Some things should be allowed to fade into obscurity, and the underwhelming Vintage Murder is one of them. Like Enter a Murderer, it is primarily a theater mystery. However, it opens in a shared train car as Alleyn is on vacation in New Zealand. While I had hopes of an Orient Express style story, the real mystery doesn’t take place until their first production in Middleton, a fictitious town.
There’s a great deal of dialogue, the majority of which takes place at the scene of the crime. Sadly, almost none of it contains the humor and playfulness I had come to associate with Alleyn, although there is one hilarious scene with a somewhat odd stagehand Shakespeare-obsessed stagehand at the end, strongly reminding me of Micheal Keaton’s performance in Much Ado About Nothing.
One of the oddest moments is an afternoon car ride and picnic interlude with a suspect during the questioning phase of the story, particularly because Alleyn has the permission of the New Zealand police to question the person in a more ‘informal’ setting. I realize, of course, that some of police procedural questions are time period issues, but I don’t think Poirot would have taken a suspect out on a picnic. It does, however, allow Marsh an opportunity to wax lyrical about the scenery.
There’s also a sideline in here with a Maori doctor, and Alleyn noting (and disapproving) a racist reaction among some of the theater people, as well as the New Zealand police. I suspect Marsh was chiding her fellow countrymen for their less thoughtful approach to the Maori culture.
On the whole, it feels like Marsh (or her editor) wanted her to do a more Christie-style book that is both serious and literary, or perhaps Marsh wanting to do her home country justice. Ultimately, it lacked the plotting and the sparkle to keep me entertained.