Enter a Detective

Enter a Murderer was not quite the debut of Roderick Alleyn, Ngaio Marsh’s detective hero, but the second book that she wrote. It wasn’t too bad, though it is rather apparent that it is an early effort. She later took much more time over her novels, but this followed hard on the heels of her first novel the previous year and was the second of what became eleven books in seven years. She had not yet made much effort to distinguish her hero from the hero of Dorothy Sayers’ novels, Lord Peter Wimsey. However much the author may have protested that, though inspired by Sayers, she did not pattern her detective after him, I find her difficult to credit. It may not mean much to anyone unfamiliar with Sayers, but I will quote two passages from Marsh’s novel and leave you to decide for yourself if you wish.

Not a bit. I’m as simple as I am clever–a lovable trait in my character. An actor in his dressing-room will thrill me to mincemeat. I shall sit and goggle at him, I promise you.
“What’s the matter with you?”
“I don’t know. Got the ooble-boobles. Let’s have a drink.”

The mystery itself was decent, though not inspired, but, as I noted above, it is apparent that it is not a mature work. I particularly dislike an author to call something “indescribable” and then proceed to spend a lengthy paragraph contradicting themselves. This is not, however, a fatal flaw. One of the greatest novels of all time, The Count of Monte Cristo, has this particular quirk all through it, and it still is what I would consider one of the five greatest books I’ve ever read.

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