WHEN IN ROME presents us with a tantalizing tale of Mr. Sebastian Mailer, an up-scale tour guide whose idea of showing his guests the town ranges from artistic landmarks to drug laden dens of iniquity. Unfortunately, Mailer also laces his mixture with a spot of blackmail, so it is no great surprise to Chief Inspector Alleyn, on duty in Rome, when a body turns up where no body should be.
Among the great authors of 20th Century mystery fiction, Ngaio Marsh was particularly noted for her ability to create unique characters and place them in memorable settings--and WHEN IN ROME offers her the opportunity to do precisely that. But in this instance Marsh overplays her hand. The novel is tainted by repeated condensending British jibes at Italy, some faintly hilarious ideas about drug use, and what can only be described as indirect but nonetheless obvious sneering fits of homophobia.
In the end, this is novel that established Marsh fans will want to read--but it is also a novel that not even established Marsh fans will consider in the same league with such brilliant works as BLACK AS HE'S PAINTED, DEAD WATER, or OVERTURE TO DEATH, to name but a few. Readable, even amusing, but ultimately dismissable.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer