My Book Notes: Artists in Crime, 1938 (Inspector Alleyn #6) by Ngaio Marsh

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HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2009. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 725 KB. Print Length: 298 pages. ASIN:  B002RI90UE. eISBN: 9780007344444. First published in Great Britain by Geoffrey Bles, in 1938.

x298Synopsis: One of Ngaio Marsh’s most famous murder mysteries, which introduces Inspector Alleyn to his future wife, the irrepressible Agatha Troy. It started as a student exercise, the knife under the drape, the model’s pose chalked in place. But before Agatha Troy, artist and instructor, returns to the class, the pose has been re-enacted in earnest: the model is dead, fixed for ever in one of the most dramatic poses Troy has ever seen. It’s a difficult case for Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn. How can he believe that the woman he loves is a murderess? And yet no one can be above suspicion…

The novel was televised in 1990 as the pilot for the television series The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, starring Simon Williams as Inspector Alleyn.

My take: One always doubts which book to begin with when faced with a long series, but after a short search in the Internet, I finally arrived at this title, the sixth instalment in Roderick Alleyn book series. And I believe it is a good choice, even though, strictly speaking, I had previously read Off with His Head (1957) by Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn #19) my review is here. In my opinion, there’s always the possibility to return back to previous titles, if the series ends up interesting us as much as to read it as a whole. Anyway, you can find here the Ngaio Marsh books  I have picked to start reading shortly.     

Coming back to the book at hand, we find Inspector Roderick Alleyn on board the ship that is bringing him back home from New Zealand, where he had moved on to solve the previous case. Following a layover in Suva (Fiji), Alleyn fixes his attention on a young woman who is making a preliminary sketch of the landscape. After awhile, he realises she is Agatha Troy, whom he had seen a year ago at a solo exhibition in London. From now on, she will be known as Troy only. Back in England, Troy is directing a course for a diverse group of young artists at her house in Tatler’s End. One day, while making a sketch of a model laying on the floor next to a knife, they discuss the different alternatives by which she, the model, could have been really murdered. Much to their surprise, she ends up being truly murdered. One Monday, after spending the weekend in London to attend a theatrical performance, everything thing is ready to start a new session. The model gets ready to pose. Regretfully, the knife had been disposed in such a way that when she leans her back over a drape, the knife pierces her, killing her almost instantly. Coincidentally, Alleyn  is close to Tatler’s Ends, spending a few days with his mother, before getting back to his duties in Scotland Yard. But he must put an end to his holidays when his superiors order him to get a handle on the case.

Artists in Crime is a thoroughly entertaining book, nicely written and, at its core, a neatly crafted intelligent enigma. Although its pace might seem a bit slow at times, that doesn’t prevent us to fully enjoy its reading. A classic detective story, a mystery novel littered with red herrings that plays fair with the reader and with a denouement that, I’m sure, will astound the most perceptive reader. Highly recommended.  Next, I look forward to reading Death in a White Tie, 1938.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

Artists in Crime has been reviewed at Mystery Mile, Classic Mysteries, My Reader’s Block, Death Can Read, Gadetection, among others.

About the Author: Dame Ngaio Marsh was born in New Zealand in 1895 and died in February 1982. She wrote over 30 detective novels and many of her stories have theatrical settings, for Ngaio Marsh’s real passion was the theatre. She was both actress and producer and almost single-handed revived the New Zealand public’s interest in the theatre. It was for this work that she received what she called her ‘damery’ in 1966.

HarperCollins Publishers UK publicity page

Felony & Mayhem US publicity page

Ngaio Marsh House & Heritage Trust

Ngaio Marsh: A Crime Reader’s Guide to the Classics

audible

Artists in Crime (Artistas del delito), de Ngaio Marsh

Sinopsis: Uno de los más famosos misteriosos asesinatos de Ngaio Marsh, en el que el inspector Alleyn conoce a su futura esposa, la indómita Agatha Troy. Comenzó como un ejercicio de aprendizaje, el cuchillo debajo de la cortina, la postura de la modelo marcada en su lugar. Pero antes de que Agatha Troy, artista y profesora, regrese a clase, la pose ha sido recreada de verdad: la modelo está muerta, inalterable para siempre en una de las posturas más dramáticas que Troy haya visto. Es un caso difícil para el inspector jefe inspector Alleyn. ¿Cómo puede creer que sea la asesina la mujer a la que ama? Y sin embargo, nadie puede estar por encima de toda sospecha ….

