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At Sir Hubert Handesley's country house party, five guests have gathered for the uproarious parlor game of "Murder." Yet no one is laughing when the lights come up on an actual corpse, the good-looking and mysterious Charles Rankin. Scotland Yard's Inspector Roderick Alleyn arrives to find a complete collection of alibis, a missing butler, and an intricate puzzle of betray At Sir Hubert Handesley's country house party, five guests have gathered for the uproarious parlor game of "Murder." Yet no one is laughing when the lights come up on an actual corpse, the good-looking and mysterious Charles Rankin. Scotland Yard's Inspector Roderick Alleyn arrives to find a complete collection of alibis, a missing butler, and an intricate puzzle of betrayal and sedition in the search for the key player in this deadly game.


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At Sir Hubert Handesley's country house party, five guests have gathered for the uproarious parlor game of "Murder." Yet no one is laughing when the lights come up on an actual corpse, the good-looking and mysterious Charles Rankin. Scotland Yard's Inspector Roderick Alleyn arrives to find a complete collection of alibis, a missing butler, and an intricate puzzle of betray At Sir Hubert Handesley's country house party, five guests have gathered for the uproarious parlor game of "Murder." Yet no one is laughing when the lights come up on an actual corpse, the good-looking and mysterious Charles Rankin. Scotland Yard's Inspector Roderick Alleyn arrives to find a complete collection of alibis, a missing butler, and an intricate puzzle of betrayal and sedition in the search for the key player in this deadly game.

30 review for A Man Lay Dead

  1. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    This being the first Roderick Alleyn murder mystery... out of 33, of Ngaio Marsh, wonderful appellation, ( beats the first name of Edith... her middle one tops that, no contest) the author is getting her sea legs the plot nothing new even in 1934 when written. Sir Hubert Handesley invites a small number of guests for the weekend, a party of British frivolities, eating, drinking, walks in the woods and even a mock killing in his huge country estate , Frantock Hall; silly fun and games, companions This being the first Roderick Alleyn murder mystery... out of 33, of Ngaio Marsh, wonderful appellation, ( beats the first name of Edith... her middle one tops that, no contest) the author is getting her sea legs the plot nothing new even in 1934 when written. Sir Hubert Handesley invites a small number of guests for the weekend, a party of British frivolities, eating, drinking, walks in the woods and even a mock killing in his huge country estate , Frantock Hall; silly fun and games, companionship in the fresh air away from tumultuous London. However things become dark soon as the pretend murder isn't but horrid reality... a dead man on the floor refuses to rise, the fun ends immediately. Nigel Bathgate a reporter arrives by train with his older cousin Charles Rankin a man who likes the ladies and they reciprocate. Mr. and Mrs.Wilde, Arthur, Marjorie, he an archaeologist with a shaky marriage, a mysterious Russian art expert Foma Tokareff nobody trusts and last but as we say not the least, beautiful Angela North a friend of Rosamund Grant the niece of Sir Hubert .Where would a murderer be without a police detective? Free, not in this genre . ..Enter the gentleman Roderick Alleyn from London's Scotland Yard where else... still he looks befuddled and ordinary is this an inspector the suspects since everyone inside the mansion and outside is one, the guests , servants, the maids , butlers , cooks and gardeners aren't immune to the investigation either, tiresome, meticulous though it seems to them... afraid of...certainly... However a budding romance between Angela and Nigel sparks the rather glum atmosphere otherwise and gives relief to the harsh proceedings .The inspector sends the two brave or naive a better word, into a dangerous assignment against foreign criminals, a gang hesitant they're not to break the law for profit or benefit, connected to the murder.This mystery gives a lot of false clues about the identity of the real murderer and too many scenes outside the main place of interest you can say convoluted, still a good entertainment and having read another of the writer's books Alleyn #16 in the series , "Night of the Vulcan", become better as they go along... published during the height of the classic mystery era...my own opinion I could be wrong and often am, who doesn't like a mystery except the deceased...victim.

  2. 4 out of 5

    carol.

