in this story and it was a pleasure to get to know her better. Ricky was too good to be true, however there were some moments of pure pleasure in his artless childish narratives. I laughed when he told his Dad that he was
"Fizzily and motionly sauceted"
...I might have to steal that one.... and I loved his reaction to the reconciliation between Teresa and her swain, Raoul:

'Teresa wound her arm around Raoul's neck. "Je t'adore," she crooned.
"Oh gosh!" said Ricky and shut his eyes.'



The comedy duo of Raoul and Teresa were also lovely to read and were a breath of fresh air in the midst of all of the other murky descriptions of obscene cult diversions, which Alleyn (and therefore we) are forced to explore, in order to get to the bottom (pun intended) of a very complex who done it.



View all my reviews


message 20: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8318 comments Mod
Great review, Jemima.


Jemima Ravenclaw (jemimaravenclaw) | 79 comments Judy wrote: "Great review, Jemima."

Thanks Judy. I enjoyed reading yours too.


Tara  | 740 comments I also enjoyed the brief Poirot reference on the train, it was cleverly done. I was under the impression what they were smoking was laced with stronger substances, but perhaps it was just a novice's understanding of the influence of drugs. The best part for me was the character of Raoul, who, although nothing like our reliable Fox, made a good counterpoint to Alleyn, and really was the whole key to the caper being pulled off.
I wonder if cults were a real trouble in her time, or just a common trope used in mystery stories? They seem ridiculous, but I suspect the theatricality of their rituals and beliefs are what draw people in in the first place.


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