La novela fue televisada en 1990 como la prueba piloto de la serie de televisión Los misterios del inspector Alleyn, protagonizada por Simon Williams en el papel del Inspector Alleyn.

Mi opinión: Uno siempre duda con qué libro comenzar cuando nos enfrentamos a una larga serie, pero después de una breve búsqueda en Internet, finalmente llegué a este título, la sexta entrega en la serie de libros de Roderick Alleyn. Y creo que es una buena opción, aunque, estrictamente hablando, anteriormente había leído Off with His Head (1957) de Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn # 19), mi reseña está aquí. En mi opinión, siempre existe la posibilidad de volver a los títulos anteriores, si la serie termina por interesarnos tanto como por leerla en su totalidad. De todos modos, aquí puede encontrar los libros de Ngaio Marsh que he elegido para comenzar a leer en breve.

Volviendo al libro que nos ocupa, encontramos al inspector Roderick Alleyn a bordo del barco que lo trae de regreso a casa desde Nueva Zelanda, donde se trasladó para resolver el caso anterior. Después de una escala en Suva (Fiji), Alleyn fija su atención en una joven que está haciendo un bosquejo preliminar del paisaje. Después de un rato, se da cuenta de que ella es Agatha Troy, a quien había visto hace un año en una exposición individual en Londres. De ahora en adelante, será conocida solo como Troy. De vuelta en Inglaterra, Troy está dirigiendo un curso para un grupo diverso de jóvenes artistas en su casa en Tatler’s End. Un día, mientras hacen un boceto de una modelo tendida en el suelo junto a un cuchillo, discuten las diferentes alternativas por las cuales ella, la modelo, podría haber sido realmente asesinada. Para su sorpresa, ella termina siendo asesinada de verdad. Un lunes, después de pasar el fin de semana en Londres para asistir a una representación teatral, todo está listo para comenzar una nueva sesión. La modelo se prepara para posar. Lamentablemente, el cuchillo había sido dispuesto de tal manera que cuando se recuesta sobre una cortina, el cuchillo la atraviesa, matándola casi instantáneamente. Casualmente, Alleyn está cerca de Tatler’s Ends, pasando unos días con su madre, antes de volver a sus tareas en Scotland Yard. Pero debe poner fin a sus vacaciones cuando sus superiores le ordenen que se haga cargo del caso.

Artists in Crime  es un libro muy entretenido, bien escrito y, en esencia, un enigma inteligente perfectamente elaborado. Aunque su ritmo puede parecer un poco lento a veces, eso no nos impide disfrutar plenamente de su lectura. Una historia de detectives clásica, una novela de misterio llena de pistas falsas que juega limpio con el lector y con un desenlace que, estoy seguro, asombrará al lector más perspicaz. Muy recomendable.  A continuación, espero leer Los aristócratas también asesinan (Death in a White Tie, 1938).

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Dame Ngaio Marsh nació en Nueva Zelanda en 1895 y murió en febrero de 1982. Escribió más de 30 novelas de detectives y muchas de sus historias se desarrollan en un entorno teatral, dado que la verdadera pasión de Ngaio Marsh era el teatro. Fue actriz y productora, y casi sola resucitó el interés del público de Nueva Zelanda por el teatro. Fue por este trabajo que recibió lo que ella denominó su “damery” (título honorífico de Dama del Imperio Británico) en 1966.

Mis destectives favoritos Roderick Alleyn – Ngaio Marsh

Ngaio Marsh

Ngaio_Marsh_by_Henry_Herbert_Clifford_ca_1935,_cropThis post was intended as a private note. However, I’m posting it here, as it could be of some interest to regular or occasional readers of this blog.

My first and only encounter with Dame Ngaio Marsh was some three years ago when I read Off with His Head and I enjoyed it. And recently a couple of posts about Ngaio Marsh by two of my header bloggers The Passing Tramp (Curtis Evans) and At the Villa Rose (Xavier Lechard) have renewed my interest in her books. However, given her lengthy literary production, I’ve tried to narrow it down to some of her most representatives books, which are indicated in bold in the following list. Nevertheless any suggestion from your side will be much appreciated.

