A man dies with his hand on a radio dial. A distinguished aristocrat finds murder at the opening night of a play. A cryptogram produces death in an English churchyard. Death on the Air and Other Stories serves as the perfect introduction to Ngaio Marsh and her creation, Inspector Roderick Alleyn, or as a nostalgic journey for her many fans.
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Fascinating insights from the author
Ngaio Marsh was queen of the golden age of British “who-done-its”, far surpassing the work of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. I have re-read her books countless times over the years. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the short stories in this anthology, and in fact ordered the anthology because of them, in the end it was the essays that I found most fascinating. </p>
The introduction by author Susan Howatch was a magnificent tribute to Marsh’s work and its influence upon her own prolific and outstanding writing career. She goes on to give a very interesting biography of Ngaio Marsh and an analysis of her body of work. </p>
In the first essay, Ngaio Marsh talks how the series began and how her detective, Roderick Alleyn, was formed. She also discusses the beginnings of his love, artist Agatha Troy. In the closing essay, “My Dear Boy”, she writes a conversational response to all the aspiring writers who have appealed to her over the years. These essays were significantly enhanced by the reading of Nadia May, as I could almost imagine that the author herself was speaking her thoughts. </p>
The short stories were also very good. They had originally been published in various magazines and were quite ingenious, with settings spanning the range from the theater to village life to New Zealand. For those who enjoyed Marsh’s novel “Death of a Peer” (the American title of “A Surfeit of Lampreys”) you will enjoy the reappearance of Lord Michael Lamprey in a cameo role in one of the stories. Agatha Troy also makes an appearance, and, as ever, Alleyn is assisted by the trusty Inspector Fox. </p>
I recommend this audio book to anyone who loves Ngaio Marsh; to anyone who would like to get to know the great Ngaio Marsh stories; and to anyone who loves classic detective fiction, particularly of the British who-done-it variety. </p>
- Lynne Phelps