Duchesses, Dignitaries and Debutantes Dance with Death
No less a ‘hard boiled’ crime writer than Dashiell Hammett called Marsh’s 7th Alleyn outing, Death in A White Tie ‘the best detective story I have ever read’ And it is indeed magnificent, though Marsh is a very different kind of crime writer than the gritty Americans of the same period.
Published in 1938, and impeccably set in the upper-class world of debutantes coming out for the season, Alleyn gets swept into this particular investigation in part through his mother, who is chaperoning his niece and her ‘bestie’ into their first season. And coincidentally Alleyn is already beginning to hone his intellect and his team into an investigation of the society set, as it appears a blackmailer is moving amongst them. Our hero has to tread carefully, using his society credentials without alarming those who are running the racket.
Things get much darker and much nastier though, when a murder which touches Alleyn personally turns the desire to find the killer into far more than a dispassionate solving of a crime. Grief and anger, not to mention a sense of personal responsibility are in this mix.
Glorious!! Benedict Cumberbatch uploaded to You Tube in a 7 part Audible read of this. Perfect delivery! Perfect! I am rarely entranced by voiceovers of books but, this..!
Further complications, making this more than just the routine solving of a crime are also on the agenda. Alleyn has some unresolved business to sort out with the well-respected artist Agatha Troy, who was involved for a while as a potential suspect in the previous outing, ‘Artists in Crime’ She is certainly guilty of capturing Alleyn’s heart, although being a suspect in a murder investigation does not necessarily make the best way for a far from faint heart to win a fair lady.
Alleyn (as ever) is a very human, very real person, getting more and more three dimensional as the series progresses