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Summary: A Personal Favorite
Review: Although the solution to the crime becomes increasingly apparent as the novel progresses, GRAVE MISTAKE--along with BLACK AS HE'S PAINTED and DEAD WATER--remains one of my three favorite Marsh novels. Why? Because it is a showcase for Marsh's skill in creating and presenting memorable characters, and this tale of lost treasure and multiple murder not only abounds with them, it is told with unusual wit even for the always witty Marsh.
The story concerns the extremely rich Sybil Foster--who is also very much the hypocondriac. But on this occasion she has good reason to feel particularly under the weather: she is about to run afoul of her extremely unattractive step-son by her late first husband, who is determined to find an extremely valuable stamp his father concealed somewhere on the estate shortly before his death. Rather than cope with "Charmless Claude," she takes her self off to Greengages, a private rest home popular with the wealthy seeking a week's relaxion. But instead of relaxation, Sybil finds one crisis after another--and ultimately mysterious death.
This is one of Marsh's most brilliantly written novels, dripping with atmosphere, and of the many memorable portraits it offers the character Verity Preston--Sybil's sometime friend--is Marsh writing at the top of her skill. As noted above, savvy readers will spot the killer before Inspector Allen does, but GRAVE MISTAKE is so beautifully done that even those who do figure it out shouldn't mind in the least. A personal favorite, and strongly recommended.
Summary: A pleasant surprise
Review: I don't know why I've never read any of Marsh's books. Perhaps I expected them to be in the "cosy" style or formulaic. This was not the case, I'm relieved to say. Grave Mistake has some very well-drawn characters, lots of suspects, superior plotting, and a vocabulary that puts a lot of contemporary writers to shame. While the style of speech is somewhat old-fashioned, it does not deter from a thoroughly entertaining book. Marsh was obviously a keen and perceptive observer of human nature and it shows both in the interior thoughts of the characters and in their behavior. While I doubt that I'll go back to the beginning and read the author's complete works, this was a rewarding adventure in reading.
Summary: Not Marsh's best
Review: Routine murder investigation in rural England featuring Ngaio Marsh's signature detective Roderick Alleyn. An heiress is murdered and suspicion immediately falls upon her doctor, who recently became her fiance and received a tidy bequest in a new will. But what of her sullen stepson and the mystery of the Black Alexander?
A good if routine murder mystery. I enjoyed Death of a Peer (aka A Surfeit of Lampreys) more.
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