Wednesday, October 06, 2021

60. Vintage Murder by Ngaio Marsh

Discovered this, plus another Ngaio Marsh and two Perry Masons in boxes of free stuff just down the street from me!  They were already beat up and then got some water damage from a light rain that had happened over night and that only freed me up to not have to worry about taking care of them.  My love for paperbacks started this way, back in the naive and carefree days when we did not think of them as collectibles but something cheap and portable.  It's nice to have a book every now and then that you can just throw in your bag and stuff in a pocket and not worry about keeping it in pristine condition.  After hearing how Eric from Paperback Warrior got a severe and weird lung infection, possibly from sitting amongst moldy books, I left these outside for a few days and took care to fan the pages and blow as much dust and whatever from them.

The book itself was another solid murder mystery from Marsh.  What made this one stand out was the nice (but sad because it was shattered by the murder) portrayal of the traveling theater company as well as the great look at New Zealand, Marsh's homeland.  Inspector Alleyn is supposed to be on vacation but of course gets mixed up in a murder. On the boat to New Zealand, he falls in with a theatre company. There is a minor kerfluffle on the train when the co-owner is almost kicked off the viewing platform.  His fate is sealed for good later when an elaborate birthday surprise for his wife and lead actress goes horribly wrong.  He had intended to lower a giant bottle of champagne, but somebody removed the counterweight and it smashed his head in. Bonus points for the Fontana photo cover which actually shows this (right down to the jeroboam larger-size champagne bottle).

Marsh is just a great writer.  I enjoyed this book more for the interactions and rich characters, especially the interesting insider writer writing as outsider visitor to New Zealand, than the mystery itself.  The Maori doctor is really great.  I almost wish he had a series of his own.  Fun read.

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