It’s a very long time since I last read a book by Ngaio Marsh. My mother suggested I try Agatha Christie when I moved up from the junior library and a while later, when I’d brought home pretty much every book by Agatha Christie that the library had, she suggested that I might like Ngaio Marsh. I did, and again I brought home all of her books that the library could offer over a period of time. But I haven’t read anything that she wrote since.
The books didn’t call me back. But a couple of weeks ago I spotted ‘Clutch of Constables’ in the library, I picked it up, I notices that it would fit a vacant year in my ‘Century of Books,’ and I thought, ‘Why not?!’
M.V.Zodiac. Last minute cancellation.
A single-berth cabin is available for
this day’s sailing. Apply within.
The prospect of traveling by boat through the countryside that Constable painted was irresistible.
She didn’t know that her cabin had been reserved by a man who has been murdered, believe by a master criminal the police call ‘The Jampot.’ But she found out, and that made her regard her fellow passengers with a degree of suspicion.
I knew that she was right to be suspicious, because this story had such a clever structure. In Inspector Alleyn was using the affair of ‘The Jampot’ as a case study for a training course, and the story moved beautifully smoothly between his and his wife’s narration.
An American brother and sister found a painting, that appeared to be an unknown work by Constable in a junk shop.
And then there was a body. Scotland Yard was called, and Inspector Alleyn arrived to take charge.
The plot was well constructed, complex and built on classic lines. I enjoyed the boat trip, but I was ready for the mystery when it arrived.
I enjoyed watching characters I associated with the golden age of detective fiction in later life. They had matured well. And I enjoyed ‘people watching’ on the boat, and being pulled this way and that by a very clever crime writer. But I did find that the story had dated badly, and the very deliberate even-handedness on matters of race may have been well-intentioned but it felt too deliberate.
The plot twisted to the very end, and the resolution came with the very last sentence. On one level that was wonderful, but I would have liked a little more explanation, because I knew who ‘The Jampot’ was, but I wasn’t quite clear about who was and wasn’t involved with art fraud. An epilogue on that police training course would have been a nice touch.
And at the end of the book I’m back where I started. I liked the book, but not enough to go in search of more of Ngaio Marsh’s books.
Unless there’s one you’d particularly recommend …