From the back cover:
Sir John Phillips, the Harley Street surgeon, and his beautiful nurse, Jane Harden, are almost too nervous to operate. The emergency case on the table before them is the Home Secretary—and they both have very good, personal reasons to wish him dead. Within hours he does die, although the operation was a complete success…
Wow, a Ngaio Marsh book I actually enjoyed! I think the difference is that we’re not seeing events (and Inspector Alleyn) through the eyes of another character this time. Alleyn seems almost like a different character now. He’s still breezy and flip, but seems to be more consistent in mood and personality. Characterization is not the focus of this novel, but this is still a definite improvement.
The structure of the book was very tidy. The first third is devoted to setting up the victim in life, and those with possible motivations against him. The next third consists of Alleyn’s interviews with all the surgeons and nurses present during the procedure. James Saxon, the audiobook’s narrator, does a fabulous job giving each of these people their own voice, both literally and figuratively. I especially love how he handles a blustery doctor prone to going “ha ha ha” at his own comments.
The rest of the book continues and completes the investigation. The only things I didn’t particularly like were the first appearance by a couple of Alleyn’s civilian buddies (they got on my nerves and disrupted the flow of things) and the pantomime reconstruction of the surgical procedure in question (lo, how it dragged).
A final note: apparently a nursing home is something else in the UK. This is not about a place where elderly folks dwell, but rather a small hospital where surgeries are performed. It took a while for me to get the image of the victim as an old dude out of my head.