Singing in the Shrouds Author:Ngaio Marsh A serial killer has been strangling young women; his trademark is broken beads and flowers strewn over the bodies. But Singing in the Shrouds is no bloody, psychological thriller; instead, it is a gentle, mannered "cozy" by a famous classic mystery writer. When a victim is found on the docks, an incognito Inspector Alleyn becomes a pas... more »senger on a departing vessel. The other nine passengers include a TV talk show star; a middle-aged femme fatale; a crotchety, retired schoolmaster; and a sober spinster. As the ship sails to the tropics, Alleyn tries desperately to discover who the killer is and then to protect the other passengers. James Saxon does an outstanding reading job; his vocalization of a woman's "masculine voice" is particularly admirable. Unfortunately, while this late work by Marsh follows the standard golden age format, the classic simplistic plot is accompanied by a set of characters who are remarkably one-dimensional, even for the subgenre. Still, someone looking for light listening could do much worse. Recommended for all medium to large libraries. I. Pour-El, Des Moines Area Community Coll., Boone, IA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition. Review
"It's time to start comparing Christie to Marsh instead of the other way around." --New York magazine
In NgaioMarsh's "Singing in the Shrouds", dependable New Scotland Yard detective Roderick Alleyn is going on a cruise -- but not a vacation. Sent in secret to prove his hunch that a murderer is on the Cape Farewell, a cargo ship sailing to South Africa via Portugal, Alleyn meets up with an intriguing list of characters, most of whom could be legitimate subjects. All he has to go on is a scrap of paper in the last victim's hand -- an embarkation note -- and the murderer's predilection for singing and leaving a certain flower on the victim after the murder is completed. There are other clues, one of which I didn't get until the end, which point to the eventual culprit, but as always, Marsh delivers a wonderful analysis of character as well as a good plot. There's also humor and an interesting portrayal of some sexuality issues that are interesting to read in a book originally published in 1958. A good escape into a different time
Clues point to a serial murderer being aboard a cargo ship bound for South Africa. Inspector Alleyn is sent to join the ship on its voyage south. It carries nine passengers in addition to the crew.
The cast of characters are vividly drawn and Ms. Marsh does a wonderful job in making us switch our suspicion from one character to the next. As with most mysteries of this sort, much of the fun comes from the interplay between the characters as opposed to the mystery itself.
As always, Marsh provides us with the necessary clues to guess the murderer. If you pay close attention, you may figure out the solution within the first half of the novel. A drawback here, is that the list of the possible guilty parties is narrowed rather early on. Part of this is, however, made up for by trying to perceive who the next victim will be.
Something has been made about the character of a gay character. I've always thought that it is somewhat dangerous to attempt to place the latest views of morality/society upon works of fiction written in the past. Was Ms. Marsh prejudiced against homosexuals, or was she portraying the reality of her day? One could easily interpret that the unfavourable characteristics of the character may have arisen from the need to hide their sexuality. Also, because of its role in the outcome of the mystery, its uncertain as to what could have been changed and still keep the mystery intact. Finally, in regard to how gay characters are treated by other characters in the novel, it seems more likely that they would have suffered prejudice, etc., rather than open acceptance and celebration of their sexual preferences.
The friend who loaned me this book did, and could not relax the entire time. Pretty understandable, when the premise of the novel is that there is a notorious serial killer on board a cruise ship who has an obsession with women, costume jewelry and hyacinths. Marsh's characters are all very-well drawn (at one point I almost wanted to kick the ship's captain) and the plot is flawless, with an interesting psychological angle to it.« less