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Finished: A Death in the Small Hours, Charles Finch

I think this the best Most Comfortable Man in London yet! The Finch-Lenox formula is at peak effectiveness here, and either Finch's writing has gotten a little better or I've adjusted my expectations to meet it -- probably a little of both. Lenox's annoying Angel-in-the-Home tendencies have actually been mitigated a little by having a real baby around, and we get minor or major developments for just about all the established members of Team Comfortable. I was a little sad that Jane's matchmaking efforts were thwarted, but maybe it's for the best that Dallington lives to dally another day. Even the infodumps are mild by Finch-Lenox standards.

Nearly all the Most Comfortable Man plots have dragged a little toward the end (at around the second corpse/ Lenox-in-danger corner) and this one is no exception, but the mystery plot is so neatly integrated with the Parliament and domestic plots that they all bear each other up and forward anyway. I love that he used the case in his speech, partially resolving the tension of loyalties -- and as much as I think I don't care about Lenox's political career, I did cheer a little when his speech went well. And! There was a completely gratuitous cricket match in Plumbly, because why not? It's a nice day! I feel like Finch has spent five books honing his infodump skills in preparation for this task. As Lenox has his baptism of fire in Parliament, Finch's infodumping prowess is tested on the field of Explaining Cricket to People Who Have No Idea How Cricket Works.

There are only two books left in the series right now, but Finch is still alive, so there might be more!

Started: Death in a White Tie, Ngaio Marsh

YOU GUYS. Agatha Troy is BACK and you know what that means, right? I hope it means a one-way ticket back to Awkward Flirtationville, home of Inspector Alleyn having a discernible personality! Unfortunately, Alleyn and Troy haven't actually interacted yet. There's been a hundred pages of setup and a murder, as usual, but no Troyriffic wrongfootedness. It's inevitable, though -- I think? I hope I can trust Marsh not to re-introduce Troy without booking me a seat on the Awkward Flirtationville Express.

Anyway, this seems to be typical Marsh so far, even a little sharper than usual (or maybe I'm just more attentive because I'm watching the horizon for the AFX). There are rumors of a blackmail ring operating in the circles of the painfully posh, and a well-liked eccentric has just been killed in a cab. Is it connected with the blackmail, or is it personal? Is the blackmailer even real? Now it's time for the part where Inspector Alleyn politely interposes himself between the survivor-suspects and their illusory selves, and all their secrets come sliding grotesquely onto the carpet. CAN'T WAIT. The Polite Illusion Evisceration phase is always the best part of any Ngaio Marsh book, and she does it so well that it doesn't matter how similar it is to every other Polite Illusion Evisceration; its consistency is a virtue, not a fault.

I'm really curious about how Marsh is going to handle Alleyn's timeline, since these books, like the Poirots, were still being written in the 1980s. Are they going to be fixed to a shorter timespan so that Alleyn isn't stuck working for the CID into his 90s, or continue to take place in the present? Is Alleyn going to age along with the century, or will he go into Poirot Stasis? I know from later books that he eventually has at least one child, which seems like it would make Poirot Stasis a little weirder, but I don't actually know what the plan is.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 11th, 2015 11:53 am (UTC)
I loved the cricket match. Lenox taking a break from his detective duties and Parliament and everything just to play cricket! Somehow it spoke to me in my soul.

Polite Illusion Evisceration is the best term for Ngaio Marsh's specialty. It's so so true.

Also I am pretty sure that Alleyn does go into Detective Stasis (as does Troy), and his son is just not mentioned very often.
May. 11th, 2015 06:20 pm (UTC)
It was so great! I'm glad Finch-Lenox appreciates the value of relaxation, for characters and readers alike. He's found a good niche, I think.

Now I'm imagining tragic Silmarillion-esque scenarios in which a character in Detective Stasis marries a real-time native who elects to stay in real time. Their son inherits the DS gene, but his timeline is different from either of his parents, so they hardly ever see him after he joins the CID. Angst and misunderstandings abound.
May. 11th, 2015 05:13 pm (UTC)
I'm not a big reader of mysteries in general, but I read a lot of them, including a fair amount of Marsh, as a teenager because that was my mother's preferred genre and there were always a lot of them around the house. (Also, our public library was small, so in the seven years I lived there, I read a lot of things I wouldn't have touched if I'd had other options that I liked better.)

I think my favorite Marsh is Light Thickens, and Alleyn is hardly in that at all. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the crime and solution part of the book. I just adored all of the theater stuff. The plot centers around a production of Macbeth, and there's a lot more theater than mystery.
May. 11th, 2015 06:36 pm (UTC)
I haven't gotten to Light Thickens yet (I think it's one of the later ones) but Marsh was a director and her books set in the theatre are always full of great shop talk and insider detail. I look forward to reading it!

(I never read mysteries until last year, and then I got sucked in. Now I can't seem to stop).

My public library growing up was tiny -- but I didn't realize how tiny until I went back as an adult. At the time, it was this magical wonderbox: books on every wall! Books everywhere that anyone can read!
May. 11th, 2015 06:47 pm (UTC)
I am pretty sure Alleyn and Troy are never not at least a bit awkward and things - even after they get together.

And Alleyn does go into detective stasis, but it's a bit hard to say, because stuff happens and changes and his son grows up and things, but it's definitely not as much time as went by the real world (because that was like 50 years and Alleyn would be 80-90). On the other hand, I'm trying to remember if any the 70s/80s ones specifically date themselves as some of the others do (like the ones set during WWII), whereas Poirot clearly has thoughts on the 60s, despite having retired sometime around WWI.
May. 11th, 2015 07:25 pm (UTC)
That is heartening news! Long may the light of their awkwardness shine. <3

The latest book I've read in the series is A Wreath for Rivera, which is 1949, so -- no Thoughts on the Sixties, but some (slightly labored) contemporaneity and I don't think Alleyn is meant to be much older than he was in the Thirties -- though it's hard to tell with Alleyn. We'll see what happens!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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