Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Killer Dolphin

Killer Dolphin (1966) by Ngaio Marsh is a mystery whose title has a double meaning. The Dolphin refers in part to the Dolphin Theater, a Victorian-era theater which had languished in disrepair after being damaged in the war but which has recently been restored through the work of Peregrine Jay and the support of the wealthy Vassily Conducis. It opens to the public in grand style--fully restored to its previous glory--with a brand new play by Peregrine Jay. The dolphin also refers to the odd murder weapon used to dispatch the theater's nightwatchman. One of a pair of stautettes given by Conducis--it is quite heavy and quite deadly. Murder occurs when a thief attempts to make off with the recently discovered Shakespearean glove and letters which have inspired Peregrin's play The Glove. Someone realizes that there are unscrupulous collectors who will pay large sums without worrying too much about how the item was obtained. But who amoung the small cast of suspects had the opportunity? It is up to Inspector Roderick Alleyn and Inspector Fox to sort among the beautiful femme fatale, the terribly vain leading man, the sharp-tongued supporting actor, the woman scorned, the actor with a penchant for puzzles (and figuring out combinations), the house manager, and the patron who avoids publicity and public contact and yet was in his box on the fateful night.

As I noted the last time I read this, the mystery takes quite a while to get to the main action--there is no murder until about half-way through. But the lead-up is quite interesting. Peregrine Jay's first visit to the theater and his encounter with Conducis provide a nice back-drop to the main story. I also enjoyed the build-up of the story and play surrounding Shakespeare and the glove that was supposed to belong to his son. Jay is able to make the items and the incident into a very affecting play. The characters of the actors are perhaps a bit stereotyped, but it does make for a lot of sarcastic back-chat and witty in-fighting. 

I was a tad disappointed this time round that Marsh wasn't able to fool me at all--often if it has been long enough I'm able to read some of these vintage mysteries and still be unsure of the solution. This particular plot I remembered right down to the last detail. But overall I still enjoyed the set-up and the interactions of the characters enough that I've nearly given it the same rating as before. ★★ and 1/2 for this go-round.

Deaths = one (hit with blunt object)
Mystery Bingo
Weapons = Blunt Object
Clues/Cliches = Gloves

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