Book Review: The Nursing Home Murder by Ngaio Marsh

Posted July 15, 2022 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: The Nursing Home Murder 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.

The Nursing Home Murder by Ngaio Marsh
Genres: Mystery, British, Historical, Police Procedural
Published by Felony & Mayhem Press on October 16, 2011
Pages: 225
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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Also by this author: Dead Water, Killer Dolphin, A Man Lay Dead, Enter a Murderer, Death in Ecstasy, Artists in Crime, Death in a White Tie

Third in the Inspector Roderick Alleyn British police procedural historical mystery series revolving around a Scotland Yard detective in the early 1930s. The focus is on Sir Derek O’Callaghan, the Home Secretary.

My Take

I’m not impressed with Sir Derek, but he didn’t promise Jane anything. As for Jane, she disgusts me. One of those who claims to be all about free love and no strings, who immediately attaches chains and expects a ring. Then she gets all histrionic about it. Suck it up, you big baby.

That social class divide runs throughout. It certainly cracked me up when Lady O’Callaghan almost makes that gaffe and Fox gently finishes it for her. Alleyn’s status gets cemented when Ronald notes that Alleyn is in some of “Ratbane”‘s cricket photos.

Reading historicals, I know, this was written in the 1930s, less than 90 years ago, but as the culture and technological state were, ahem, prehistoric, I do consider it an historical. That being said, reading about Sir Derek’s surgery made me appreciate today’s medical tech, even as I appreciated Marsh’s descriptions.

It’s mostly character-driven using third person global subjective point-of-view, although mostly from Alleyn’s perspective. While there is a bit of action, it’s primarily conversation whether it’s interrogating people or chitchatting.

It’s effective, but Marsh does drive me a bit nuts with those mini-cliffhangers where Alleyn discusses the case just enough to let us know he knows so much more. And the next line is where everyone he’s been talking to makes end-of-conversation noises!

I do love it, though, for the setting and exposure to the time period, its morals, its culture, its manners, and contrast it with today.

The Story

Sir Derek, the Home Secretary, has been suffering for some time, refusing to see his doctor, until that day he collapses in the House.

The surgery is a success, for thirty minutes. Now Sir Derek is dead and Chief Detective-Inspector Roderick Alleyn arrives to find many likely suspects, from a vengeful surgeon, a lovelorn nurse, an unhappy wife, and political foes.

The Characters

Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn, brother of a baronet and formerly with the Foreign Office, is with CID at Scotland Yard. Vassily is his servant (A Man Lay Dead, 1).

Nigel Bathgate, aka Claude, is a journalist friend of Alleyn’s, his Boswell. Angela North, a.k.a. Pippin, is engaged to Nigel (A Man Lay Dead).

Scotland Yard
Alleyn’s team includes Inspector Fox, a.k.a. Brer Fox; Inspector Boys is staying up-to-date on the Kakaroff crowd; Inspector Allison has been gathering info on the medical end; and, Detective-Sergeant Bailey investigated Roberts.

Sir Derek O’Callaghan is the Home Secretary, who has a dotty father, Sir Blake O’Callaghan. Cicely, a.k.a. the Snow Queen, née Rattisbon, is his wife in their chilly relationship. The naive Ruth, an advanced hypochondriac, is his sister, continually pushing her quackeries at him. Nash is the butler, who has been with Sir Derek for the past 20 years. Ronald Jameson is Sir Derek’s secretary. Nina is a housemaid. Mr Rattisbon of Knightley, Knightley, and Rattisbon (he’s also an uncle of Cicely’s) is the family solicitor. Henry Derek Samond is Sir Derek’s godchild. Sir Blake and Ruth are not the only crazy ones in the family — there’s also Great-uncle Eustace and Cousin Olive Casbeck.

Sir John Phillips, a.k.a. Pips, is Sir Derek’s doctor, who happens to be in love with Jane. He also runs a nursing-home in Brook Street. Jane Harden, a theatre nurse, is giving Sir Derek problems. Seems she couldn’t be honest. Somerset Black is the doctor Phillips tries to call in. Drs Grey and Theodore “Dora” Roberts are anæsthetists. Sister Marigold is the hospital matron. Nurses Graham and Banks, a Communist, assist in the sugery. Thoms “Thomcat” is Sir John’s assistant surgeon.

Harold Sage is Ruth’s brilliant young (Communist!) chemist who sold Fulvitavolts. Brayght works for Sage in the pharmacy. James Graham is the chemist with whom Alleyn is familiar.

Tillotley is seeing about an ambulance. Cuthbert is ringing up Sir Derek’s wife. Dr Wendover is also a Communist member for a North Country constituency.

Nicholas Kakaroff, a.k.a. Nicolai Alexovitch, is a bad rascal and part of the Pan-Soviet Brotherhood (A Man Lay Dead). Members include Comrade Robinson and Marcus Baker, who is enthused about the Sterilization Bill.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a center vertical gradient of a deep gray-blue fading to a pale gray for a background. Scalloped white lines form an angled border radiating out and up from the close-up of the hypodermic syringe pointing up to the “a” in Marsh’s name. Above the pale blue-gray banner that gets smaller as it flows right and forms the background for the author’s name in its exaggerated Art Deco font in a range of deep blues to white, is the title in a faint gradation of white to pale blue-gray. An arching banner in a medium blue-gray spans the barrel of the syringe with the series information in pale gray.

The title refers to Sir Derek’s fatal surgery in The Nursing Home Murder.

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