Vintage Murder, Ngaio Marsh
As with the other books, this is a nice little mystery with a carefully set up puzzle. It relies on all sorts of coincidence and such, but at least we’re seeing more of Alleyn as a person, and the omnipresent Nigel Bathgate has not contrived to get himself into Alleyn’s pocket for his holiday.
From what I gather, the setting here is close to Marsh’s heart in two ways: it’s set in New Zealand, and in the context of a theatrical company. That gives it some good moments of description: there’s one interrogation with a lovely setting, and there are some characters who are very lovingly described. There’s a bit about Maori culture, too, but mostly that felt like a set piece tacked on for some exotic interest.
I think I can see a development here toward something I’m more interested in reading — Alleyn, Fox and Agatha Troy, introduced in the next book, might draw me in properly for good. We’ll see.
Artists in Crime, Ngaio Marsh
I was quite hopeful about Artists in Crime bringing Alleyn to life for me a bit more, since this is where he meets his love interest. In a way, the whole set-up of this relationship is reminding me a lot of Lord Peter, especially since Alleyn’s mother has a title and so on. It’s not exactly parallel, but close enough to annoy me a little.
Still, it does introduce a bit more of a human side to Alleyn. Bathgate’s role is thankfully reduced, though the annoying creature does contrive to be present. Inspector Fox and all the other steady, reliable characters who attend Alleyn’s crime scenes are present, and I am getting fond of them, especially since Fox is just different to Alleyn, not lesser in the way that, say, Watson is. Alleyn doesn’t condescend to him like Wimsey to Parker, too.
I’ll need a bit more time with Troy to decide what to think about her and the relationship with Alleyn, but at least she brings in more of a personal life for him.
The mystery in itself, in this book, is typically convoluted and puzzle-like. I did catch on to most of the clues now, because I’ve sort of got used to the shape of these mysteries.