17 January 2014

Review: THE NURSING HOME MURDER, Ngaio Marsh

  • first published 1935
  • 187 pages
  • ISBN 978-0-00-651253-0

Synopsis (Amazon)

Ngaio Marsh's bestselling and ingenious third novel remains one of the most popular pieces of crime fiction of all time. Sir John Phillips, the Harley Street surgeon, and his beautiful nurse Jane Harden are almost too nervous to operate.

The emergency case on the table before them is the Home Secretary - and they both have very good, personal reasons to wish him dead. Within hours he does die, although the operation itself was a complete success, and Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn must find out why...

My Take

This is #3 in Ngaio Marsh's titles, and the dust cover says that it continues to be one of her most popular novels, and has outstripped all of her other novels in sales.

First published in 1935, it is the pre-cursor to those Robin Cook-style medical murder mysteries. I didn't think there was anything dated about the writing or the plot.

The setting is mainly the operating theatre of a small hospital (not the narrow meaning that nursing home has come to mean today).

Roderick Alleyn has two sounding boards for his theories - his assistant Inspector Fox, and his journalist friend Nigel Bathgate.

The victim is the Home Secretary sufferring from appendicitis and perotonitis, who collapses in Parliament when introducing a controversial Bill related to terrorists and anarchists. (this will have a familiar ring for modern readers although set nearly 80years ago). The appendix is removed successfully but the patient never comes around after the operation. When an autopsy reveals that Derek O'Callaghan has been poisoned, the plot revolves around whether his murder is related to the opponents of his Bill, personal problems relating to an affair, or even side effects of pain relief administered by his doting sister.  The plot keeps the reader guessing right until the end.

My rating: 4.3
Very readable.

I've also reviewed
A MAN LAY DEAD
TIED UP IN TINSEL
4.3, DIED IN THE WOOL

4 comments:

Irene said...

Isn't it amazing that "the terrorist" theory rings true today. thank you for your thoughts.

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - This one really does 'feel' quite modern doesn't it. I like the way it's alluded to in Agatha Christie's Murder in Mesopotamia, too.

Kerrie said...

I think they scratched each other's backs Margot. There is a reference to Agatha Christie in this novel too. As well as some discussion about how novelist would resolve this plot

Antiquated Tory said...

If it's not too much a spoiler, Inspector French had the right answer. Now I have to read some of those.

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