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Last Ditch (Roderick Alleyn, #29)
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Ngaio Marsh Buddy Reads > Last Ditch - SPOILER Thread

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Susan | 10038 comments Mod
Welcome to our buddy read of "Last Ditch," the 29th Roderick Alleyn mystery, published in 1976.

This novel features the son of Alleyn and Troy, Rickie, who we last met as a child. He visits the Channel Islands to write, but then comes across a stablehand, dead in a ditch - the victim of an unlucky jump?

It might have ended there had Rickie not noticed some strange and puzzling things. But Rickie’s father, Chief Superintendent Roderick Alleyn, had been discreetly summoned to the scene, and when Rickie disappeared, it was the last straw…

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.


Susan | 10038 comments Mod
I haven't finished this yet, but I am interested that there is a hint that Alleyn, Jr. may be interested in police work. Wonder whether Ngaio Marsh was considering a spin-off series?


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8979 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "I haven't finished this yet, but I am interested that there is a hint that Alleyn, Jr. may be interested in police work. Wonder whether Ngaio Marsh was considering a spin-off series?"

Yes, I noticed that as well, Susan - Rory has tried to keep Ricky away from police work, but it seems the family talent has been passed on anyway!

I will be interested to see if Ricky turns up any more in the last books in the series.


Susan | 10038 comments Mod
Yes. I forgot that Fox was his godfather and like the way he is so sweet and encouraging. Could there be a nicer godfather than Foxkins? Plus, think of the free French lessons ;)


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8979 comments Mod
I slightly imagine that Fox speaks French with an Edward Heath type accent;)


Susan | 10038 comments Mod
That is an image I will never rid myself of now!


Tracey | 254 comments Carlotta tells Alleyn that her maiden name was Lamprey. Was she one of the children in the Surfeit of Lampreys or is she a previously unheard of relative?


message 8: by Judy (last edited May 23, 2020 01:57PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8979 comments Mod
I think Carlotta is probably a previously unheard of relative, Tracey - I just looked at the list of characters at the start of Surfeit of Lampreys and there isn't a Carlotta in the list. Thanks for mentioning this, I had forgotten about the intriguing mention!


Tracey | 254 comments Thank you for checking Judy. As we've been reading them in succession, I'd not realised until now, that there were 37 years between those books being published. Will we see Alleyn and Fox making plans for retirement soon?


Susan | 10038 comments Mod
There are only a few books to go now. I has been a long trek to the end of this series, but both Alleyn and Fox seem to be quite capable still. Alleyn is still charming the ladies, certainly!


message 11: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8979 comments Mod
I think it was mentioned earlier in one of the discussions that they don't seem to have aged in real time, or Fox would almost certainly have been retired by now!


message 12: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8979 comments Mod
What did you all think of the ending to this one? I was disappointed that it all turned out to be about drugs yet again.

Marsh seems to have been obsessed with the topic in these later books, but I feel she doesn't actually write about it very well, as with the other GA writers. They are all much better on human relationships and more interesting skeletons in the closet! I was hoping for one or two surprising twists.


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 769 comments Judy wrote: "What did you all think of the ending to this one? I was disappointed that it all turned out to be about drugs yet again.

Marsh seems to have been obsessed with the topic in these later books, but..."


Marsh used to be a favourite, when I first read them in the 60s and 70s, preferred to Christie, but on re-reading them I find that they have aged badly. I am more aware of the unpleasantness of her characters (particularly the middle aged women and the lower classes ...) and the tweeness of the nicknames (like Foxkin ...), and Handsome Alleyn. I prefer the stylised Poirots these days, where, as you say, it's the human relationships rather than drugs that drive the crime.


Sandy | 2796 comments Mod
Tracey wrote: "Thank you for checking Judy. As we've been reading them in succession, I'd not realised until now, that there were 37 years between those books being published. Will we see Alleyn and Fox making pl..."

I hadn't realized that much real time had elapsed either. Maybe Carlotta (who I don't remember) was not yet even a glimmer in one of the Lamprey's eye.


Sandy | 2796 comments Mod
Regarding the ending, I was also disappointed once drugs were mentioned. I agree Marsh does not do drugs well, but does them a lot. Is Alleyn always on special assignments now? Maybe he has been promoted above every day murders.


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 769 comments Judy wrote: "I think it was mentioned earlier in one of the discussions that they don't seem to have aged in real time, or Fox would almost certainly have been retired by now!"

I was comparing them in my mind with the Appleby novels of Michael Innes, particularly Ricky Alleyn v Bobby Appleby. Appleby does progress - from pre-war Inspector to marrying just after the war, and retiring as Metropolitan Commissioner, after which he stumbles across an amazing number of country house murders. And Bobby as an undergraduate is presumably the right age for the child of a retired Commissioner.

Compared to Appleby, Alleyn and Fox's progress is positively glacial ...


