Thursday, 2 April 1998

Ngaio Marsh: Death in a White Tie (1938)

Edition: Fontana
Review number: 18

This is one of the saddest of the Alleyn novels, and has the most sympathetic murder victims in crime fiction. A blackmailer is attacking prominent society women, and Alleyn asks a friend of his, Lord Robert Gospell, to investigate. After a party during which Lord Robert makes an interrupted phone call to Alleyn to reveal the identity of the blackmailer, he is murdered by an unknown person who shares his cab home.

The important question is, was Lord Robert murdered by the blackmailer (or an accomplice) or by a victim of the blackmailer (some of them thought the questions asked as part of his investigation marked him as the blackmailer).

This is a worthy member of the series, though not perhaps up to the highest standard attained (e.g. by Artists in Crime). The puzzle is not particularly difficult, but it is enjoyable to read. It does suffer from the usual Marsh problem of creating unbelievable situations by introducing the murder through the series characters; for each individual book, this isn't a big problem though it's unhelpful when you read several in the series in a short space of time.

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