Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dead Water by Ngaio March

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Dead Water
by Ngaio March

Mass Market Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
First Released: 1963

Source: Bought from library sale

Back Cover Blurb:
Faith healing can be fatal.

When intrepid octogenarian Emily Pride inherits an island, and the miraculous properties of its "Pixie Falls" healing spring, she is shocked by all the vulgarity. The admission fee, the Gifte Shoppe, the folksy Festival, the neon sign on the pub, all must go! But local opposition runs high, death threats pile up, and Miss Emily's old friend Superintendent Roderick Alleyn arrives just in time to discover a drowned body and a set of murder motives that seem to spring eternal.

This author's style is compared to Agatha Christie's. In my opinion, they are very similar in how the mystery is shaped and the clues hidden. If you haven't read a lot of Christie's novels, the solution to this mystery might even surprise you.

Luckily, the characters were enjoyable so I enjoyed reading the book even though I had the murderer correctly chosen within pages of the body showing up. And, of course, it's always fun to figure out the why's and see that you're correct.

I read this book with two other people. Neither of them identified the murderer until near the end of the book, though one correctly guessed who was the Green Lady before the end of the prelude. As in, the answer to the mystery puzzle is easier than some books but not necessarily completely obvious.

The pacing was good, though there were enough misspellings-to-imitate-dialect to make reading slower and difficult in spots. There is little cussing and no explicit sex. For those who don't like paranormal, let me assure you that the "Pixie Falls" don't actually have a pixie living near them.

Overall, I'd rate this book as "good, clean fun."

Excerpt: Chapter One
A boy stumbled up the hillside, half-blinded by tears. He fell and, for a time, chocked and sobbed as he lay in the sun but presently blundered on. A lark sang overhead. Farther up the hill he could hear the multiple chatter of running water. The children down by the jetty still chanted after him:

Warty-hog, warty-hog
Put your puddies in the bog
Warty Walter, Warty Walter
Wash your warties in the water.

The spring was near the top. It began as a bubbling pool, cascaded into a miniature waterfall, dived under pebbles, earth and bracken and at last, loquacious and preoccupied, swirled mysteriously underground and was lost. Above the pool stood a boulder, flanked by briars and fern, and above that the brow of the hill and the sun in a clear sky.

He squatted near the waterfall. His legs ached and a spasm jolted his chest. He gasped for breath, beat his hands on the ground and looked at them. Warty-hog. Warts clustered all over his fingers like those black things that covered the legs of the jetty. Two of them bled where he'd cut them. The other kids were told not to touch him.

He thrust his hands under the cold pressure of the cascade. It beat and stung and numbed them, but he screwed up his blubbered eyes and forced them to stay there. Water spurted icily up his arms and into his face.

"Don't cry."

He opened his eyes directly into the sun or would have done so if she hadn't stood between: tall and greenish, above the big stone and rimmed about with light like something on the telly so that he couldn't see her properly.

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