    I Was Amused. Marsh borrows from Wodehouse: Countryside House Parties! Parlour Games! Conjoining Rooms! Emancipated Young Women Driving Extremely Fast! Russians! Dashing Debonair Detectives! "He climbed in [the car] beside her, And almost immediately had his breath snatched away by Miss North’s extremely progressive ideas on acceleration. I read Marsh decades ago, and remembered enjoying many of the books, others not so much. so I thought I might start the series from the beginning and see what an I Was Amused. Marsh borrows from Wodehouse: Countryside House Parties! Parlour Games! Conjoining Rooms! Emancipated Young Women Driving Extremely Fast! Russians! Dashing Debonair Detectives! "He climbed in [the car] beside her, And almost immediately had his breath snatched away by Miss North’s extremely progressive ideas on acceleration. I read Marsh decades ago, and remembered enjoying many of the books, others not so much. so I thought I might start the series from the beginning and see what an older carol. thought. I chuckled more than once, so that's a win. I couldn't tell if Marsh was intending a farce or not, but by the time (view spoiler)[Alleyn crawled out of the chimney, (hide spoiler)] happened, I decided it much be. I mean, that was too ridiculous, particularly how the murder was done. Christie tried some of the same political silliness, but it was later in her career. Those writers! "‘You have been very industrious,’ said Nigel. ‘My memory’s so bad,’ Alleyn apologized. ‘Don’t be affected,’ said Nigel. ‘Shut up. I hate your bedroom slippers and I know you use corn plaster.’" Two and a half stars, rounding up for Miss North's progressive ideas on acceleration.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    Reason for reading 1. I needed a book by a New Zealand author for a challenge. 2. A feeling of nostalgia when I saw the name Ngaio Marsh. My mother read her books when I was a child. I may have tried one or two myself but they would have not been very interesting to me then. Times change and I found A Man Lay Dead very interesting indeed. It is a typical mystery of the time, country house party, upper class guests, unexpected murder and the arrival of a very clever policeman to discover the evil p Reason for reading 1. I needed a book by a New Zealand author for a challenge. 2. A feeling of nostalgia when I saw the name Ngaio Marsh. My mother read her books when I was a child. I may have tried one or two myself but they would have not been very interesting to me then. Times change and I found A Man Lay Dead very interesting indeed. It is a typical mystery of the time, country house party, upper class guests, unexpected murder and the arrival of a very clever policeman to discover the evil perpetrator. In this case the policeman is Inspector Roderick Alleyn from Scotland Yard. A Man Lay Dead is the first of 32 books in the Inspector Alleyn series and according to many of the reviews I have read it was a rather tentative beginning and the rest are much better. Great! I now have 31 more books to look forward to:)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mir

    Marsh introduced her famous detective in this mystery, and you can tell that she wasn't entirely sure what personality to go with. At times he reads like Wimsey playing a silly ass, at other times he is crude or clever in the manner of a Bright Young Thing; he takes the official police hard-line one moment only to suddenly behave in unprofessional and even inappropriate ways. I suspect she was trying to write realistically complex character, but the overall effect is one of schizophrenia and imp Marsh introduced her famous detective in this mystery, and you can tell that she wasn't entirely sure what personality to go with. At times he reads like Wimsey playing a silly ass, at other times he is crude or clever in the manner of a Bright Young Thing; he takes the official police hard-line one moment only to suddenly behave in unprofessional and even inappropriate ways. I suspect she was trying to write realistically complex character, but the overall effect is one of schizophrenia and implausibility. Luckily, we spend most of the story from the point of view of Nigel Bathgate, a somewhat two-dimensional Nice Young Man of the sort that one would let date one's sister (but probably find too boring to have a relationship with). There's no pomo unreliability here; it is clear that he is innocent, and his requisite wholesome love interest is dismissed from suspicion, apparently out of convenience to the romance subplot. Otherwise, the victim and suspects are sufficiently unpleasant that there is no sense of urgency about the solution. Most interesting to me, partly because it is so dated, is the side mystery with the Bolshevik conspirators. Did you know that in addition to being dirty communists they practiced weird, vaguely Satanic rituals that sometimes culminate in self-immolation? No? Neither did Marsh. The only thing the police really seem to be after them for is publishing seditious literature, which I guess every contemporary reader was assumed to consider a serious and despicable crime. Bolshies! Don't let anyone give you one of their sacred ritual daggers or they will track you down* and murder you! *It won't be difficult; you'll happen to be at the weekend house-party of a mutual friend. I don't know why anyone still goes to house-parties in England, it is just asking for trouble.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

