Photo-Finish (The Ngaio Marsh Collection) Kindle Edition
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Audio, Cassette, Audiobook, Unabridged
|Length: 254 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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I read the second story first -
'A Wreath for Rivera' is the one that is not a 'closed house' story. The start is several letters passed back and forth setting up a weekend getaway for a group of people, some relatives, some not. They arrive at the house, make happy conversation and arrange for the evening's entertainment, etc., etc. I got the feeling I was reading a soap opera, then, sixty (60) pages in, the murder happens. I was constantly wondering who would be done in when all I had to do was look at the title to see who was named.
I was sort of at a loss as to when this story is placed. I could tell it was pre-1950 and could have been pre-1930. They had servants, big bands, and talked of the war just over, but none of it really defined when it was, for me. When I got done I checked the copyright date: 1949; and the stories are arranged newest to oldest.
This is the story of a big band whose one member, Rivera, is trying to wed a young girl, Félicité. He is not a nice man and she is not settled on him, but he pursues her relentlessly. It is hard to pinpoint facts and clues that should lead to the killer, but in the end, it all comes out and you understand, and kick yourself for not seeing the obvious.
'Photo Finish' is set in New Zealand. An opera star has a problem with a photographer who is chasing her around and embarrassing her. She pleads for help from Scotland Yard, and drugs are being smuggled into countries she travels to, so the Yard sends Rory Alleyn to help. He gets there, gets a feel for the surroundings and people, and a big storm comes up, knocking out any connection to the outside world for a couple of days. The murder happens. Again, the soap opera, who gets it, and he explains it all you wonder at not seeing most of it. But it is entertaining.
'Death and the Dancing Footman' gives its date in the first line - "early in 1940," so I have some social, historical parameters from the get go. In the story, the servants are treated as servants and they accept it! It is very astounding to me, here in the United States, fifty nine (59) years on, to read of this society. There is also the weather and transportation situation that is obviously part of that era, but not now.
This story, of all of these, was the one I had a bit of trouble with the characters. I was a bet confused at times. Which one is the party giver? Jonathan Royal or Aubrey Mandrake? It is Jonathan Royal who gives the party. He invites eight people, some on whom would rather not be with some of the others at all. He is the only one who knows who all is invited, so they will be surprised when they all get there. This is to be a sort of theatrical event, live theater (in the end, Mr. Royal regrets his doing this). Mr. Mandrake is complete outsider, the observer for the event Mr. Royal is putting on.
You go through the various soap opera introductions and developments, etc. until the murder happens, one hundred twenty (120) pages in. There is a terrible snowstorm from that morning and on until the next day (well before to well after the murder), so no help can be had for quite a while. A funny aside is when Rory Alleyn is discussing his profession with the Vicar his wife is painting, he comments that in such weather, the Vicar would have to go out and do his duty, if called on. Mr. Alleyn feels very secure that he will be able to relax and enjoy the weekend at the parsonage with no professional disturbances. Then the car from the murder pulls up and off Rory goes to solve the mystery.
He gets the facts, and develops a theory. After a day or so, he contacts his office and gets help on the way. Again e explains it all and you realize you had the notion, but could not put the actual facts to work without being there, It is impossible to go to a place in a story. It is a good entertaining story.
One odd thing is the author, Ngaio Marsh. When I saw his name, I recognized it from previous excursions in bookstores, but I had never read anything by him. I thought he must be Japanese, but he is thoroughly British. My wife, when I showed her his name, she thought it was African. I can see that as well. I will have to look him up later to make sure.