Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh

Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn was making his way back by ship to England from a trip that he had made to New Zealand. On this voyage, he encountered the artist Agatha Troy, and their initial encounter did not go well. Privately, both felt rather upset about this.

Once back in England, Alleyn encountered Agatha Troy again; this time a murder was involved. Agatha Troy had been holding a school for budding artists at her home at Tatler's End House in a pleasant rural setting. The students were an assorted bunch. Garcia, a sculptor, was tremendously gifted, rude, and could not keep his hands off the ladies. Valmai Seacliff was was quite beautiful, Basil Pilgrim was upper class and was engaged to Valmai. Watt Hatchett had been discovered by Troy. He was not upper class, had a strong Australian accent, and did not really fit it. Cedric Malmsley had an impressive beard, and possibly a knack for copying works of others.

All the students seemed to agree on one thing. They did not like the professional model Sonia Gluck who did not seem capable of holding the rather difficult pose which Troy had set for her on the first day.  The students began their drawings, and then all took a weekend off. Garcia planned to use this weekend to move two commissioned sculptures to London. When the students returned and were setting up their easels, Sonia resumed her pose with some help from Valmai Seacliff who helped to push her shoulders down. Unfortunately, Sonia went down on a knife which had been inserted in the platform on which she was posing and she died.

Inspector Alleyn was called upon to investigate and his assistant detective-inspector Fox also came along with Nigel Bathgate, a journalist and friend of Alleyn. Everyone who there on the day that Sonia died were interviewed except for Garcia who seemed to have disappeared over the weekend and had not returned. Troy was quite upset about the whole thing, but the relations between Troy and Alleyn improved as the investigation continued.

Garcia seemed to everybody to be the obvious murderer, and the hunt for him widened. Indeed when Garcia was finally located, all the facts were in place to enable Alleyn to definitely name the murderer.

This book was first published in 1938, and introduced Agatha Troy who become a very important character in later Marsh books.  Very much of this story progresses through interviews, and the modern reader will wonder why Alleyn's friend Nigel Bathgate was allowed to listen in on these interviews.  It is an enjoyable read and the budding romance between Alleyn and Troy adds to the story. It will also appeal to readers who like mysteries set in the art world.

I have read this book for the Golden Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt in the category of a cover with a artist/art equipment. There is an easel on the cover if you look closely. Personally, I think that this is a rather dreadful cover for this book. Once you have read the book, you will understand the cover, but I do not see how it would appeal to the potential reader.

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