Sunday, November 01, 2009

Ngaoi Marsh: Tied Up In Tinsel

Fed up with "real literature" I have decided to wallow in crime fiction for a while. Specifically as much vintage as I can get my hands on - I may even re-read some. I was pleased to find a Ngaoi Marsh at the library that I hadn't read, although to be honest I think I must have - the story seems a little familiar. But there were huge chunks that were not, so maybe I haven't? Haven't blogged about it anyway. Although the book is old (written in -72, reprinted -76 by Aeonian Press, a company that seems to have taken pride in a hit-and-miss approach to inking their typewhatsits, the little metal letters like, that you print with. The print is sometimes very blurry) so I should in all fairness have seen it when I had my MASSIVE detective story craze a few years ago, before I started the blog. Although I did just find a new Marsh, a collection of three novels (two of which I've read I might add, typical), so maybe someone has donated some books or something. Not important. Moving on.

Being a late Marsh it has moved with the times - somewhat. We have here a murder in a country house, with a limited number of suspects. But, since this is the seventies, the country house is a delapidated new accquisition by an excentric rich man, who has made his fortune in antiques, and who staffs it cheaply with criminals - murderers - from the nearby prison. Troy is here painting his portrait, and when Alleyn unexpectedly is home for Christmas he arrives just in time for the murder.

Favourite bits:  Marsh has once again inserted a homosexual character, subtly. We even get a little sad taste of the times, possibly it's even social criticism? One of the staff of murderers is descriped like this:

"He actually trained as a chef. He is not," Hilary had told Troy, "one hundred per cent he-man. He was imprisoned under that heading but while serving his sentence attacked a warder who approached him when he was not in the mood."

It's actually very sordid and sad in many ways, but so lightly dealt with. You can't say that this type of literature doesn't teach you loads about the times in which they were written. Our gay chef is later referred to as "that queen in the kitchen" I might add.

I also liked the description of how the rich man's girlfriend behaves and talks. I can't find the spot now, but she makes a "dead set" at Alleyn, much to Troy's amusement, and says something to her along the lines of "Darling! Your husband? The mostest! You know?" which is hilarious.

Not my favourite, but not bad.

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