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The Bitterness of Eternal Murder Monday

Inspector Alleyn finally shows up about two hundred pages into Death and the Dancing Footman -- or rather, Inspector Alleyn's heretofore corpse-free vacation is interrupted by murder-weary stock characters from the next town who have just been comparing the improbability of one of their theories to that of the improbable murder machine in Busman's Honeymoon. Marsh is the undisputed champion of improbable murder machines, but this one is successfully averted. The unwritten rule that no fictional detective can be allowed to take an uninterrupted vacation is not averted, but just barely. A couple days more and Alleyn would have been home free.

Troy is in this story for about five minutes. She packs a bag for Alleyn and expresses some mildly awkward misgivings about the case, and then she vanishes again for the rest of the book, without even an epilogue. TROY, COME BACK :( I respect Marsh's commitment to a healthy life-work separation for her characters, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I find it kind of fascinating how tedious Death and the Dancing Footman was to me before Alleyn shows up and how reasonably enjoyable it becomes afterward. Characters who have been flat and indistinct up to to the last twenty pages suddenly shake off their gloss, and glance bewildered at one another, and begin to be honest. The interrogation scenes are good as always, and when Inspector Fox arrives (even later than Alleyn; we get maybe fifteen pages with him) there's an uncomfortable discussion of the impending war, and the irony of hunting down one "sordid little murderer" when all of Europe is gearing up for wholesale slaughter. But the first two-thirds of the book are dull, much duller than they should be. I think the artificial way the characters are introduced doesn't help. Though considering how many people said they liked it, it could easily just be me.

Colour Scheme, on the other hand, is delicious Prime Marsh from the very first page, though Alleyn is just as absent. This one is a New Zealand story, with a clumsily run hot springs resort, extra-prickly colonial snobbery, adorable awkward young people being awkward, a menacing creditor, intimations of espionage, a very surly doctor, and many other things besides. The drama on the hot springs resort is interesting enough that I don't even miss the murder - which, true to form, is still nowhere in sight as of Page 115, though there was a suspicious incident involving a rail bridge earlier. There have also been some great passages about acting (Marsh showing off her best blend of satire and earnest love), and a truly appalling marriage proposal (not by a detective). There are several Maori characters. I don't know enough about New Zealand to be able to tell, but so far they seem not obviously badly done -- no more stereotypical than any dozen sets of English villagers, in any case.

An Overdose of Death is at least the second Agatha Christie book to trick me into thinking I was reading something I dislike, only to reveal in the last few chapters that it has been the book I wanted it to be all along. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, except that I recently read The Secret Adversary and that really was driven by a Nefarious Commie Plot to Destroy England For Rich People, so I didn’t know what to expect. The narrative voice is a little sloppier than some other Christies, with lots of odd sentence-level fumbling. The original title was One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, which is a little more to the point (the shoe buckle is a plot point, while the overdose is a red herring). Poirot is Poirot, which is all you can really say for Poirot nine times out of ten, and all that needs to be said.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
lost_spook
Sep. 28th, 2015 12:24 pm (UTC)
I like Colour Scheme but I also simultaneously dislike it. It's a very odd one.

(I think with Death and the Dancing Footman, part of the thing is that the characters are presented almost as grotesques, but what becomes apparent by the end and is known on any re-read, is that they're not, they're fairly ordinary human beings (well, the Complines are a little odd, but still). So it's sort of weird on the initial read, but I find that rather pleasing on a re-read. It's an odd sort of mislead to do, though.)
evelyn_b
Sep. 28th, 2015 01:35 pm (UTC)
the characters are presented almost as grotesques, but what becomes apparent by the end and is known on any re-read, is that they're not, they're fairly ordinary human beings

Yes! I mean, that makes sense. I'm just not sure it comes off very well. The last thirty pages or so are good, but getting to them is a bit of a chore. I did enjoy the Averted Murder Machine and all or the pages with Alleyn in them. I'm not sure right now what I think Marsh would have to do to make the grotesque fake-out think work the first time around -- I'd have to re-read it.

And it's strangely -- detached from? at right angles to? the Impending War that everyone keeps talking about. I don't know if it's entirely successful in what it's trying to do there, either.

Colour Scheme is so prickly and . . . a little unsavory around the edges? I like it a lot so far. Barbara, the resort owners' daughter, is a good character, but everyone behaves very badly toward her.
lost_spook
Sep. 28th, 2015 07:28 pm (UTC)
And it's strangely -- detached from? at right angles to? the Impending War that everyone keeps talking about. I don't know if it's entirely successful in what it's trying to do there, either.

It's set in the early months of the War in Britain - the Phony War, as it was known & I suppose was only what everybody already knew was like, as they'd all lived through it a year or two earlier.

I think it was one I didn't rate highly on the first read, so I was pleasantly surprised on re-reads, that's all.

Colour Scheme is sometimes one I really like and sometimes one I can't take at all. (I may have re-read this series far too many times at one point! They're very comforting. Colour Scheme is not so comforting, so it depended on my mood. I like Barbara, though, very much.)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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