    2.5 ★ & that high only because this was Marsh's first book. Makes you realise what a remarkable achievement Christie's first , was. Other reviewers have criticised Marsh for inconsistencies in Alleyn's characterisation. I actually don't mind this. I prefer it to having Alleyn & various aristocrats angsting over being involved in something as low bred as a murder! This is very tedious in Marsh's other novels. And I did enjoy the start- although for some strange reason, the frenetic pace had me 2.5 ★ & that high only because this was Marsh's first book. Makes you realise what a remarkable achievement Christie's first , was. Other reviewers have criticised Marsh for inconsistencies in Alleyn's characterisation. I actually don't mind this. I prefer it to having Alleyn & various aristocrats angsting over being involved in something as low bred as a murder! This is very tedious in Marsh's other novels. And I did enjoy the start- although for some strange reason, the frenetic pace had me imagining everyone saying their lines while dancing 30s style. Marsh's theatrical background always makes me see her characters as actors playing a part, rather than as three dimensional humans. Like many of Mary Stewart's books, there was another character in this one. Alleyn even smokes while searching a suspect's dressing room! But I was enjoying this until around the 80% mark when I became impatient with a silly sub plot. & then a very long explanation. It was my idea to read this in the Reading the Detectives group. I hope, in time, they will forgive me!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adrian

    Now I am way behind with my Ngaio Marsh challenge , not because I was delaying reading these books, but for other book reasons. So when I started reading this book I was hoping I would enjoy it, and I did. I have seen a few TV episodes with Patrick Malahide, but had no pre-conceived ideas of Chief Inspector Alleyn, that said, I must admit he did come across very Patrick Malahide -ish. My previous book was another detective story Pietr the Latvian and it was to me a fantastic, albeit short detecti Now I am way behind with my Ngaio Marsh challenge , not because I was delaying reading these books, but for other book reasons. So when I started reading this book I was hoping I would enjoy it, and I did. I have seen a few TV episodes with Patrick Malahide, but had no pre-conceived ideas of Chief Inspector Alleyn, that said, I must admit he did come across very Patrick Malahide -ish. My previous book was another detective story Pietr the Latvian and it was to me a fantastic, albeit short detective story; If that is the epitome of a detective story (and I did give it 5 stars, as I have some Holmes stories) then this is a definite 4 stars. Given that I have signed up to read 12 Ngaio Marsh novels this year (so yes I am way behind) a 4 star enjoyable read is a good start and I look forward to the next 11 books in the series, bring it on.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This is the first of Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn mysteries and it contains everything that a great Golden Age mystery should. First, the house party, complete with varying guests - an adulterous wife, jealous girlfriend, mysterious Russian, etc. In this case, the country house in question is Frantock and Nigel Bathgate (a journalist) is accompanying his cousin Charles on one of the much coveted entertaining weekends, for which invitations are hard to obtain. The host, avid collector, Sir Huber This is the first of Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn mysteries and it contains everything that a great Golden Age mystery should. First, the house party, complete with varying guests - an adulterous wife, jealous girlfriend, mysterious Russian, etc. In this case, the country house in question is Frantock and Nigel Bathgate (a journalist) is accompanying his cousin Charles on one of the much coveted entertaining weekends, for which invitations are hard to obtain. The host, avid collector, Sir Hubert Handesley intends to hold a 'murder' game, which naturally goes completely wrong, when there is a real victim. Alleyn is a great character, who involves Nigel Bathgate and Sir Hubert’s niece, Angela North, in his investigation. What follows is lots of implausible plot twists (via the Russians) and an even more implausible conclusion, but the whole thing is great fun. Ngaio Marsh does not cheat and you could, if you are extremely clever and keep notes, work it out. Personally, I was happy to relax in her highly competent hands and enjoy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Blaine DeSantis

