Death of a Peer, Death and the Dancing Footman, and Colour Scheme – Ngaio Marsh

These reviews are a bit overdue. I always say this, but it’s been a busy couple of weeks. It seems like I’ve been on a Marsh streak lately. I find this author quite addicting, I can never stop after reading just one of her books.

Death of a Peer (A Roderick Alleyn Mystery)

From the Publisher:

Murder becomes a family affair…

The Lampreys were a charming, eccentric happy-go-lucky family, teetering on the edge of financial ruin. Until the gruesome murder of their uncle-and unpleasant Marquis, who met his untimely death while leaving the Lamprey flat-left them with a fortune. Now it’s up to Inspector Roderick Alleyn to sift through the alibis to discover which Lamprey hides a ruthless killer behind an amiable facade…

This book was also published under the title A Surfeit of Lampreys (London, 1941)

My thoughts:

This mystery has probably one of my favourite cast of characters.  I spent most of the book laughing out loud.  I don’t know what it is about her novels, but she takes a standard plot, and always manages to make it seem fresh and entertaining.  You’ve got to love long descriptions and a longer setup to like her novels, so if you lose patience easily with that don’t pick up this book.

Death and the Dancing Footman

From the Publisher:

The party’s over when murder makes an entrance…

With the notion of bringing together the most bitter of enemies for his own amusement, a bored, mischievous millionaire throws a house party. As a brutal snowstorm strands the unhappy guests, the party receives a most unwelcome visitor: death. Now the brilliant inspector Roderick Alleyn must step in to decipher who at the party is capable of cold-blooded murder…

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed the premise of this story.  The characters were really well developed-as usual, and quirky-as usual.  And the description of the dancing footman had me in stitches.  Marsh’s descriptions are so well done that I could almost see the footman dancing to Boops-a-Daisy.  And yes, like every other Marsh mystery, she takes a very long time to set up the plot and cast of characters, but I really enjoy that part.

Colour Scheme

From the Publisher:

England is at war–this means “spy fever” for a quarrelsome collection of patriots at a shabby New Zealand resort, and a macabre murder that shocks even Scotland Yard!

My thoughts:

This installment had a very slow start, and the plot didn’t grab me.  I really enjoy the fluidity of Marsh’s writing, and even her bad novels manage to grab me, but I wish the plot was better developed.  And I really miss the traditional setting, with Alleyn and his sidekick.  I usually find WWII spy novels entertaining, but this one was just too blah, and I think the main reason was the fact that I didn’t care for any of the characters.  Even Marsh’s usually detailed scene development couldn’t save this book for me.  This was definitely my least favourite Alleyn mystery so far.

Died in the Wool

From the Publisher:

A murdered body is discovered on a farm, packed in a bale of wool–and Roderick Alleyn must find a wild, woolly killer.

My thoughts:

I didn’t care at all for her last book, so I was definitely pleased to see that her plot was a bit better in this one.  Yes, it’s another spy novel, and the spy angle is definitely overplayed.  But the mystery was interesting and the spy angle didn’t detract too much from it.  And in this installment, Alleyn goes back to normal, or as normal as he can get considering he is away from home, tracking down spies, and trying to solve an 18 month old murder without his trusted sidekick.  I’m just hoping that she exhausted this spy plot and she got back to writing Alleyn in a traditional British setting.


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