A GOLDEN AGE DETECTIVE
Inspector Roderick Alleyn isn't just any old crime-solver. He is the impeccable embodiment of the "Golden Age of Detective Fiction" - that genteel genre where cunning murders are committed in stately surroundings (preferably with great big oil paintings looking on), and suspects tend to include pompous aristocrats, plucky young Wooster types, and the occasional darkly alluring femme fatale.
Alleyn himself fits in well with the up-scale period surroundings - he's a member of the aristocracy himself, with the clipped English accent to prove it. Stepping suavely from cocktail parties to private gentlemen's clubs, he's perfectly placed to unravel the lethal machinations of his posh prey.
MEET THE TEAM
Inspector Alleyn oozes quiet charisma - he's the sort of chap whose perfect poise and refined voice makes onlookers melt in his presence. Yet he's not the only star of the show that bears his name. We are also in the company of his two sidekick sleuths. Well, perhaps "sidekick" doesn't do them justice. After all, one of them - Agatha Troy - is his romantic interest as well.
Every bit as well-spoken as Alleyn, Troy has an unexpectedly bohemian side, being an accomplished artist. Yet she also moves in up-scale surroundings, and comes across as the classic lady about town. It's an innocent enough façade that conceals her ever-whirring mind. The other member of our trio is Inspector Fox, who hails from working class stock a world away from Alleyn. Yet the affection between the two men is clear, and they make a great team.
THE WORLD OF INSPECTOR ALLEYN
If you're fond of all things Agatha Christie - especially the aesthetics of her bygone world - then Inspector Alleyn's habitat will suit you down to the ground. The series is set just after World War Two, and is filled with voluptuous vintage cars, serene drawing rooms, and perfectly sculpted gardens. It goes without saying there's not a curse word or saucy scene in any of it - we're in delightfully old-fashioned, "cosy crime" territory, where the emphasis is firmly on the fine and delicate art of detection. Gritty it isn't, but that's exactly why these stories make for such ideal escapism.
MEET THE AUTHOR
So who dreamt up the heroic Inspector Alleyn? Perhaps unexpectedly, the creator of this quintessentially English sleuth actually came from another part of the world entirely. Dame Ngaio Marsh was born in New Zealand, though she did run an interior decorating business in London in the 1930s.
Marsh is now known as one of the "Queens of Crime", along with the likes of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Interestingly, she also had a serious sideline as a theatrical impresario, and arranged some of the finest Shakespeare productions ever to tour in her home country. This may explain why actors and pretentious creative types turn up so frequently in The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries - and are often mercilessly satirized as well.