Review published on April 9, 2018.
Dame Ngaio Marsh was a well known writer from New Zealand, who alongside Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers was admired as one of the original ‘Queens of Crime’ and who wrote 32 novels featuring Detective Roderick Alleyn. She died in 1966. This title was started during WWII but lay unfinished until Marsh’s estate and the CWA Dagger winning writer Stella Duffy took up the challenge to finish it.
Set in the lonely Canterbury Plains in New Zealand, we meet stressed Mr Glossop on his round of delivering wages to various government buildings when his van breaks down and he has to stay overnight at the isolated and storm-drenched Mount Seager Hospital.
There are soldiers recovering in the wards, nurses and doctors in love triangles and an elusive patient in a room on his own, unwilling to reveal his true identity.
So when the money Mr Glossop had left in the locked safe disappears and a shock death makes everyone a suspect, Detective Alleyn has to make himself known and slowly uncovers a mysterious web of intrigue and underground secrets that put everyone in the spotlight.
This is a slow burn as a read but gathers pace once Alleyne makes an entrance, although the plot seems very complicated and hard to establish any clear suspects. I hadn’t read any other Marsh novels so couldn’t compare this with other writing and to give Duffy credit, the novel seamlessly flowed without a huge change in narrative amongst the characters.
The setting in New Zealand is evocative and interesting when described alongside the presence of the local Maori population but the characters are tied mostly into the small hospital grounds and the timescale of the novel is short.
I wouldn’t want to read others by this author but am intrigued by her life as a famous crime novelist and leading light in the theatre and culture in New Zealand. Fans in book clubs will be keen to read this new addition and compare to her other works and I am sure it will be popular.
Philipa Coughlan 2/4
Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy
Collins Crime Club 9780008207106 hbk Mar 2018