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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cruising with a Queen of Crime
Anyone who loves the classic detection novel is probably familiar with the so-called "Queens of Crime" -- Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Margery Allingham. During the second and third quarters of the twentieth century these writers (all British with the partial exception of New Zealander Marsh) played a significant role in creating the genre...
Published on September 23, 2008 by Linda Bulger

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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars clutching at straws
Barely mysterious mystery, with major info given away by the cover design of my edition. While early Marsh was, like Christie, orthodoxically racist, this is latter-day, post-civil-rights Marsh, and thus has a black hero/love interest who is a "well-spoken" handsome doctor, a total condescenion bearing little feeling of veracity, and thus retains the mindset...
Published on February 18, 1999


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cruising with a Queen of Crime, September 23, 2008
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This review is from: Clutch of Constables (St. Martin's Dead Letter Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
Anyone who loves the classic detection novel is probably familiar with the so-called "Queens of Crime" -- Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Margery Allingham. During the second and third quarters of the twentieth century these writers (all British with the partial exception of New Zealander Marsh) played a significant role in creating the genre.

Marsh, whose real love was the theater, wrote 32 crime and detection novels featuring the gentlemanly Detective Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn. While most of her novels follow the traditional formula, Clutch of Constables (Roderick Alleyn Mysteries) strays a bit outside the usual pattern. While Alleyn is out of the country investigating an art forgery ring, his wife, painter Agatha Troy, fills in a few free days by impulsively booking a cruise on a winding English river. Her companions on this cruise are a brilliantly strange company played large enough to reach the back benches; many of Marsh's books have a theatrical setting but none of her characters are more stage-ready than this riverboat crowd.

The story is told in flashback format as Alleyn lectures on the case to students; for most of the riverboat story Alleyn is present only in his wife's letters to him. This book offers fans a chance to know Agatha Troy better and is a well done detection puzzle with red herrings and psychological overtones. Its greatest pleasure for me is the hypnotic winding river cruise, with landscape features dreamily going in and out of the scene with the river's turns. Of any book on my shelf, this is among the best suited to read during a jangled, stressful time; I feel myself slowing down, the river working its magic and the momentum of discovery taking us closer to the inevitable solution. Recently I needed to read this book yet again and it did its work as always.

If you are new to Dame Ngaio, this is not the most "representative" book to start with. I'd recommend Surfeit of Lampreys, Death at the Bar, Final Curtain, Singing in the Shrouds; possibly Died in the Wool. But if you do decide on a Ngaio Marsh sampler, by all means include the charming and hypnotic Clutch of Constables -- which title incidentally refers not to English bobbies on bicycles but to the English landscape painter John Constable.