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 769 comments Apart from the French, there is very little recognition that the Channel Islands are not part of the UK. Ricky, on buying a pint, doesn't glory in the incredible cheapness of alcohol, or cigarettes. Smuggling stuff into the Channel Islands is one thing - but to get to England, it will need to pass through Customs and Excise again.

I was shocked that a Sergeant in the local police force has the right to call in Scotland Yard. Sergeants don't normally do this even within England, but the Channel Islands each have their own police force and their own jurisdiction, with their own laws and procedures. For example, on Jersey, only centeniers, honorary elected police officers, have the right to charge or bail offenders. Other Channel Islands will have different arrangements, but they are not part of England.


message 18: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8979 comments Mod
I would have liked to know which Channel Island it was supposed to be. I kept imagining it as Jersey in the Bergerac TV series, which I used to love.


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 769 comments The distance given from Montjoy to Deep Cove is 8 miles - which makes the island one of the bigger Channel Islands. Jersey is nine miles from East to West, five and a half north to south, and Guernsey is slightly smaller. But the place doesn't 'feel' that large - there is more than one town on Jersey, for example, and more than three smart hotels! I had imagined it more like Alderney, but not quite.


message 20: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick | 110 comments I enjoyed reading this, but was disappointed by:

1.) Drugs again, and the three culprits were all obvious.

2.) Not much of a proper whodunnit puzzle. There wasn’t a unique solution worked out by Alleyn, instead a final confession revealed whodunnit from a range of possibilities.


message 21: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2067 comments I don't think Marsh hit the age very well. To me, in some ways Ricky seemed quite immature, and at other times he seemed more mature than his age, which I think was 21.


Tara  | 809 comments Jill wrote: "I don't think Marsh hit the age very well. To me, in some ways Ricky seemed quite immature, and at other times he seemed more mature than his age, which I think was 21."

I agree Jill. And what exactly was his endgame with Julia? That she would leave her husband and children so they could run off together? It felt impulsive and selfish, without any thought to the real-world consequences. Luckily she seemed to take it all in stride, which is more than I can say for many other women.

While I didn't find the drug angle particularly interesting, I thought the scheme was more well thought out and described than in previous books. The paint tube smuggling ring was unique, although you have to question how much money would be earned from a guy carrying around a paint box on his back (maybe there is an army of them out there?). The murder also felt totally beside the point towards the end of the book, and it was more like a thriller than a murder mystery. It would have been a more compelling read if we delved into Dulcie's character, and her relationship with her uncle. I don't think religious mania (yet another overplayed angle in her books IMO) is sufficient motive.


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 769 comments I thought that the treatment of Dulcie (by the book) was appalling - she was fat, unattractive to the more discerning types like Ricky, and a slut, and so deserved little sympathy when she died. Compared with the way Marsh writes about the adorable (adulterous) infatuation that Ricky feels for Julia, it is definitely one rule for the sophisticated, educated classes, and one for the lower orders.


message 24: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick | 110 comments Evidently Marsh thought adulterous flirtation was OK, even fun/adorable, while actually sleeping around not. Thus the Alleyn’s taste in friends includes people who behave that way, and they have brought their son up to believe that it is appropriate. Presumably you’re right Rosina, that for Marsh the distinction is related to whether one is “sophisticated” or not. She undoubtedly intends the that the Alleyn’s are sophisticated, and believes that such flirtation is somehow sophisticated rather than dallying with marital unfaithfulness.


Tara  | 809 comments Rosina wrote: "I thought that the treatment of Dulcie (by the book) was appalling - she was fat, unattractive to the more discerning types like Ricky, and a slut, and so deserved little sympathy when she died. Co..."

She wasn't above being disdained (by other characters in the book), but not so much as to not sleep with her. And that seemed to be the case across the class lines.

I was so confused by Mrs. M. She was witty, intelligent and had a lively personality, but we're supposed to believe her to be totally submissive to and afraid of her husband? Those two elements didn't jive for me. Sure, make her a co-conspirator, but I don't buy her just doing what she was told to do out of fear.


Lesley | 384 comments I found it quite refreshing that Ricky was included in the story this time, and so was enjoying it to a 4 star read. But, that quickly dropped to just a little over 3 stars when later in the book Marsh couldn't resist the inclusion of her two main tropes, religion and drugs, neither of which she does well, and both of which have become a little trite. I perked up at Ricky's interest in his father's profession with the hint he might become interested in it as a career. I was less impressed that Marsh had him chasing a married woman!


message 27: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8979 comments Mod
I think I assumed that Ricky's feelings for Julia were a fairly innocent crush - but yes, he is grown up and he does kiss her at one point, so maybe not that innocent after all! I do agree with Rosina that Marsh treats Dulcie very unsympathetically.


message 28: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8979 comments Mod
Lesley, it went down from 4 stars to 3 for me for the same reasons - I wish Marsh would forget about the drug plots.


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