19 April 2010

Ngaio Marsh: "Surfeit of Lampreys"

One of my favourites.

Alleyn is charming in himself, a completely likeable creature whose quiet intelligence and good manners fixes reader sympathies. "Surfeit of Lampreys" is a delightfully funny book, and is also macabre to the point of revolting.

Marsh sets us up to love the Lampreys by fixing our interests with Robin Grey, charming us along with her, drawing us in to her passionate devotion. Charm and humour, and then - such a horrible death.

I often wonder, at the close of this book, how many of the Lampreys made it through the war which is already a shadow on the horizon.


  1. It's one of my favorites too. But I think the book was meant to evoke the pre-war period, though we can see the war coming and the 1940s readers probably hoping to escape the war for a brief interlude Agatha Christie's wartime mysteries have that same otherworldly quality.

    The youngest son is alive (and a policeman) in 1951 in Opening Night (US Title: Night at the Vulcan). And since he didn't inherit the title, at least one of the other sons is still living. Or maybe Henry had an heir.

  2. Hi Kejia - Opening Night is another of my favourites and I was highly amused to see a Lamprey there.

    I'd like to think all of them made it through the war, but sadly the odds were strongly against it. In a way I'm glad to have no confirmation either way.


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