©1980 Ngaio Marsh Ltd; (P)1999 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
"It's time to start comparing Christie to Marsh instead of the other way around." (New York magazine).
I'd enjoyed many of Ngaio Marsh's books as tapes read by James Saxon and so the very first book I down-loaded to my iPod was her 'Scales of Justice'.It was so badly read by Nadia May I gave up and learned the lesson that I should take advantage of Audible's facility to hear a snatch of a book before committing to buy. But there was no need with 'Photo-Finish' as it's read by the excellent James Saxon. It's a good story with lots of characters in the frame for the eventual murder. It's in the house-party cut-off from the outside world genre, in the spirit of Agatha Christie, but set in modern times. It's not too gory and the story trundles along nicely.
La Somita, an American Italian opera singer is in New Zealand on part of a world tour. She has been followed down under by a “pap” photographer who has made a name taking very unflattering photos of her. Inspector Alleyn and his wife are invited down to NZ to stay, Alleyn to investigate who the pap is and Troy to paint the singer.
Meanwhile, La Somita has taken a fancy to a young composer who has written an opera for her, which turns out to be appalling and never to be repeated. Soon after the first and only performance, La Somita is found dead with a stiletto knife through her heart and an unflattering photo pinned to her chest.
It’s therefore Alleyn’s job to investigate the different strands (whilst having no jurisdiction and being stuck on a small island off the coast during a storm)
The narration is good, with the different nationalities being represented well. The story isn’t dated (I think it was written in the 70s but could be wrong), with the issues of fame and blood feuds being (almost) as relevant today as ever. There are plenty of suspects and suspicious motives, and for once it took me ages to work out the “whodunit”.
With a gloriously vampish victim, a cast of well sketched characters and a wonderfully simple murder that takes some unravelling.
One of my favourite mysteries, enough comedy to make you smile and enough red herrings to keep you happily puzzling your way through until it all gets revealed.
The reader is very good at injecting each character with different tones and styles so you can tell easily which character is which easily.
One from the golden age of crime, written by a master.
Highly recommended, especially for the how the reader handles the overly dramatic members of the cast.
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