Forget comparisons to Christie. But consider instead Marsh’s similarity to Janet Evanovitch, or to Oscar Wilde as Detective Alleyn questions a suspect:
“‘No worries over money?’
‘Money? No. She was what the world calls rich.’
‘What do you call it, sir?’
Father Garnette gave a frank and dreadfully boyish laugh. ‘
Why, I should call it rich too, Inspector,’ he cried gaily.
‘An unhappy love affair, do you know?” pursued Alleyn.
Father Garnette did not answer for a moment. Then he said sadly, “Ah, Inspector Alleyn, we speak in different languages.’
‘I didn’t realize that, said Alleyn. “Can you translate my question into your own language or would you rather not answer it?”
I admit, I might have rolled my eyes a bit at the beginning, a ceremony by an oddball cult, infiltrated by Nigel the journalist. But once I was over the patently obvious setup, it was entertaining, particularly if one keeps in mind the original publication date of 1936.
“If it is murder,’ he said quietly, ‘and the trail’s not just all that easy and—aw hell, Chief, I’ve got the dollars and I ain’t paralyzed yet.”
With which cryptic remark Mr. Ogden took himself off.’
Is he real?’ asked Nigel, ‘or is he a murderer with unbridled histrionic ambitions? Surely no American was ever so American. Surely—’
‘Do stop making these exclamatory interjections. You behave for all the world like a journalistic Greek chorus.'”
The detection techniques are bogglingly inappropriate, but honestly, I felt it made it clear it’s intended to be a farce. A lot like Stephanie Plum, you can’t possibly take most of Alleyn’s techniques seriously, although in this book we are finally seeing ‘modern’ police techniques like looking for fingerprints and searching for forensic evidence (incidentally, there are also jokes about the ‘gentlemanly breed’ of police detectives).
I think there are some homophobic undertones regarding a pair of initiates into the cult, but I think most of the implied slurs went over my head. There is also, perhaps surprising to some, quite a bit of drug use, although none of it glamorous.
Overall, the mystery was a little bit silly, but the process of getting there was fun. I’ll undoubtedly go on to the next.