Au­thor picks up novel where Marsh left off

CHB Mail - - 25TH ANNIVERSARY - — Mar­garet Reilly

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.

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