Died in the Wool

Died in the Wool

by Ngaio Marsh

One summer evening in 1942, Flossie Rubrick, goes to her husband's wool shed to rehearse a patriotic speech - and disappears. Three weeks later she turns up at an auction, packed inside one of her own bales of wool and very, very dead

  • Series: Roderick Alleyn
  • Language: English
  • Category: Mystery
  • Rating: 3.86
  • Publish Date: March 18th 2011 by HarperCollins
  • Isbn10: 0006512399
  • Isbn13: 9780006512394

Read the Book "Died in the Wool" Online

The main thing that surprised me was how little this murder mystery evoked New Zealand for me, in spite of the setting on a South Island sheep farm. A little Marsh goes a long way with me.

In a way, the murder is something of a side issue, as it is obvious that Alleyns purpose is to discover who may be involved in spying on the top secret invention that Fabian Losse is working on. It is clear that just about everybody at Mount Moon has a reason to want Flossie dead and much of the book involves Alleyn interviewing members of the household.

Died in the Wool (1945) by Ngaio Marsh finds Inspector Alleyn still in New Zealand hunting spies in World War II. This time he's asked to investigate the death of a member of New Zealand's Parliament--Florence "Flossie" Rubrick. A late-night hunt in the wool shed (yes--even all this time later) is called for and Alleyn becomes the target for the murderer himself before the curtain falls on this one. Marsh uses the psychology of each person's version to help Alleyn to understand what Flossie did in the days leading up to her murder that made her death imperative for the killer.

Died in the Wool is one of four Alleyn tales Marsh set in her native New Zealand, and is made even more interesting as it was actually published during the Second World War, and incorporates aspects, issues, and perspectives on the war climate into the murder mystery plotline. In effect, Marsh has transported the classic British country house murder mystery, with its closed environment and small amount of characters all of whom have a motive for killing the victim, into a rural New Zealand setting during the war.

Excellent basic idea--rich grazier's wife vanishes, only to turn up weeks later well past her use-by date--but the book was done to death under an avalanche of words, words, words. Add to this that the killer was predictable from the outset and the ending was ALSO pure tell-not-show (epistolary ending, no less!) and you have the reason I shelved this as "stonking great disappointment." Marsh's penchant for dividing each chapter into several numbered parts, as if it were a TV drama with commercial cues at all tense points (though yes I know TV hadn't taken off yet, that's how it felt) did not help matters.

And it struck me in this one that I definitely have a better sense of Alleyn as a character now. I will only say that it probably happened a few books ago, and I didn't notice until now, but I definitely have a better sense than in the early novels.

Marsh's first novel, A MAN LAY DEAD (1934), which she wrote in London in 1931-32, introduced the detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn: a combination of Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey and a realistically depicted police official at work. Throughout the 1930s Marsh painted occasionally, wrote plays for local repertory societies in New Zealand, and published detective novels. All her novels feature British CID detective Roderick Alleyn.