Four Books

Since I last wrote about the books I’d been reading, I’ve read Death in a White Tie, Death in Ecstasy, Grave Mistake, and Letters to an American Lady. The first three are by Ngaio Marsh and the last is by CS Lewis.

Death in a White Tie wasn’t too bad, but I pegged the murderer with an intuitive guess pretty early on. I’m not sure what it was about him that tipped me off; I suppose he was too much like the typical Agatha Christie villain not to be the one. The clues were commendably in evidence: Marsh played fair.

Death in Ecstasy was not as good. It was an earlier book, before she got rid of Nigel Bathgate, who is an abomination. Marsh was still in her early phase where her debt to Sayers is more clearly seen, though she was breaking out of it a bit in this one. I made an educated guess (successfully) at the murderer based a couple clues I had seen along with Alleyn, but I didn’t pick up on them all.

Grave Mistake was the most troubling of the three. I really didn’t enjoy it all that much. I didn’t like who was picked to be the murderer and it is set in the late 50’s or early 60’s, which is very annoying. Edwardian England is enchanting. England of the middle part of the century is simply depressing and vulgar. I didn’t pick up on hardly any of the clues, mostly, I think, because I really wanted the murderer to be someone else.

Letters to an American Lady was quite interesting. CS Lewis wrote letters to this woman at intervals, but fairly regularly, for about 13 years. I do think (though one doesn’t have any of the woman’s letters) that she probably had a bit of a crush on him, at least at first, though, as Lewis points out in one of his letters, she was one of the few women who continued to write him regularly after he married. The letters are almost all very short, so a 13 year correspondence only takes up about 125 small pages. There is quite a bit of Lewis’ wisdom contained within them and I found it interesting to see how very blunt he could be when he perceived error.

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