Linda Bulger, 2008
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read!, August 8, 2001
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While Ngaio Marsh was extremely adept at the traditional detective stories, often her best work occurred when she was able to step out of some of the traditional confines of the genre. There is no better example of this than in Clutch of Constables.
Action takes place during a cruise along an unnamed river in England. Chief Inspector Alleyn's (Marsh's hero for those new to her books) wife has center stage as she is at the center of events as murder(?) strikes within the confined space of the riverboat. Are her suspicions correct or just the result of over-wrought nerves? You be the judge. Here Ms. Marsh is freed from the "Introduction-Murder-Police Arrive-Suspects are questioned" narrative that sometimes haunts her work. Suspects are introduced, but we are unsure of what to suspect them of? The crime occurs far into the novel, and instead of the usual detective story of pursuing clues, we instead are left to examine the atmosphere on board the riverboat and the social interplay between a cast of characters all of which seem both innocent and slightly off-kilter at the same time. The seedier the character the less you suspect them, the more charming the character the more you suspet them. Some characters are so annoying you'd glady strangle them given half the chance.
Marsh successfully plays the psychological angle here as she expertly increases the tension with the result of at least one moment of genuine horror.
A good read.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best, but still a good way to pass time, August 21, 2000
This review is from: Clutch of Constables (St. Martin's Dead Letter Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
The format of this Marsh mystery differed a bit, in that it cut back and forth between Inspector Alleyn teaching a class and the case that he actually uses as an example, which incidentally, involves his wife Troy. Troy decides to take a breather after her London art show and sees that there is a last minute cancellation on a mini-cruise. She signs up for it, and realizes, shortly into the trip, that she may be on bored with a famous international criminal - one wanted for murder. But which one of her fellow passengers is "The Jampot"? Alleyn himself is in the States on business, so a good deal of the information is first learned through Troy's letters to him (an interesting change, since we usually see Alleyn's letters to Troy). But as he becomes more and more alarmed by her reports, he returns to try and catch the Jampot before yet another murder is committed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Clutch of Witticisms--4.5 stars, November 17, 2008
This review is from: Clutch of Constables (St. Martin's Dead Letter Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a lovely, well-written mystery with a somewhat unusual structure. It vacillates between Superintendent Alleyn instructing a police course and the events (told as if in the present) surrounding a past case which revolves around his wife Troy who spontaneously propels herself into the action by a sudden decision to take a river cruise. Thus, the two main characters are central to each of the two subplots and supporting characters for the other subplot. But, IMHO, it works. Much of the mystery is readily discovered by the reader, but the main question of who is the dastardly Jampot in disguise? This is not so easy to determine--esp. between two main possibilities. Marsh utilizes rather strong, distinctive characterizations and interweaves prejudiced perspectives into the mix. Sometimes the innocents can be less likable than the guilty! Personally, I very much enjoy Marsh novels wherein Troy has a major role--she's a complex, fascinating character--perhaps more so than her husband, the great gentleman detective. If, however, one prefers a more standard whodunit, one might look with less favor upon this gem. It may not be Marsh's best work, but it certainly isn't her worst. Though I must admit that I would have preferred the character Pollock (spelled the same as my name--and Jackson's as well) to have better character. As usual, Marsh's languaging is refined and smooth, but includes some Britishisms not generally recognized in the States. However, she also includes some clever, and even humorous dialog:
"Miss Rickerby-Carrick commanded rather less tact than a bull-dozer."
"In the Force our wives are not called upon to serve in female James-Bondage"
"Her delight in his return sang so loudly it was enough to deafen her to anything else"
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish I COULD review this book, July 2, 2011
This review is from: Clutch of Constables (Paperback)
Dear amazon. I LOVE reading books on my kindle. In fact, if you check my account you'll see that I can average a book a day. So when I start working my wa through a list of books I get really, really frustrated when suddenly, unaccountably, they become unavailable to readers from Australia. Now I know that clutch of constables and the ngaio mars books that follow it are available in kindle format from amazon uk...so I wonder why not from amazon.com?? And why not to readers from Australia? Please, please make the rest of the list available to us. I just don't read real books anymore just my iPad ones!
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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars clutching at straws, February 18, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Clutch of Constables (Paperback)
Barely mysterious mystery, with major info given away by the cover design of my edition. While early Marsh was, like Christie, orthodoxically racist, this is latter-day, post-civil-rights Marsh, and thus has a black hero/love interest who is a "well-spoken" handsome doctor, a total condescenion bearing little feeling of veracity, and thus retains the mindset of racism just applied in a more humanitarian direction. Embarrassing.--J.Ruch
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't read it., March 7, 2009
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This review is from: Clutch of Constables (St. Martin's Dead Letter Mystery) (Mass Market Paperback)
I love Marsh and thought this mystery would be good for the story basically had Troy as a major character. But it was too confusing by going back and forth with Alleyn teaching a class and then going to the ship describing the characters Troy met. I read about 20 pages and then quit. Just couldn't get interested in this book. I didn't even get to the murder, so I have no idea who ended up dead.
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Clutch of Constables (St. Martin's Dead Letter Mystery)
Clutch of Constables (St. Martin's Dead Letter Mystery) by Ngaio Marsh (Mass Market Paperback - August 15, 1999)
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