12 December 2010

Ngaio Marsh: "Overture to Death"

Overture to DeathOverture to Death by Ngaio Marsh

The stand-out characters of this book are all very unlikeable people. Neat, ferrety Mrs Ross. Bullying, brash Idris Campanula. And judgmental Miss Prentice. It is a book of lonely women; embarrassing, manipulative, needy. The scene where Alleyn and Mr Copeland (two very handsome men) are sharing a shudder over the passions of a woman too blind and lacking in self-awareness to see how unwanted she is, rings very true, but is not a kind moment.

In the larger story of Alleyn, this novel falls after Troy has finally agreed to marry him, but before their wedding, and his feelings for (the small, talented, attractive, intelligent) Troy - everything Idris Campanula is not - serves as a stark contrast. Not one person mourns Miss Campanula's death, but on this re-read I was struck that she spent the night before her death crying and heart-broken.

It's a difficult book to love, but as a mystery it is clearly plotted and worth reading.

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