I am posting a stop on the Classics Circuit today- the golden age of detective fiction. Authors like Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh wrote great detective novels in the 1930s that have lasted until today, and are still as popular as ever. Ngaio Marsh's books are in new release at my local book store, as are Georgette Heyer mysteries. I've read nearly all the Agatha Christie books back in my teens. I thought I'd try a new author and travel to anther part of the world at the same time.
Vintage Murder by Ngaio Marsh, 256 pages
1930s Mini-Challenge; Global Reading Challenge: New Zealand
1. Starring Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn. I think I'm going to like him. He reminds me of Inspector Gamauche of Three Pines by Louise Penny. Smart and subtle and gets a great read on people very quickly. Alleyn is on holiday from Scotland Yard in New Zealand. Alleyn stars in 33 books. I like finding a new detective to read about, but 33 sounds like a lot of books.
2. Vintage Murder was set in New Zealand, where Ngaio Marsh was born and lived. Marsh was also a theatre director, and Vintage Murder is set within a traveling theatre troupe. The troupe is touring from England, and they meet up with Inspector Alleyn in New Zealand on a train. Apparently, Marsh set many of her books in the theatre.
3. "a murder committed in a closed environment by one of a limited number of suspects"
Wikipedia states that the Golden Age of Detective Fiction is based on this premise. I did not know that. Vintage Murder is a classic then, because someone in the troupe must have murdered Alfred Myer, co-owner of the Carolyn Dacres Comedy Company. He's murdered at a party, with only the troupe in attendance. Luckily, Alleyn was there too.
4. Much of the detecting involves figuring out who was where, when, and what motive they might have. Alleyn, working with the local police, even makes a spreadsheet, included in the book, to organize the data. Gotta like a spreadsheet from the 1930s.
5. The local police are somewhat in awe of Alleyn and let him have free reign. He is quite aware of not stepping on toes and is very respectful. Nice international cooperation.
6. I have never been good at figuring out who the murderer is. I fall for every red herring. I know to not suspect the most obvious suspect, but that's about it. I'm always surprised and pleased with the endings of mysteries. Sadly, even when I've read the book already, I probably still don't know who the murderer is. I'm the perfect reader for mysteries that way.
7. A little awkwardness in the periodness of the book. There is a Maori character in the book, and while written in language of the day, some of it is that awkward, uncomfortableness of thinking - was it really acceptable to write about people this way? To use these descriptions? Marsh is respectful Dr Rangi Te Pokiha, but some unenlightened phrases are used.
8. I know I shouldn't compare, and I should judge this book on its own merits, but, I read Murder on the Orient Express very soon after reading Vintage Murder, and the Marsh pales next to the Christie. I liked the Marsh, and I wouldn't not read another one, but I've now got a hankering to reread a lot of those Agatha Christie books I read as a teenager. She really is the master. Vintage Murder was a perfectly acceptable murder mystery, with great characters that follows the classic style, but Murder on the Orient Express was a 'wow' read that really sets the standard.
Also on the tour today, Notes from the North is reviewing The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie. Ooh, I bet that's a good one! It was recently voted best Christie mystery in a very unscientific poll of readers of Kerrie's Mystery in Paradise blog.