Thursday, 26 August 1999

Ngaio Marsh: Last Ditch (1977)

Edition: Fontana, 1978
Review number: 322

By Last Ditch, one of her last books, Marsh has had to allow at least some of her serial characters to get older. Ricky, son of Chief Inspector Alleyn, is now twenty-one, though his parents seem to be little older than in the earliest books written some forty years earlier.

Ricky has just completed an English degree and wants to write a novel; he goes to stay on a fictional island with strange geography (it seems to be near both the French and Devon/Cornwall coasts). Being one of the Alleyn family, he gets mixed up with drugs smugglers and a sudden death (nearly all of Marsh's novels seem to implausibly involve one of them innocently becoming involved in a murder).

Despite the familiar problems with the unrealistic plot, and the fact that Marsh can only write a very small range of different stereotyped drugs users which appear in several novels, Last Ditch is enjoyable. For Marsh, it has quite a difficult puzzle, and a fair amount of action.

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