Sunday, 26 August 2001

Ngaio Marsh: Enter a Murderer (1935)

Edition: Collins, 1986
Review number: 924

The earliest Ngaio Marsh novels have a rather tentative air which probably would not be tolerated by publishers today. This, her third and the first with a theatrical setting, is the one in which she really hit her stride.

The plot is simple. Journalist Nigel Bathgate, who appears in many of the early novels, takes Inspector Alleyn to a West End play. It is a thriller, which climaxes with a shooting. But this particular night, someone has switched the dummys usually used with real bullets.

It is one of the archetypal plots of crime fiction, reused by Marsh in her last novel, Light Thickens (whose title also comes from Macbeth). The puzzle here is quite easy, especially given the hint in the mildly amusing foreword. The character of Alleyn is still in the process of development in this novel, though he is already considerably more human than in The Nursing Home Murder and A Man Lay Dead.

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