Monday, May 13, 2013

clutch of constables

I found this copy of Clutch of Constables,  by Ngaio Marsh at my library's book sale. I'm pretty sure This is a first edition, Little, Brown & Company; printed in the United States.

Dame Ngaio Marsh* is a native New Zealander, who spent some time in England during her younger years, if I'm getting this right. She's written a bunch of books, and was also into production of plays, and other things. In 1966, she was awarded the honorific Dame, which is short for Dame Commanderof the British Empire, equivilanet to knighthood (and the honorific: Sir) for gentlemen. Good on you Dame Marsh.

I had a lot of fun reading this one. It was loaded with Englishisms--from 1969 no less--so some of it took some puzzling, but I was able to stay with it without any trouble. The police slang may have been the hardest. But some stuff just takes knowledge of the language I simply don't have. Take a look at this for example: One of the characters is attempting help another recover a lost item. The owner of the item is worriedly complaining that the rescue attempt may further damage her lost goods. An onlooker, who knows them both has this to add:

"Stone the Crows!" Mr Lazenby astonishingly ejaculated.

Says it all, right?

This story has an interesting structure: each of the chapters is broken down into two or three acts, which are prefaced by the narrator discussing the mystery, after the fact, while carefully avoiding giving away any of the details before their time.The acts themselves are told from the point of view of an onlooker, who happens to be married to the narrator. She eventually calls in her husband, a police detective, when foul play is discovered. When he arrives, and sends his wife off to safety, the POV switches to him, altho he does pop back in at the end to finish up the narration.

I enjoyed this quite a bit, and after searching for this title on line, it may even have a little collector value. Sweet!

* This helpful tidbit, comes from the Ngaio Marsh Trust's site: Ngaio (rhymes with "bio") is a Maori name meaning competent. It also is the common name for the native shrub myopororum laetum

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