    I have never read any of Ngaio Marsh's books. She is one of those Golden Age of Mystery/Detective writers who made the genre popular, and so I have decided to read a few of her works. I enjoyed this book a lot, but much of the plot reminded me of The Billiard Room Mystery by Brian Flynn that was written a few years prior to this book. Here we have a festive weekend gathering in which the guests will play the parlor game "Murder" in which one person is designated the killer (in secret), and in a I have never read any of Ngaio Marsh's books. She is one of those Golden Age of Mystery/Detective writers who made the genre popular, and so I have decided to read a few of her works. I enjoyed this book a lot, but much of the plot reminded me of The Billiard Room Mystery by Brian Flynn that was written a few years prior to this book. Here we have a festive weekend gathering in which the guests will play the parlor game "Murder" in which one person is designated the killer (in secret), and in a period of time that person must tap someone on the back and tell that person they are dead. The first part of the game ends and the guests must have a trial to determine who is the killer. Sounds like fun, but before the designated killer can act, one of the guests turns up dead with a dagger in his back. Lots to enjoy in this book, but I had a hard time keeping up and remembering who was who since there is not a lot of character development in the book. Also there is a lot of 1930's corny language in the book which does not help the modern reader. Nonetheless, and despite being able to figure out the real killer early in the book, I like the writing and have a few more of her books to read. I am confident that things will pick up in this series - and for me I always prefer to begin with the first in a series and see how the writer and characters progress.

  9. 4 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    Alleyn looked at him with a curious air of compassion. ‘Not even yet?’ he said. ‘Whose were the prints?’ ‘That I am not going to tell you. Oh, believe me, Bathgate, not out of any desire to figure as the mysterious omnipotent detective. That would be impossibly vulgar. No. I am not telling you because there is still that bit of my brains that cannot quite accept the QED of the theorem. Well, that was one of the silliest GA detective stories I have read. Not bad or horrible or totally off-putting, bu Alleyn looked at him with a curious air of compassion. ‘Not even yet?’ he said. ‘Whose were the prints?’ ‘That I am not going to tell you. Oh, believe me, Bathgate, not out of any desire to figure as the mysterious omnipotent detective. That would be impossibly vulgar. No. I am not telling you because there is still that bit of my brains that cannot quite accept the QED of the theorem. Well, that was one of the silliest GA detective stories I have read. Not bad or horrible or totally off-putting, but entirely implausible. So, implausible that I even want to call it "cute". So, when Alleyn stated (see quote above) that the QED had not been established, yet, I may have laughed out loud. I may also have laughed again at the end of the book. I am glad I have read A Man Lay Dead after having already another of Marsh's books, because I already know that Marsh can write a splendid mystery. It's just that A Man Lay Dead is not it. Now that this first book is out of the way, I look forward to the rest of the series, tho.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    A young reporter is enjoying an upper-class British house party when abruptly, someone is found dead! I can't say I enjoyed this. There's an entire subplot concerning a Bolshevic satanic cult (?!) (view spoiler)[that goes nowhere, and isn't even an effective red herring. (hide spoiler)] This is the first Inspector Alleyn book, and it's clear that Marsh isn't sure how to write him yet. His personality is all over the place: one moment he's burbling Bright Young Things slang, the next he's cold an A young reporter is enjoying an upper-class British house party when abruptly, someone is found dead! I can't say I enjoyed this. There's an entire subplot concerning a Bolshevic satanic cult (?!) (view spoiler)[that goes nowhere, and isn't even an effective red herring. (hide spoiler)] This is the first Inspector Alleyn book, and it's clear that Marsh isn't sure how to write him yet. His personality is all over the place: one moment he's burbling Bright Young Things slang, the next he's cold and remote, the next he's romantically morose. It doesn't read like a complex character so much as one without any fixed characterization. The mystery itself is very frustrating, because there's no way it should have worked. (view spoiler)[ The murderer springs out of the bath, pulls on gloves, slides down a bannister face-first, yoinks a dagger conveniently nearby, and stabs his victim who just so happens to be standing with his back directly in front of the bannister? No one on earth would plan a murder that way! And there's no way that Alleyn figured out that the murderer did it that way, when his only evidence was that the murderer wore a glove! How does that prove that someone slid down the bannister face-first, let alone which person did it? (hide spoiler)] Ridiculous! I'll try one more Marsh book, by virtue of her reputation, and then I think I'll call it quits.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gary Sundell