Needless to say I’m planning to read them shortly.

Detective novels
All 32 novels feature Chief Inspector Alleyn (later Chief Superintendent) of the Criminal Investigation Department, Metropolitan Police (London). The series is chronological: published and probably written in order of the fictional history.

  1. A Man Lay Dead (1934)
  2. Enter a Murderer (1935)
  3. The Nursing Home Murder (1935)
  4. Death in Ecstasy (1936)
  5. Death on the Air and Other Stories (1936) Ngaio Marsh only collection of short stories
  6. Vintage Murder (1937). Marsh’s working title was The Case of the Greenstone Tiki (Otago Daily Times, 13 March 1937)
  7. Artists in Crime (1938)
  8. Death in a White Tie (1938)
  9. Overture to Death (1939)
  10. Death at the Bar (1940)
  11. Surfeit of Lampreys (1941); Death of a Peer in the U.S.
  12. Death and the Dancing Footman (1942)
  13. Colour Scheme (1943)
  14. Died in the Wool (1945). Serialised, Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser (1946)
  15. Money in the Morgue (2018) (unfinished – completed by Stella Duffy)
  16. Final Curtain (1947)
  17. Swing Brother Swing (1949); A Wreath for Rivera in the U.S. . Serialised, Home Magazine (1949)
  18. Opening Night (1951); Night at the Vulcan in the U.S. Serialised, Woman’s Day (1951)
  19. Spinsters in Jeopardy (1954); abridged later in the U.S. as The Bride of Death (1955)
  20. Scales of Justice (1955). Serialised, Australian Women’s Weekly (1956)
  21. Off With His Head (1957); Death of a Fool in the U.S.
  22. Singing in the Shrouds (1959). Serialised, Australian Women’s Weekly (1959)
  23. False Scent (1960). Serialised, Australian Women’s Weekly (1960)
  24. Hand in Glove (1962)
  25. Dead Water (1964)
  26. Death at the Dolphin (1967); Killer Dolphin in the U.S.
  27. Clutch of Constables (1968)
  28. When in Rome (1970)
  29. Tied Up in Tinsel (1972)
  30. Black As He’s Painted (1974)
  31. Last Ditch (1977)
  32. Grave Mistake (1978)
  33. Photo Finish (1980)
  34. Light Thickens (1982)

About the Author: Ngaio Marsh, in full Dame Edith Ngaio Marsh, (born April 23, 1895, Christchurch, New Zealand—died February 18, 1982, Christchurch), New Zealand author known especially for her many detective novels featuring Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard and, in later novels, his wife, Troy.
Marsh studied painting in art school and was an actress and a theatrical producer in New Zealand before going in 1928 to England, where she wrote her first novel, A Man Lay Dead (1934), which introduced the detective Roderick Alleyn. In 1933 she returned to New Zealand, where she wrote many more novels and also produced and directed Shakespearean repertory theatre. The theatre guild she helped found in 1944 became an important mainstay of New Zealand cultural life. Marsh continued to produce plays in New Zealand and abroad, mostly in England, throughout her career.
In the 1930s Marsh helped raise the detective story to the level of a respectable literary genre by writing books that combine an elegant literary style with deftly observed characters and credible social settings. The art world and the theatre provided the background for many of her more than 30 novels, including Artists in Crime (1938), Final Curtain (1947), and Opening Night (1951), all of which feature Inspector Alleyn. These books, together with such works as Overture to Death (1939), A Surfeit of Lampreys (1941), Death of a Fool (1956), Dead Water (1963), Black as He’s Painted (1974), and Light Thickens (1982), are classic examples of the traditional detective story, giving readers a cleverly contrived puzzle involving sharply drawn characters against an authentic background. Marsh also wrote about New Zealand and about the theatre. Her autobiography, Black Beech and Honeydew, was published in 1965 (rev. ed. 1981).
Marsh was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1966. (Source: Britannica)

Picture: By Henry Herbert Clifford 1872-1949 – National Library of New Zealand website, http://find.natlib.govt.nz/primo_library/libweb/action/display.do?fn=display&doc=nlnz_tapuhi962084&vid=TF&afterPDS=true, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11037280

