Scales of Justice (DCI Roderick Alleyn) by Ngaio Marsh

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Scales of Justice (DCI Roderick Alleyn) by Ngaio Marsh

Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Almost with a feel of Dorothy L Sayers or Agatha Christie, it's a delightful periond piece and a pleasure to listen to.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272/8h31m Date: January 2016
Publisher: Hachette Audio
ISBN: 978-0451229328

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Swevenings seems like one of those idyllic places to live. All that disrupts the tranquil lives of the inhabitants is the fierce competition to catch the Old Un, a large trout which lives under the bridge over the stream which meanders through the village. Then one day Nurse Kettle discovers the body of Colonel Carterette at edge of the stream and beside him is the Old Un. Carterette had been brutally murdered and he was not the fisherman who had landed the Old Un. He was, though, the man who was in charge of publishing the controversial memoirs of the local baronet. The investigation is beyond the capacity of the local constabulary, and Scotland Yard, in the person of Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn is called in. And his primary interest is the fish.

The point of Scales of Justice is that Alleyn is a gent, investigating a murder which has occurred within his own kind. The gentry, naturally, open up to him, but his assistant, Fox remains virtually invisible to them. Fox is not gentry and in fact seems to have developed a penchant for the admirable Nurse Kettle. It's a story about social distinctions, how the gentry behave amongst themselves and how they handle outsiders. By 1955, when the book was written (it's the eighteenth book in the series) it was already a world which was fast disappearing, if it had ever existed in just this form, but it's no less charming for all that.

In my teens I was an avid reader of Ngaio Marsh's CDI Alleyn series. At that stage they were old enough to have appeared in the library but not yet of an age to be thought of as period pieces. I've been reluctant to revisit the books - going back anywhere is usually a mistake and what appeals in your teens can be a disappointment half a century later. It was the offer of the indulgence of an audiobook which tempted me!

I normally resist the idea of audiobooks because they can lend a degree of interpretation to the text which I don't always welcome, but in this case I found that it brought more out of the book than a simple reading gives. Alleyn's voice can be a little bland on paper, but Philip Franks him gave a slightly sardonic air which brought the man to life. It contrasted beautifully with that of Fox and gave the sense of how well the two worked together. He captured too the Gargantuan Lady Lacklander (without making a caricature of her), her oafish son George, the new baronet, and grandson Mark, the doctor. It's no mean feat to make them all sound related but quite distinct. I'd be delighted to listen to more from Philip Franks.

si, did the book still stand up after all these years? Yes, it did - in fact I think I probably got more out of it this time around. I smiled more at the social distinctions and the niceties of behaviour which probably went over my head half a century ago. The plot stood up well too: the clues were all there but I had someone else chalked in for the murder. I'd like to thank Hachette for allowing me to listen to the book.

It goes back to the nineteen thirties rather than the fifties, but we've also enjoyed listening to The Saint Closes the Case by Leslie Charteris and John Telfer (narrator). For more recent crime we can recommend The Glass Room (D I Vera Stanhope) by Ann Cleeves.

Buy Scales of Justice (DCI Roderick Alleyn) by Ngaio Marsh at Amazon You could get a free audio download of Scales of Justice (DCI Roderick Alleyn) by Ngaio Marsh with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Scales of Justice (DCI Roderick Alleyn) by Ngaio Marsh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Scales of Justice (DCI Roderick Alleyn) by Ngaio Marsh at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Scales of Justice (DCI Roderick Alleyn) by Ngaio Marsh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Scales of Justice (DCI Roderick Alleyn) by Ngaio Marsh at Amazon.com.


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