Magazine article The Spectator

'Money in the Morgue', by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'Money in the Morgue', by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy - Review

Article excerpt

Publishing loves a brand. Few authors of fiction create characters who reach this semi-divine status, but when they do, even death cannot part them from their fortunate publishers. Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Bertie Wooster and James Bond are among those who have survived their creators' deaths, thanks to the assistance of living authors.

Now Roderick Alleyn, the ineffably posh Scotland Yard detective created by Dame Ngaio Marsh, returns for a posthumous outing with the help of Stella Duffy, herself a distinguished crime writer. It's an inspired pairing -- Duffy, like Marsh, is a New Zealander with a professional interest in the theatre. Marsh's direct contribution to the book was small but significant: she had written three short chapters and made some sketchy notes on how the story might develop before she abandoned the project.

The story is set in the remote Canterbury plains of her native New Zealand during the second world war. Alleyn is there on official business, searching for a spy ring sending information to the Japanese. He's working undercover in an isolated hospital, crowded with civilian and military patients. On a midsummer evening, the cantankerous Mr Glossop arrives with the Government payroll. When his van breaks down and he's forced to spend the night, he lodges the money in Matron's safe.

During the night, however, a storm breaks; the money is stolen, and murder is done. Alleyn is forced to emerge from his anonymity and sort out the mess. There's a desperate urgency to his investigation: for reasons to do with the spy ring, he has to solve the case overnight. …

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