    Nice start to a classic detective series. Looking forward to moving forward in the series.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This is the first of Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn mysteries and it contains everything that you expect from a Golden Age mystery. First, the house party, complete with varying guests - an adulterous wife, jealous girlfriend, mysterious Russian, and more. In this case, the country house in question is Frantock and Nigel Bathgate (a journalist) is accompanying his cousin Charles on one of the much coveted entertaining weekends, for which invitations are hard to obtain. The host intends to hold a This is the first of Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn mysteries and it contains everything that you expect from a Golden Age mystery. First, the house party, complete with varying guests - an adulterous wife, jealous girlfriend, mysterious Russian, and more. In this case, the country house in question is Frantock and Nigel Bathgate (a journalist) is accompanying his cousin Charles on one of the much coveted entertaining weekends, for which invitations are hard to obtain. The host intends to hold a 'murder' game, which naturally goes completely wrong, when there is a real victim. There are lots of implausible plot twists (via the Russians) and an even more implausible conclusion, but the whole thing is great fun. Apparently, Marsh herself was embarrassed by this, her first, mystery, but she need not have been so. Although this was published in 1934, meaning that Christie, Sayers and Allingham all had books published before her (in the 1920’s), she quickly became a huge success and has remained one of the four major Queens of Crime. I have read very few of her books, but I intend to remedy that this year, and have certainly enjoyed this first in the series.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    It is New Zealand November and I am trying to read more books from and about New Zealand as part of my year-long Oceania reading spree in 2015. Ngaio Marsh is a well-loved crime writer from New Zealand, but most of her books are set in and around London. Her Inspector Roderick Alleyn series seem (from this first one) to be the light whodunits along the lines of Agatha Christie. Over-the-top characters, some big words I had to look up (some just being regional words we don't use in the USA), silly It is New Zealand November and I am trying to read more books from and about New Zealand as part of my year-long Oceania reading spree in 2015. Ngaio Marsh is a well-loved crime writer from New Zealand, but most of her books are set in and around London. Her Inspector Roderick Alleyn series seem (from this first one) to be the light whodunits along the lines of Agatha Christie. Over-the-top characters, some big words I had to look up (some just being regional words we don't use in the USA), silly tied up ending. A fun read but nothing to do with New Zealand!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jokoloyo

    This book is a classic whodunnit mystery in a wealthy English manor. My first read of Ms. Marsh stories. I like how there are little humour parts in the story, make the story not so serious. Maybe you could guess the culprit or guess the murder technique. I think the story is fair enough for giving clues.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Abbey

    BOTTOM LINE: Thoroughly old-fashioned "good read!", with an aristo-detective, all the suspects gathered in A Great House for a weekend house party, a peculiar murder method, wild Bolsheviks complicating everything, family intrigues galore, an affable-but-dim Watson - what's not to like? First mystery novel (1934) from a now-classic author isn't challenging, brilliant, or particularly special, but is still entertaining, giving a hint of her good books yet to come and, as is usual with Marsh, ther BOTTOM LINE: Thoroughly old-fashioned "good read!", with an aristo-detective, all the suspects gathered in A Great House for a weekend house party, a peculiar murder method, wild Bolsheviks complicating everything, family intrigues galore, an affable-but-dim Watson - what's not to like? First mystery novel (1934) from a now-classic author isn't challenging, brilliant, or particularly special, but is still entertaining, giving a hint of her good books yet to come and, as is usual with Marsh, there are nicely pointed sly digs here'n'there. Nigel Bathgate's cousin Charles is a bit of a dog - loving the pursuit of ladies rather too much, he enjoys playing with fire, and gets burned, in many ways. He loses a girlfriend/possible wife (who truly loves him) while in pursuit of an already-married woman, whose current husband isn't much pleased. And while remaining rather likable (at least in callow Nigel's eyes) his superscilliousness and air of "I know better/all!" gets on not a few raw nerves during an extended house party. And not many are surprised when, in the course of A Murder Game, he winds up truly dead - and in a spectacular (how like Charles!!) fashion. Enter Inspector Alleyn - obviously refined, very well-educated, extremely likable, his smooth demeanor hides a mildly tormented psyche, as he finds he must expose Nice People to the machinations of the police force and its subsequent events, some not at all well-mannered. With these attributes Alleyn, in Marsh's first novel, is quite ordinary, an oft-used character in popular novels of the time, and although in future novels he becomes a rather interesting personality with a fascinating backstory, in this his first recorded case he is quite traditional, and rather stodgy. And while in subsequent novels Marsh builds up the cast of regulars around Alleyn (especially the wonderful Mr. Fox), here he's pretty much the entire show, except for a funny local policeman named Bunce - yet another character that often shows up in mysteries from the 1920s and early 1930s. The plotting, while good, is also quite ordinary for the period - a stilted setting, a twisted murder mystery with overlapping elements of several crimes, a bit of spy-thriller nonsense, some slight omnipotence from the police, and a thoroughly ludicrous bit of play-acting-cum-reconstruction of the crime at the end. But it's all very smoothly written, and while now a curiosity, at the time "this sort of thing" was quite popular. Now considered one of the Queens of Crime of the period (along with Christie and Allingham), Marsh's first mystery is still enjoyable, if not special or especially thrilling.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Janete Fabricio ON SEMI HIATUS

