Artists in Crime, by Ngaio Marsh

>> Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Ohh, I just adore cozy, Golden Age mysteries! Ngaio Marsh is a newish author for me, and I've very much enjoyed what I've read by her in the past. The latest was Artists in Crime.

It was a bizarre pose for beautiful model Sonia Gluck-and her last. For in the draperies of her couch lay a fatal dagger, and behind her murder lies all the intrigue and acid-etched temperament of an artist's colony. Called in to investigate, Scotland Yard's Inspector Roderick Alleyn finds his own passions unexpectedly stirred by the feisty painter Agatha Troy-brilliant artist and suspected murderess.
I'd been particularly wanting to read this title, since it's the one in which Marsh's detective, Roderick Alleyn, falls in love with the woman who'll be his wife, artist Agatha Troy. While the romance was just "nice", I did like the mystery quite a bit. I'd grade this a B.

The best part about this book was actually taking a look at a setting and way of life which just aren't used for settings nowadays, the period between the two World Wars. Artists in Crime was written in 1938 and set in an artists' colony, a group of painters and sculptors gathered to take classes from the famous Agatha Troy. I found this really fascinating, the attitudes, the morality, even the ways of speaking.

The book's focus is a neat mystery, well-constructed and interesting. Marsh played perfectly fair with the clues, and I finally saw what had happened right when the detective did, which is the best possible outcome, because it affords the reader the satisfaction of solving the mystery without making the supposedly brilliant detective look like a fool for not deducing the truth before.

The romance, as I said, was just nice. Alleyn, who had seemed to me a bit dull in Overture to Death was much more interesting here, but there just wasn't enough Alleyn-Troy interaction to make this part of the book really work.

Still, it was a good, satisfying read.


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