Vintage Read: Dead Water

Rachel Pope of Browsers bookshop dips back into the past with a classic tale by Ngaio Marsh.


Dead Water by Ngaio Marsh

Rachel Pope of Browsers bookshop dips back into the past with a classic tale by Ngaio Marsh.

Dame Ngaio Marsh is one of our most famous writers penning some 32 detective novels between 1934

and 1982. She kept very prestigious company, being described together with Dorothy Sayers, Margery

Allingham and Agatha Christie, as one of the four original 'Queens of Crime'.

I chose to read Dead Water which was published in 1964. It features Detective Roderick Alleyn who

is described as a gentleman detective. He is hardly illustrated at all in the novel, there being only one

reference, and that was to his well cut suit. He also spoke French exceptionally well and thus I gleaned

he was well educated. Perfect hero really.

This novel is set in a small coastal village in the UK, where a spring was said to have healing

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properties. A whole trade ensues of people seeking miraculous healing from their varied ailments.

Some locals were quite evangelical about it, simultaneously turning a pretty penny. Others found it

quite distasteful. This included Miss Emily Pride, the landlord who wished to curb the enthusiasm of

the believers. Miss Emily received various threats and Alleyn arrived on the scene to protect her (she

was his beloved French tutor). A murder did occur but it wasn't Miss Emily that died.

Alleyn swings into action, careful not to tread on the toes of the local constabulary. He is methodical,

precise and ultimately gets a result. It is this approach that makes me feel if I was in the right mood this

would be exactly the author and style of fiction I would turn to. You are led by the author, somewhat as

her hero would, to get to know each of the characters and each piece of evidence in an orderly fashion.

The novel is somewhat dated, especially in its language. There was a reference to aging being

described as the "terrors of antiquity"! I felt we all aged about 200 years when I read that.

Regardless Ngaio Marsh is definitely an enduring author and one to turn to now and again.

 - Waikato Times

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