When in Rome
Sebastion Mailer is suspected to be a major trafficker of drugs from the Middle East up through Europe and into England. Currently he resides in Rome. He has just started an exclusive tour company. He promises a look at Rome beyond the normal tourist sites, as well as dinner at an exclusive restaurant at the end of the day, then an evening a one of the hot night spots. To start his new business off, he has brought in the famous author Barnaby Grant to discuss the diggings under Rome where Grant's newest best selling novel is set.
Superintendent Roderick Alleyn has come down from England in hopes of being able to arrest Mailer. He is able to join the initial tour. Also in the small group is an older couple from a publishing company in the Netherlands, an elderly English baroness and her grown nephew, a retired English major, and a young woman who works for Grant's publishing company and has written some children's books. They come to the diggings that go down through a few eras of the city of Rome to a Mithric grotto. As they enter an old woman comes up, shouted at Mailer, and spits at him. He ignores her and they head down.
As they descend, Barnaby Grant reluctantly describes the scenes that are in his book. Alleyn can tell Grant doesn't want to be any sort of a tour guide and wonders why Grant is there at all. The further they go down the more mysterious and exciting are their surroundings. There are statues centuries old, ritual sites, and levels of the city buried by newer levels. They are the only visible visitors in this out of the way site. Once, looking over the railing in the stairwell they see a shadow of a woman - the one from the entrance?
The baroness is tiring. Her nephew returns her to the top but takes a long time returning. Mailer and the major also leave the group to look for the young man. The nephew and major return and the group go down to the lowest level, with Grant speaking about the surroundings. Down there they find an ancient stone sarcophagus. In it they discover the body of the woman who had shouted at Mailer at the entrance. Mailer has not returned and isn't seen again by the group.
Now Alleyn has to tread carefully. He's in a foreign country with little jurisdiction over anything except drug smuggling. The Roman police believe Mailer killed the woman and disappeared into his criminal network. Most of the tourists in the group were English citizens. He is sure the nephew is an addict and had gotten a fix from Mailer and dosed himself while returning from taking the baroness upstairs. The couple from Netherlands are a jovial, devoted to each other, and puritanical in some ways. The young woman and Grant seem to drift together when things turn sour. The major is an enigma.
When in Rome is another good mystery from the masterful Ngaio Marsh. Mailer's evil is subtle and well honed. The different characters each come to life as they come into prominence. Marsh describes Alleyn's thought processes as he walks the fine line with the Roman police department. There is a wonderful twist at the end that perfectly concludes the story.
| The Series:
A Man Lay Dead
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