Ngaio Marsh: Death in a White Tie

Ngaio Marsh: Death in a White Tie April 28, 2015

DeathInAWhiteTie I’ve been re-reading Ngaio Marsh’s “Roderick Alleyn” mysteries in publication order; and one of my favorites so far in this read-through is Death in a White Tie, which is set in 1938 or thereabouts but still manages to evoke Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances.   You have the young debutantes, and the various balls and other events associated with their “coming out”; you have the ambitious mamas, on the look out for noble suitors for their young ladies; you have the fathers, stuffy or otherwise; you have the military men who drop the first words of their sentences; you have the eccentric old ladies; you have the fine young men; and the rakish young men who outrun their allowances, the cads who batten on the rakes, and the gambling hells to which they introduce them.

And at the same time, because it is set in 1938, you have modern young ladies who don’t really want to come out, you have artists and young ladies of the stage—and the latter are genuine actresses, not simple girls “of the chorus”—and you have blackmail and espionage.

And, of course, you have a murder, the murder of Lord Robert “Bunchy” Gospell, a middle-aged relic of the Victorian era, a gentleman of great rotundity who dresses like G.K. Chesterton (referred to in the text simply as “GKC”), a man known to everyone, a man liked by everyone, a man who loved to see young people enjoying themselves, a kind man, and—though this is not generally known—a man looking into some cases of blackmail among the high society ladies for Roderick Alleyn.

I rather enjoyed watching Roderick Alleyn negotiate all of these worlds: the high society to which he was born; the criminal investigations that are his daily bread; the unreal atmosphere of “The Season”.  Plus, it was a cracking good mystery.  Recommended.

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