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Wednesday Off Week and Murder Addendum

I got over my cold yesterday, more or less, then abused the goodwill of my immune system by staying up all night trying to finish my wreck of a Yuletide letter. I'm trying to get better about not being extravagantly anxious in public, so several paragraphs about everything that's wrong with it have been [redacted]. It's done, at least.

Unfortunately, I'm also a week behind on reading anything, other than a few more pages of Titus Groan and the further adventures of the Detection Club in The Golden Age of Murder. So let's talk about Final Curtain, I guess?

Final Curtain is everything I've come to love about Ngaio Marsh: infuriating and lovable families full of murder suspects, dry wit, quiet vocational dedication, implacably polite interrogations, and Troy and Alleyn being beautifully awkward solitudes together.


It also has several unsightly gobs of vintage homophobia flung about the place. All of it is directed at Cedric, one of the survivor-suspects of the theatrical Ancred family.

I have mixed feelings about Cedric. He's a pretty bog-standard Seedy Gay Aristo who is always "shrieking" and saying things "shrilly," whose life plan seems to be "trick his grandfather into leaving him money." Marsh is just skilled enough to make him a character who belongs to his theatrically voluble family as much as to twentieth-century homophobic stereotypes, and just homophobic enough to make sure that Alleyn and Troy express plenty of hearty heterosexual disapproval of his lisping ways.

It's not actually as bad as I was expecting. But I've come to think of Alleyn as The Scrupulously Fair One, who actively tries to avoid prejudice and apply the same official procedure to everyone, so it's extra disappointing when he dips into the Golden Age bigotry grab-bag. I was relieved to learn that [SERIOUS SPOILERS DO NOT READ]Cedric's Evil Gayness doesn't extend to murder, even if the actual culprit partakes of a related midcentury trope: the Seedy G. A.'s oblivious and over-indulgent mother, solicitous to the point of obsession.

Maybe it's a sign of my misplaced priorities that I loved Final Curtain anyway. Marsh is at the top of her crowded-murderhouse game, there's a likably unattractive child character whose cause Troy takes up, and loads of incidental wartime and art-world details, and Troy's POV is just as enjoyable as you might expect. And for fans of H.M.S. Troy/Alleyn, the finest and most awkward ship in the Royal Navy, Final Curtain is a treat from beginning to end.

[Cut for the ship-indifferent]Watching her, he thought: "That's made her shy again. We are to re-learn each other." Alleyn's habit of mind was accurate and exhaustive. He had recognized and examined in himself thoughts that another man might have preferred to ignore. During the long voyage home, he had many times asked himself if, when they met again, he and Troy might not find that the years had dropped between them a transparent barrier through which they would stare, without love, at each other. This possibility had occurred to him, strangely enough, at moments when he most desired and missed her. When she had moved forward on the quay, without at first seeing him, his physical reaction had been so sharp that it had blotted out his thoughts. It was only when she gave him the look of intimacy, which so far had not been repeated, that he knew, without question, he was to love her again.

Marsh wouldn't be Marsh, or Alleyn and Troy their cautious and private selves, if Final Curtain gave me all the Alleyn/Troy adorableness I could ask for. But it does have lots of quiet anticipation, a beautifully tentative reunion, and an entire subplot dedicated to Troy's attempt to confront and understand the aspects of Alleyn's work that she finds morally repugnant, all carefully drawn in Marsh's best prose. And of course they solve the latest murder together and resolve to be partners in moral ambiguity. It's perilously close to perfect.

Oh, and! lost_spook linked me to this fic from Yuletide 2012, which captures Troy's awkward, earnest honesty very well. I'm crossing my fingers for more Alleyn fic this Yuletide.


Anyway, that's all the reading reporting for this week. I'll be back on schedule next week, probably.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
wordsofastory
Oct. 28th, 2015 06:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's an adorable excerpt! The only Inspector Alleyn book I've read didn't have much shippiness in it, but you're really tempting me to try more of them. I love that sort of caution and privacy, as you put it.
evelyn_b
Oct. 28th, 2015 06:34 pm (UTC)
1000% recommended if you like detectives in love, or detectives in general. Marsh is sparing with her shippiness, which can get frustrating because what's there is maximally adorable at all times. But Final Curtain is a banquet. Artists in Crime is the place to begin if you want more Troy/Alleyn.
lost_spook
Oct. 28th, 2015 08:25 pm (UTC)
Final Curtain is everything I've come to love about Ngaio Marsh: infuriating and lovable families full of murder suspects, dry wit, quiet vocational dedication, implacably polite interrogations, and Troy and Alleyn being beautifully awkward solitudes together.

Yes. That really is it, isn't it? (Except you missed out "death by seriously improbable means" which is usually essential to the mix.)

Glad you liked the fic! I thought it was just so excellent at capturing Troy.
evelyn_b
Oct. 28th, 2015 08:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, you're right! But the means were surprisingly non-improbable this time -- and though the setup and ALL of the suspects were theatrical, the actual murder wasn't particularly!

It was a great fic and I am delighted that it exists! I need to go back and leave a comment like a polite person.

Edited at 2015-10-29 01:43 am (UTC)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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