Saturday, June 20, 2015

When In Rome

As part of my prep for my trip to Italy this fall, I read a wonderful little mystery, When in Rome, by Ngaio Marsh. First published in 1971, it is quite dated in some ways--no cell phones, being the main gadget missing from the character's lives, and a preponderance of 1960's era swinger slang--but in terms of atmosphere and geography and setting, it was perfect.

This is a Roderick Alleyn mystery--my first time meeting this suave British police detective--but I'm sure it won't be my last.  He is charming, clever, and fun to be around.

The setting is Rome, of course. Dame Ngaio Marsh has set her story in the Basilica of San Clemente, but changed the name. Not exactly sure why, but I loved looking up places that Alleyn and the other characters visit in the course of the novel.

In a nutshell, the story revolves around a murder that happens during a special tour of the basilica by a motley crew of mostly British tourists with a Dutch couple thrown into the mix, and it reminded me a lot of an Agatha Christie mystery.

I enjoyed the mystery--didn't figure it out but loved how it worked out in the end.  Adored the setting and now have the Basilica of San Clemente on my must-see list for Rome.

I can recommend When In Rome for mystery lovers, for those who are nostalgic for the 1960's and that "mod swinging scene," and for those who dream of visiting Rome and exploring the layers of history in the Eternal City.

Basilica of San Clemente


  1. This sounds like a fun book and a nice prequel to your trip.

    I think that 1970s era gangster lingo would be very entertaining to read.

  2. I haven't read any of the later Marshes - this one does sound like fun! I'll be interested to see what else you read in preparation for your trip.

  3. Congratulations on your upcoming trip! I'd also recommend I, Claudius if you want to get a feel for all the Imperial Roman mayhem. I went to Rome this past spring and two of my favorite places were the Caracalla baths, which are a bit off the beaten track (past the Colosseum) but well worth a visit; also, Piazza del Popolo is just beautiful. I would go back to Italy in a heartbeat!

  4. I forgot! I'd highly recommend reading Edith Wharton's short story "Roman Fever" before you go. It's just brilliant (and not a huge time commitment) -- it's a must read before you visit the Colosseum!

    1. Thanks for the recommendations, Karen--Roman Fever is on my shelf, just pulled it off and added it to the must read pile!

  5. Somehow I've managed to miss reading any books by Ngaio Marsh! But I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time in Rome - so much to see.

  6. Hi, Jane -

    Just wanted to remind you that it is summer again....and time for another Big Book Summer Challenge! I hope you enjoyed it last year and will consider joining the fun again!


    2015 Big Book Summer Challenge

  7. I have read quite a few of her books and enjoyed them