Book Review: Light Thickens by Ngaio Marsh (Inspector Roderick Alleyn, 32)

Light Thickens by Ngaio Marsh is the final installment of her long-running detective novels featuring the brilliant Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Set in a theater in London, the novel revolves around the mysterious death of the actor-manager of the theater during a dress rehearsal of Macbeth.

The plot of Light Thickens is classic whodunit fare, with a cast of eccentric characters and a plethora of potential suspects. Marsh expertly weaves together the various plot threads, throwing in plenty of red herrings and plot twists to keep the reader guessing until the very end.

One of the novel’s strengths is Marsh’s skill at creating complex and nuanced characters. Each member of the theatre company is fully fleshed out with their unique quirks and motivations. Marsh also uses the theater set to significant effect, capturing the drama and tension of a high-stakes production while exploring the behind-the-scenes politics and rivalries that drive the industry.

Another strength of the novel is Marsh’s prose, which is elegant and evocative. Her descriptions of the London setting and the theater itself are richly detailed, transporting the reader into the world of the story.

Light Thickens is not without its flaws. Some readers may find the pacing of the novel to be slow, particularly in the first half, which is primarily devoted to setting up the various characters and their relationships. Additionally, the solution to the mystery may be somewhat predictable for readers who are familiar with the genre.

Light Thickens is a solid and satisfying conclusion to Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn series, showcasing her skill as a master of the mystery genre. The novel’s engaging characters and evocative setting make it a standout in the series and a must-read for fans of classic whodunits.

In addition to its merits as a mystery novel, Light Thickens also provides an intriguing commentary on the nature of art and the role of the artist in society. Marsh uses the setting of the theater to explore the idea of creative genius and the price of success. The character of the actor-manager, who is both admired and resented by the other members of the company, serves as a representation of the artist who has achieved great success but at the cost of personal relationships and a sense of groundedness.

Marsh also uses the character of Inspector Alleyn to comment on the relationship between art and reality. Alleyn, who is both an artist and a detective, is constantly aware of the ways in which the world of the theater mirrors and diverges from real life. His observations on the various characters and their performances serve as a commentary on the performative nature of human interaction and the ways in which we construct our own identities.

Ultimately, Light Thickens is not just a satisfying mystery novel, but also a thoughtful exploration of the relationship between art and life. Marsh’s skill at creating complex characters and evocative settings makes the novel a joy to read, while her insights into the nature of creativity and performance give the story a deeper resonance. You can get a copy of the book from Amazon here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s