Review: Off with His Head (1957) by Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn #19)

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Harper an imprint of HarperCollinsPublisherss, 2009. Format: Kindle. File size: 603 KB. Print length: 304. First published in Great Britain by Collins, 1957. eISBN: 9780007344727. ASIN:B002YPORTY

9780006512455

The story revolves around a Morris dance known as the Dance of the Five Sons; a folk dance that, according to the author’s note, ‘is a purely imaginary synthesis combining in most unlikely profusion the elements of several dances and mumming plays’. The action takes place in the fictional village of South Mardian and it begins  with the arrival of Mrs Anna Bünz, a German refugee, who came over with her late husband before the war. Mrs Bünz has interest in the study of folklore manifestations and she intends to attend the representation of the Morris Sword Dance that it is performed annually on the first Wednesday after the Winter Solstice at Mardian Castle’s courtyard, the home of Dame Alice Mardian. After the introduction of the characters involved, it arrives the day of the performance. Nine men have a direct participation in the dance: Five Sons, a Fiddler, a Betty, a Horse and a Fool. The Fool is played by William Andersen, also known as Old Guiser. The Five Sons are his five sons in real life, Dr Otterly plays the fiddle. The Betty is Mr Stayne, a lawyer from Biddlefast and the great grand nephew of Lady Mardian. And the Horse, called “Crack”, is played by Simmy-Dick Begg, who has a garage at Yowford. At one point the Fool is decapitated by his Five Sons and he hides himself behind the Mardian Dolmen. The show ends up with his resurrection. But this time the Fool is found dead, he has been killed in front of the audience and nobody has been able to see how it has happened. Inspector Roderick Alleyn finds himself faced with one of the most difficult cases in his career.

Off with His Head (aka Death of a Fool), the nineteenth detective novel to feature Roderick Alleyn, has been my first encounter with Ngaio Marsh. I chose this book to participate in Crimes of the Century, last month over at Past Offences. Regretfully, I did not make it on time. In any case I enjoyed the experience and I’m looking forward to reading more of her novels. But to tell you the truth I found myself with some difficulties, though perhaps they can only be attributed to myself only. First and foremost I have had to struggle with some words. Fortunately enough, I read it on my Kindle which provides immediate access to an English dictionary. Secondly, I also had to struggle with the local dialect that, in some instances, I found it hard to understand. But I was not discouraged by those hurdles. My true objection is that, in my view, some chapters are too repetitive. In particular, when each character gives his/her own account of the facts. Though maybe that is also part of the police investigation. Anyway, the narration improves as we approach to the last chapters and, both the murder as the solution, turn out to be extremely clever. It also provides some thought upon the difficulties soldiers may find to resume their places in civil life. I would not want to miss pointing out that Marsh’s love for the theater, in general, and Shakespeare, in particular, is present in all her works, and this one is no exception. All in all, a highly entertaining novel populated by attractive, peculiar and picturesque characters.

My rating: A (I loved it)

Off With His Head has been reviewed at Gadetection and at Mystery Mile

Dame Ngaio Marsh, one of New Zealand’s most remarkable and charismatic women, was world-renowned as a leading crime fiction writer and as an eminent Shakespearian producer. Internationally she is best known for her 32 crime novels featuring Detective Roderick Alleyn, published between 1934 and 1982 (the year she died). Along with Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Dorothy Sayers she was considered one of the original “Queens of Crime” – the four ‘British’ women who dominated the Golden Age of detective fiction in the early part of the 20th century. (Source: Craig Sisterson at his blog Crime Watch Have you read Ngaio Marsh?) Other Ngaio Marsh books on my radar: Artists in Crime (1938), Death in a White Tie (1938), Overture to Death (1939), Surfeit of Lampreys (1940), Death and the Dancing Footman (1942), Opening Night (1951), Scales of Justice (1955) and False Scent (1960).

HarperCollins Publishers publicity page

Felony & Mayhem publicity page

audible 

Ngaio Marsh House& Heritage Trust

Have you read Ngaio Marsh? 

