Artists in Crime

Artists in Crime - Ngaio Marsh This is an early one, both in order of composition (1938), and in the life of Alleyn, who meets and falls in love with Agatha Troy, his future wife. As in Sayers' series, the lady is involved in a horrible murder case and needs support, altho' Troy is not actually accused as Harriet Vane is. We have a typical closed circle of suspects, a rather ingenious original murder (a model is pressed down upon a hidden knife) and a very gruesome second one (the missing suspect is forced to drink nitric acid). The murderer is predictable not on intellectual but on psychological grounds: she (yes, she) is the character Marsh has been most careful to keep us distanced from - a vain, selfish, cold creature called Valmai Seacliff. She is one of seven students, all with quirks, if not secrets, who are working with Troy and her associate Katti Bostock in a painting studio. Everyone goes off for the weekend, during which time someone plants the knife, carefully draped, on to which the victim is pressed when they all return - all except the unfortunate Garcia, who is the prime suspect until he is found very messily murdered (Marsh, to her credit, does not invent detectives without normal human reactions). Turns out he had, in fact, set the trap while under the influence of opium, but Valmai had actually pushed the model on to the knife, knowing it was there, and had also killed Garcia (lots of blackmail and love triangles all over the place). This one gets a permanent place on my shelf. [These notes were made in 1984:].