Author picks up novel where Marsh left off
Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy, Harper Collins, $20.99 .................................................... Mr Glossop is doing his rounds paying out wages to government employees across the Canterbury plains. He is an unhappy chappie. His van is unroadworthy due to wartime measures, a major storm is about to breakout and he now has a flat tyre. He gets to Mount Seager hospital just in time. Shortly afterwards the transport bus gets through just as the bridge is threatened. Mr Glossop’s pay money is securely locked in Matron’s safe along with the money gained from a flutter on the horses by one of the female workers. Mr Glossop, unable to sleep because of the storm and uneasy about all the money locked away decides to take his makeshift bed and sleep in Matron’s office and guard the safe. Getting to the office he finds the safe unlocked and Matron gone. The alarm is raised and now enters the enigmatic British officer who is stationed there, the astute, debonair Inspector Alleyn. He keeps all suspects in one room and is determined to solve this case before daybreak. Murder, robbery, sudden death, romantic jealousies and suspected espionage, all to be solved before daybreak. No mean feat. Dame Ngaio Marsh was one of the four famous female detective story writers of an earlier period. She is a New Zealander, but wrote most of her novels in Britain, around the theatre and the British landed gentry. My feeling is that during the war she started to think of home and began writing a detective story about New Zealand, but incorporating the famous Inspector Alleyn of BBC fame. Think of gorgeous Patrick Malahide. She wrote the first three chapters then for whatever reason it remained unfinished until now. Enter Stella Duffy, a present-day acclaimed novelist of crime stories who, although born in London spent much of her life in New Zealand, was asked by her publisher to finish the novel.
Using Ngaio Marsh’s notes Duffy has come into the writing seamlessly and completed the novel, not really suspenseful just ploughing on until finally the real culprits are revealed.
Having spent a few years of my young days growing up in a small town on the Canterbury Plains with a reading diet of Famous Five I used to think I was in the most boring place in the world. I wished I had known about all those secret tunnels which to be honest I felt rather convenient and slightly incongruous, but only a tiny criticism as Duffy has done a superb job.