Posts Tagged ‘1962 Mystery Novel’

Hand in Glove by Ngaio Marsh ~ 1962. This edition: Collins (Crime Club), 1962. Hardcover. 256 pages.

Prissy Mr. Pyke Period, elderly confirmed bachelor, delights in his comfortable life and in his reputation as a skilled crafter of charming epistles, in particular the exquisitely tactful condolence letter.

Disturbing indeed to Mr. Period’s carefully nurtured savoir-faire is the discovery that his latest letter has gone somewhat astray, being delivered to the wrong party, whose loved one shortly thereafter turns up gruesomely dead, crushed to death under a sewer pipe in a drainage ditch right outside Mr. Period’s very window.

The usual disparate assortment of potentially suspicious characters for this sort of traditional whodunnit is on hand to spin out the tale and give Ngaio Marsh’s pet team of detectives – Alleyn and Fox – their usual round of interviews, before their inevitable and apparently effortless solving of the crime. (Even easier than usual, one presumes: the clues in this one were large and glaring.)

Suspects include the tittering Mr. Pike, the murderee’s objectionably hearty sister, a pair of vaguely “Beatnik” young degenerates (Moppett and Leonard), Mr. Pike’s sprig-of-the-minor-aristocracy secretary Nicola, aspiring young artist Andrew, Andrew’s mother (DesirĂ©e, Lady Bantling, who also happens to be the murderee’s ex-wife), Bimbo Dodds (Lady Bantling’s third and current husband), and a few etceteras.

There are minor red herrings and various complications, including a boisterous scavenger hunt to celebrate April Fool’s Day, during which the fatal event takes place, but it doesn’t take long for our detectives to zero in on the guilty party. Peace presumably now returns to the village.

All in all, not one of Ngaio Marsh’s A-list, though, as with Agatha Christie’s oeuvre, even the B-list is readable. As with most of Ngaio’s books, Hand in Glove is mildly humorous throughout, which makes up for a lot.

By midnight the winning pair had presented themselves with their prize, a magnum of champagne. They were inevitably, Moppett and Leonard, all smiles, but with a curious tendency to avoid looking at each other. Leonard was effulgent in the matter of cuff-links and lapels and his tie was large and plum-coloured. Bimbo looked upon him with loathing, gave them both drinks and put a jazz record on the machine. Leonard with ineffable grace extended his hands towards DesirĂ©e. “May we?” he said and in a moment was dancing with her. He was a superb dancer. “Much too good,” she said afterwards. “Like the really expensive gigolos used to be. He smells like them too: it quite took me back. I adored it.”

Bimbo, sulking, was then obliged to dance with Moppett who made business-like passes at him. These exercises were interrupted by the arrival in straggling pairs of the rest of the treasure-hunters, Nicola and Andrew being the last to come in: looking radiantly pleased with themselves…

My rating: 5/10

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