Ngaio Marsh: Tied Up in Tinsel

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 15 – Boxing Day


Book themes for Boxing Day/St. Stephen’s Day: Read anything where the main character has servants (paid servants count, NOT unpaid) or is working as a servant him-/ herself.

Well, I guess one could count Roderick Alleyn as a public servant, seeing as he’s a policeman, but the actual pièce de résistance in this book are the servants at the North Country estate where his wife Troy is staying for Christmas (having been commissioned to paint the owner’s portrait) — because they are, every man jack of them, murderers.  Or, well, at least homicides, whose sentences were commuted to something less than the gallows or life in prison because they had some pretty convincing “provocation” for their deeds, or who were let out early because of a successful appeal.  So of course, when their employer’s Christmas party ends up with the disappearance of the manservant of an elderly guest couple (who is soon suspected to have been killed, even though nobody can find his corpse, either), they duly consider themselves in more than a bit of a pickle: all the more so as, in the days preceding the death, a number of pranks of questionable taste have occurred, each one of which seems to mirror the particular circumstances or modus operandi of one of their bloody deeds. — And it doesn’t make one iota of a difference that Mr. Alleyn, originally having arrived from London to keep his wife company and escort her back home, but soon enough (and very unwillingly) put in charge of the case, assures them that suspicion does not lie their way solely because of their past history.

This was a revisit of a favorite Golden Age mystery, courtesy of James Saxon’s audio narration, which I enjoyed very much.

 

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