Ten Tastes of Dame Ngaio Marsh 

Some Thoughts on Ngaio Marsh

La muerte de un payaso de Ngaio Marsh

La historia gira en torno a una danza Morris conocida como la Danza de los Cinco Hijos; una danza popular que, según la nota de la autora “es una síntesis puramente imaginaria que combina, con profusión los más improbables elementos de varios bailes y teatros de máscaras”. La acción tiene lugar en el pueblo ficticio de South Mardian y comienza con la llegada de la señora Anna Bünz, una refugiada alemana, que llegó con su difunto esposo antes de la guerra. La señora Bünz tiene interés en el estudio de las manifestacione folclóricas y tiene la intención de asistir a la representación de la danza de espadas, que se interpreta anualmente el primer miércoles después del solsticio de invierno en el patio del Castillo de Mardian, el hogar de Dame Alice Mardian. Después de la introducción de los personajes involucrados, llega el día de la función. Nueve hombres tienen una participación directa en la danza: Cinco Hijos, un Violinista, Betty, un Caballo y un Loco. El Loco es interpretado por William Andersen, también conocido como el Viejo Guiser. Los Cinco Hijos son sus cinco hijos en la vida real, el Dr. Otterly toca el violín. Betty es el Sr. Stayne, un abogado de Biddlefast, sobrino nieto de Lady Mardian. Y el Caballo, llamado “Crack”, es interpretado por Simmy-Dick Begg, que tiene un garaje en Yowford. En un momento dado el Loco es decapitado por sus Cinco Hijos y se esconde detrás del dolmen de Mardian. El espectáculo termina con su resurrección. Pero en esta ocasión el Loco es encontrado muerto, ha sido asesinado en frente de la audiencia y nadie ha sido capaz de ver cómo ha sucedido. El inspector Roderick Alleyn se enfrenta a uno de los casos más difíciles de su carrera. 

Que le corten la cabeza (también conocido como La muerte de un payaso), la decimonovena novela policíaca que presenta a Roderick Alleyn, ha sido mi primer encuentro con Ngaio Marsh. Elegí este libro para participar en Crímenes del siglo, durante el mes pasado en Past Offences. Lamentablemente, no pude llegar a tiempo. En cualquier caso, me gustó mucho la experiencia y estoy deseando leer más de sus novelas. Pero a decir verdad, me encontré con algunas dificultades, aunque tal vez sólo pueden ser atribuidas a mí mismo. Primero y ante todo, he tenido que luchar con algunas palabras. Afortunadamente, lo leí en mi Kindle, que ofrece acceso inmediato a un diccionario de Inglés. En segundo lugar, también tuve que luchar con el dialecto local que, en algunos casos, me resultaba difícil de entender. Pero no me desanimé por esos obstáculos. Mi verdadera objeción es que, en mi opinión, algunos capítulos son demasiado repetitivos. En particular, cuando cada personaje cuenta su propia versión de los hechos. Aunque tal vez eso es también parte de la investigación policial. De todos modos, la narración mejora a medida que nos acercamos a los últimos capítulos y, tanto el asesinato como la solución, resultan ser muy inteligentes. También proporciona una reflexión sobre las dificultades que los soldados pueden encontrar para reincorporarse a la vida civil. No quisiera dejar de señalar que el amor de Marsh por el teatro, en general, y Shakespeare, en particular, está presente en todas sus obras, y ésta no es una excepción. En definitiva, una novela muy entretenida poblada de personajes interesantes, peculiares y pintorescos.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Dame Ngaio Marsh, una de las mujeres más notables y carismáticoas de Nueva Zelanda, fue mundialmente reconocida como una de las principales escritoras de novela negra y como eminente productora de obras de Shakespeare. Internacionalmente es más reconocida por sus 32 novelas negras protagonizadas por el detective Roderick Alleyn, publicadas entre 1934 y 1982 (el año de su muerte). Junto con Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham y Dorothy Sayers está considerada una de las auténticas “Reinas del Crimen” – las cuatro mujeres británicas ”que dominaron la edad de oro de la novela policíaca en la primera mitad del siglo XX.” (Fuente: Craig Sisterson en su blog Crime Watch ¿Ha leído a Ngaio Marsh?) Otros libros Ngaio Marsh en mi radar: Artists in Crime (1938), Death in a White Tie (1938), Overture to Death (1939), Surfeit of Lampreys (1940), Death and the Dancing Footman (1942), Opening Night (1951), Scales of Justice (1955) y False Scent (1960).