Book Review: Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh

Posted August 1, 2022 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh
Series: Inspector Roderick Alleyn
Genres: British, Detective, Historical
Published by Felony & Mayhem Press on December 15, 2012
Pages: 298
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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Also in this series: A Man Lay Dead, Enter a Murderer, The Nursing Home Murder, Death in Ecstasy, Death in a White Tie

Also by this author: Dead Water, Killer Dolphin, A Man Lay Dead, Enter a Murderer, The Nursing Home Murder, Death in Ecstasy, Death in a White Tie

Sixth in the Inspector Roderick Alleyn vintage detective mystery series revolving around the inspector. The focus is on artists and murder at Troy’s country studio in 1937.

My Take

Alleyn meets Agatha Troy, and it has to be the most reversed romance! It frustrates me and cracks me up at the same time, how very nervous these two are about being around each other.

We meet Lady Alleyn, Rody’s mother, who is a treat-and-a-half! She’s perfectly happy putting up Bathgate and Fox.

It is condescending but cute how Scotland Yard gets a kick out of the local law enforcement being excited about participating in a murder investigation with them. More superiority comes through about Watt not being able to help who he is because “all Australians are like that” and Phillida’s insecurity and her art.

It’s observation, interviews, and those short cliffhangers as per previous Inspector Alleyn tales, all from Alleyn’s perspective in third person protagonist point-of-view. There are so many undercurrents, secrets, and blackmail running through Artists in Crime, making it convoluted and twisty — especially the characters.

Oy, Lord Pilgrim sounds like someone I’d prefer to avoid!

The Story

On the way home from New Zealand, Alleyn encounters Agatha Troy and doesn’t realize he’s fallen in love. When he’s called in to investigate a murder at Troy’s country house, it’s kismet.

The Characters

The upper-crust Chief-Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn is with CID, Scotland Yard. Lady Alleyn is Roderick’s mother and lives at Danes Lodge, in Bossicote, Bucks. Tunbridge Tessa is an Alastian. Sir George Alleyn, who inherited the title, is Roderick’s not-so-smart older brother. Clibborn is Lady Alleyn’s head parlormaid. French is her chauffeur.

Nigel Bathgate is a journalist and Alleyn’s friend, whom he allows to help on his cases. Bathgate has just married Angela who is newly pregnant (A Man Lay Dead, 1).

Agatha Troy, R.A., is a famous painter whom Alleyn meets aboard ship in Fiji. She also teaches art classes at her home in Tatler’s End House in Bossicote, Bucks. Katti Bostock is Troy’s friend who’s been minding the house and working. The servants include Mr and Mrs Hipkins, who serve as butler and cook, and Sadie “Sadistic” Welsh, who’s the housemaid. Ethel Jones comes in as a daily. She used to be a live-in with Lady Wells.

Troy’s students include Francis Ormerin; the self-interested Valmai Seacliff, who is hunting the Honorable Basil Pilgrim; Watt Hatchett is an Australian and Troy’s protégé; Cedric Malmsley is illustrating some medieval romances and has a dirty secret; Wolf Garcia, a leeching, lecherous genius in clay, has a commission to do a marble sculpture; and, the wealthy yet insecure Phillida Lee from the Midlands. The arrogant Sonia Gluck will model and fancies herself a Bohemian siren. She’s also been keeping Garcia.

Bail’s father is Lord Pilgrim who became a Primitive Methodist and lives at Ankerton. Basil’s got six older sisters; his mother, Alberta, died at his birth.

Blackman is the local super and an old acquaintance of Alleyn’s. Police Constable Sligo is one of his men. Dr Ampthill is the police surgeon who examines the body. Burridge provides transport for shipping. The Haworths live in Bossicote. Captain Ken and Sybil Pascoe live in Boxover. Mr Marziz‘s room smells funny.

Scotland Yard
Alleyn’s crew includes Inspector Fox; Detective-Sergeants Bert Bailey, who does fingerprints, and Thompson, who does the camerawork; and, Dr Curtis, who is the divisional surgeon. Watkins is the Assistant Commissioner’s aide.

The ocean voyage
Virginia Van Maes, a.k.a. La Belle, is quite full of herself.

Caley Burt is a portraitist. Graham Barnes is the watercolor bloke. Gregory is another artist, but he’s in Hong Kong. The Palette is an arts magazine. Charleston is secretary to the board of the New Palace Theatre in Westminster who commissioned Garcia for the sculpture. Gibson runs an arts supply shop.

The United Arts is Troy’s and Katti’s club in London. Jackson is the club porter. Arthur Jaynes is the president of the Phoenix Group; Lady Jaynes is his wife. John Bellasca is the man with whom Troy had lunch. Cattcherley’s is Troy’s hairdresser in London. Michael Sasha wrote a play Angle of Incidence. Lionel Shand did the sets for the play.

Bobbie O’Dawne is a chorus girl in Snappy and is a friend of Sonia’s; she’s better friends with Maudie Lavine and Dolores Duval, who had the same spot of trouble as Sonia. Mr Chumley is a friend of Bobbie’s. Henry Molyneux is an actor in Snappy as well. Leo Cohen is in management.

Lucy Lorrimer, a prehistoric peep and old Lord Banff’s eldest girl, gets lost in her thoughts. Bert James recommends Ted McCully, who is the foreman at Lacker and Lampton’s. Fred also works at Lacker and Lampton’s. Holloway is a women’s prison.

The Cover and Title

Khaki green is the primary color with gradations above the slanted banner of pale gray and in-between the scalloped white lines radiating out from the bottom angling out to the sides. The title is a gradation in white to pale gray at the top. The author’s name is a collage of colors and patterns in the center of the banner. At the bottom is a gradated grays banner arching up as a background for the very pale gray series info. The graphic between the scalloped lines is an artist’s palette with globs of color and three brushes thrust through the thumbhole.

The title is too true, for they’re all Artists in Crime from one perspective or another.

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