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Book Note: Ngaio Marsh, Overture to Death

I read this book about 7-May-2014. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1939. This note was last modified Monday, 19-May-2014 16:28:00 PDT.

This is book 8 of the "Roderick Alleyn" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


Takes a half-dozen chapters to get to the murder and the calling in of Inspector Alleyn, but they don't drag too badly. I did find myself expecting something horrible to happen to Henry or Dinah any page; but it never does.

The murder mechanism is amusing—a booby-trap initially designed (by a child) to squirt the pianist in the face with a water pistol is re-purposed to use a Colt .32 to actually shoot her. Since the pianist was changed at the last second, everybody assumes for a long time that the victim wasn't the intended victim, too, which helps distract suspicion.

Henry's father, the local squire, is rather like the Duke of Denver in 500 Script Error

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; rather slow, and unable to really think that he himself could be seriously suspected, or possibly convicted on anything less than eye-witness testimony. (It's his Colt .32. It lives in a box in a drawer in the library, and was shown to everybody just days before the murder. The box actually has a sign in it saying that the pistol is loaded; it's a war souvenir, and he's kept it in the condition it was after he saved himself with two shots, so the magazine isn't fully loaded.)

Most of the plot ends up being the jealousies of Cousin Eleanor, Miss Ross, and Miss Campanula. Two of them are in conflict over the Vicar, one of them is a religious fanatic, and one of them turns out to be an experienced con artist (but she's not the murderer).


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David Dyer-Bennet