Book Review: Killer Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh

Posted January 25, 2021 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Killer Dolphin 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.

Killer Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh
Genres: Cozy, Detective, British, Mystery
on February 15, 2015
Pages: 288
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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Also by this author: Dead Water

Twenty-fourth in the Inspector Roderick Alleyn cozy detective mystery series and revolving around a gentlemanly detective of Scotland Yard in the mid-1960s.

My Take

Poor Peregrine…stuck with all these temperamental actors, as he uses all his diplomacy to wring a performance from them AND keep them from destroying each other verbally. It’s an interesting bit of conflict with various members of the cast in or out of relationships with each other. The backbiting…! Snobbishness contributes its own poison.

That Conducis is certainly an odd duck, what with his rescue of Peregrine, the theatre, and his insistence on Grove for his role. It’s not just his actions, but his reactions, so static and unemotional with those odd pops.

It’s Alleyn’s upper class background, cultural knowledge, and his successful conclusion on a burglary that forces him into analyzing the protection for…the glove.

Marsh uses a restricted global subjective point-of-view with most of the perspective coming from Peregrine Jay and Alleyn.

My primary complaint is that Killer Dolphin is all tell, and it’s not a fair whine, as Marsh wrote this so long ago, before show became so important. It particularly shows in Peregrine’s “romance” of Emily. It was also rather tedious to keep track of who was doing what with whom.

There’s some fascinating action that owes some of its reason to the past using flashbacks that add to the conflict and Killer Dolphin is more character-driven with its snarky, backbiting actors. Jeremy and Conducis certainly provide a contrast with the actors’ passions. The nasty Trevor will put you off.

Other than the confusion over actor interactions, it’s an easy and enjoyable read.

The Story

It was Jay’s passion for the old Dolphin that encouraged Mr Conducis to finance the theatre’s restoration…and that Jay be its artistic manager. It was another item belonging to Conducis that inspired Jay to write The Glove.

It’s the publicity and historicity of that glove that leads to such trouble, to murder…

The Characters

Superintendent Roderick Alleyn is with the Criminal Investigation Department. Troy is Alleyn’s wife. The rest of his team includes Inspector “Br’er” Fox; Detective-Sergeants Bailey, a fingerprint expert, and Thompson, the cameraman; and, Sir James Curtis, the Home Office pathologist. PC Grantley makes an impression. Divisional-Superintendent Fred Gibson is Alleyn’s boss.

The Dolphin Theatre is…
…a derelict owned by Vassily Conducis, a wealthy man. Stanley Greenslade is Conducis’ solicitor and the point man who is based at Consolidated Oils, Pty Ltd. Mawson is Conducis’ chauffeur and manservant. M. Smythiman is Conducis’ private secretary. The Kalliopie had been Conducis’ yacht that sunk.

Peregrine Jay, a New Zealander, is an up-and-coming playwright enthralled with the history of the Dolphin as well as a director. Jeremy Jones is Jay’s flatmate and a talented set designer with an eye for the historical.

Marcus “King Dolphin” Knight is an explosive actor playing Shakespeare. The mentally challenged, gambling-addicted Destiny Meade plays the Dark Lady. The nasty W. Hartley Grove plays The Rival, just as he plays Conducis to give him the role. The bitchy Gertrude “Gertie” Bracey plays Ann Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife. The young, talented, and nasty Trevor Vere plays Hamnet, Shakespeare’s son. A newcomer, Emily Dunne, plays Joan Hart, Shakespeare’s sister; she also helps out in Jeremy’s store selling high class tatt. Charles Random plays Dr Hall.

Winter “Winty” Meyer is the business manager of the Dolphin. Henry Jobbins is the theatre’s caretaker; he used to work at Phipps Bros. Drugs. Hawkins is part of security. Conway Boom is their public relations and press executive who is with Maitland Advertising. Mrs Blewitt is Trevor’s drunk, irresponsible mother. Adolphus Ruby refurbished the Dolphin back in the mid-1800s.

Mrs Constantia Guzman is an American millionaire with no morals. The Unicorn is where Jay’s initial production is playing. Messrs Slade and Oppinger are Jay’s agents. Mrs Jancy is the landlady at The Wharfinger’s Friend. Earl P Van Smidt is an authority on pyhsiognomy. Mr Grimball is a bum today and had been in possession at the Lampreys.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a range of blues with the center a wavering banner with the author’s name, in a deco sort of font with parts of her name filled in with a darker, scratchy sort of blue. The top is gradated in blues with the title doing a reverse gradation of light to dark. There are rippling bars slanting inward from top to bottom in a blue sideways gradation with white scallops on the edges. At the very bottom is a blue banner with white text displaying the series information.

The title is all about the theatre, for it’s a Killer Dolphin.

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