Book Review: Clutch of Constables by Ngaio Marsh

clutchFive Days Out of Time

… that was how the ad had described the Zodiac cruise on the “weirdly misted” English river. The passengers were the usual, unusual lot: a couple of unpleasantly hygienic Americans, an aloof Ethiopian doctor, a snooping cleric with a wall-eye, an artist running away from her success…

But they were not all what they seemed.

For Inspector Alleyn knew that one of them was the faceless “Jampot”—the ruthless killer who could take on any personality, whose thumb was a deadly weapon. The problem was, which one?

Rory Alleyn, giving a lecture, recounts a particularly interesting case involving his wife, art fraud, and a criminal team upon a boat.

Alleyn’s wife Troy, having just had an exhibit installed, is about to return to London when she sees a last minute cancellation on a 5 day boat trip around “Constable Country”. Knowing that her husband is in America on a lecture tour, and that she would be returning to an empty flat after an exhausting time preparing for the show, she takes the trip on the spur of the moment.

There she meets people of several different nationalities, including the English born doctor (of an Ethiopian father), an Australian priest, a rather annoying and intense English woman and an American brother and sister.

Troy finds out that her cabin was to be taken by a Greek man who has subsequently found dead in London.

Troy writes several letters to her husband, giving her impressions of not only the passengers but some of the peculiar events that happen to her in the first few days. Alleyn is back on the plane home by the time the first body is found.

Troy is (conveniently) shipped off to a local hotel as the book’s focus shifts to her husband and his investigation of racism, art forgery, murder and crime syndicates.

This was an audiobook from Audible. and read by James Saxon (who has read other books, including others by Marsh). He is very capable in doing multiple accents and this certainly aids the “listening experience”. A brief look implies that he died in 2003.

The multiple timelines was a little difficult to settle to (Alleyn giving a talk about a time he was in America giving a talk whilst his wife was getting involved in an art crime), but on the whole, it was a diverting and pleasant time spent.


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