Ngaio Marsh. Generally counted on one hand among the great dames of the English mystery’s golden age, Marsh is a New Zealand writer of the late 20th century. She wrote thirty-two crime novels over about fifty years, and most are considered classics of the genre. I’ve found her to be, at her best, the only mystery novelist I’ve read who is comparable to Christie within the style both wrote in – the sharpness of her characterizations of people both high and low in society, her good-humored approach to occasionally very dark and macabre stories, and most of all the atmosphere of her stories, such a warmly compelling blend of uncensored portrayal of evil and compassion and love for her characters. I should note, however, that I’ve also found her to be wildly uneven – I’ll pick up a Marsh novel and be wildly engrossed from the second page and come away hugely pleased – and the next week I’ll try another and be bored out of my mind. Generally nothing in between, either – her novels are either fantastic or total duds as far as reading pleasure and quality. Unlike Christie, she chose only one hero for her novels, the deadpan, cultured Roderick Alleyn, whose mind it is a pleasure to be in, and whose famous artist wife is a significant character in several novels.
To read: Death in a White Tie
To avoid: Black As He’s Painted, which is both melodramatic and unfortunately tainted with quite a lot of the racism that was a fact of life in Marsh’s day
An hour later she stretched out a bare arm and tickled my ear and said: “Would you consider marrying me?”
“It wouldn’t last six months.”
“Well, for God’s sake,” she said, “suppose it didn’t. Wouldn’t it be worth it? What do you expect from life – full coverage against all possible risks?”
–The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler
1. Heirs. I haven’t watched a Korean drama in a straight two years, but when I heard that my favorites Lee Min Ho, of the charisma and the bushels of talent, and Park Shin Hye, of the adorableness and expressive face, were being paired together, I knew I had to get on that. Heirs has made me fall madly for it; the romance is wistful and delicate and achingly addicting – it’s the small moments that get me, like him watching her sleep, or the two sitting on opposite sides of a winecellar wall, both lost in thought, the wall a visual symbol of how two people can be physically close yet find each other so hard to reach. You can watch all aired episodes so far on Dramafever.
2. The Thin Man. I picked up a vintage copy of Dashiell Hammett’s famous hardboiler (yes I just coined this, why should “potboiler” exist and not “hardboiler”?) at a book sale this weekend, and a fourth of the way in am highly enjoying it. Nick and Nora Charles are a wealthy socialite couple in New York for Christmas. Nick, a former ace detective, left that life behind when he married Nora and devoted himself to running the various businesses she was left heir to by her family. The couple are blithely in love and live in a breezy flurry of cocktail parties and social events, but are left ever so slightly bored by it. So when a murder turns up practically on their doorstep Nora pushes Nick to get involved, and in between throwing back a drink every other page, he manages to do some able detecting. Some people find this book hilarious, but I find it more endearing than anything. Also, best opening line of all time surely – “I was leaning against the bar in a speakeasy on Fifty-second Street, waiting for Nora to finish her Christmas shopping, when a girl got up from a table where she had been sitting with three other people, and came over to me.”
3. Seattle Chocolates. This stuff is delicious, y’all, particularly the Rainier cherry – I generally don’t like either cherries or pecans but somehow the blend in this chocolate bar is just perfect, rich and fruity and chocolatey and wildly addicting.