“Good morning,” said a voice from the doorway. He swung round in his chair and saw Agatha Troy. She was dressed in green and had a little velvet cap on her dark head and green gloves on her hands.
“I came in to see if there was anything I could do for Mildred.”
“You didn’t know I was here?”…
Troy sat on the edge of the desk and pulled off her cap. The morning sun came through the window and dappled her short dark hair with blue lights. It caught the fine angle of her jaw and her cheek-bone. It shone into her eyes, making her screw them up as she did when she painted. She drew off her green gloves and Alleyn watched her thin intelligent hands slide out of their sheaths and lie delicately in [the fur of her] green jacket. He wondered if he would ever recover from the love of her.
commentary: There was an earlier entry on this book, here, and while it doesn’t exactly demand a second one – it’s not one of Marsh’s best – some of the details of the book demanded another look from me, and I can never resist any debutante/season/coming-out book.
Troy and Alleyn met in Artists in Crime: in this book their romance comes to a climax (not really a spoiler when she features in so many subsequent books.) She is a 1930s version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (I was quite ready to diagnose the 1960s version in a Len Deighton book here) while of course being a world-class portrait painter and a person of great principle. She’s not quite as annoying as that should all make her though.
I was interested in her hat being described as a cap – on reading this I just made up a theory that Golden Age crime writers put only heroines (ie women they like) into a cap-rather-than-hat – is it meant to show that they are cheery and informal and somewhat tomboyish? I’m pretty certain that Dorothy L Sayers’ fictional alter ego Harriet D Vane wears a cap from time to time, and am now going to start logging cap references in these books.
She’s a funny mixture, Marsh: when she wants you to dislike a wicked character she describes his flat which has ‘an exercise in pornographic photography… frankly infamous’ on the wall, and indecent novels on the bookshelves, and mentions both several times, with great disgust, in case you missed the point.
On the other hand she describes a very fashionably decorated house, then shows us a study full of leather and sporting prints:
Alleyn wondered if the General had stood with his cavalry sabre on the threshold of this room, daring the fashionable decorator to come on and see what would get.I’m surprised she can be so clichéd in the 1st description, and so charming in the second.
I also enjoyed the description of the fashionable but very dubious nightclub – while all kinds of blackmail and murder is going on all around, one unhappy mother is horrified to find her daughter has visited the club: ‘It just simply isn’t done by debutantes. No really that was very naughty.’
(Cf Nancy Mitford in The Pursuit of Love: ‘Aunt Sadie was beginning to wonder whether Linda had not committed the unforgivable sin, and gone off to a night club.’)
The picture is a 1935 ensemble from Kristine’s photostream.