    Scribd English text and translation in Portuguese + audio in English from Google Translate. Synopsys: "Commemorating 75 years since the Empress of Crime’s first book, the first volume of the 32 Inspector Alleyn mysteries. Sir Hubert Handesley's extravagant weekend house-parties are deservedly famous for his exciting Murder Game. But when the lights go up this time, there is a real corpse with a real dagger in the back. All seven suspects have skilful alibis - so Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Scribd English text and translation in Portuguese + audio in English from Google Translate. Synopsys: "Commemorating 75 years since the Empress of Crime’s first book, the first volume of the 32 Inspector Alleyn mysteries. Sir Hubert Handesley's extravagant weekend house-parties are deservedly famous for his exciting Murder Game. But when the lights go up this time, there is a real corpse with a real dagger in the back. All seven suspects have skilful alibis - so Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn has to figure out the whodunit…"

  17. 4 out of 5

    John

    This is Ngaio’s first Roderick Alleyn novel and it is a good introduction to the series I am slowly working through in no particular order. The story is set at Sir Hubert Handsley is well-known country house, Frantock where he is having a murder mystery party. He has invited his friend invited Charles Rankin a bachelor who likes the ladies and is a bit of a scoundrel and managed to annoy everyone he meets. The other guests include: Charle’s cousin Nigel Bathgate a journalist; Rosemund Grant who This is Ngaio’s first Roderick Alleyn novel and it is a good introduction to the series I am slowly working through in no particular order. The story is set at Sir Hubert Handsley is well-known country house, Frantock where he is having a murder mystery party. He has invited his friend invited Charles Rankin a bachelor who likes the ladies and is a bit of a scoundrel and managed to annoy everyone he meets. The other guests include: Charle’s cousin Nigel Bathgate a journalist; Rosemund Grant who is in love with Charles; Angela North the fast driving niece of Sir Hubert, and Arthur and his wife Marjorie Wilde, Arthur is a writer and archeologist who Charle’s bullied at Elton and and his attractive wife. There is also Dr. Tokareff a Russian involved in a secret brotherhood, a few maids and an elderly and Russian butler called Vassily. Everyone is gathered for the murder mystery weekend and then someone is actually killed with a dagger with links to Russia. There are quite a few motive including money from inheritance, an angry lover, an angry husband and breaking the rules of the brotherhood. The Russian sub plot is a good twist. In this first novel Alleyn is not fleshed out with no real details of his background. It’s a good mystery if a like far fetched in how the murder is actually done. It made me laugh although I am sure that was not the intention. Overall a good read set in 1934.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    “What with daggers, deaths, and eavesdroppings,” he pondered, “there’s an undercurrent of sensation in this house-party. A Man Lay Dead is a 1934 golden age British mystery that takes place at the county estate of Sir Hubert Handesley, who hosted “unique and delightfully original house- parties”. This weekend, the seven guests plan to play a murder game where one of them will be selected to act as the murder who will then choose someone to be the corpse. The identities are secret, and the player “What with daggers, deaths, and eavesdroppings,” he pondered, “there’s an undercurrent of sensation in this house-party. A Man Lay Dead is a 1934 golden age British mystery that takes place at the county estate of Sir Hubert Handesley, who hosted “unique and delightfully original house- parties”. This weekend, the seven guests plan to play a murder game where one of them will be selected to act as the murder who will then choose someone to be the corpse. The identities are secret, and the players will know the “murder” has occurred when the lights are momentarily turned off and a gong sounded. Once the corpse has been located, guests will hold a mock trial to weigh the evidence. The game goes as planned until it was discovered that “a man lay dead.” And Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard was called to the scene. Incidentally, this was the first novel Marsh wrote and the first book I’ve read of the author. I liked this book way more than anticipated. The languid pace at which the characters were established, and connections revealed was a highlight of the book for me. Here is a spoiler-free character list: (view spoiler)[ 1. Sir Hubert Handesley - (50s) host and collector of archaic weapons 2. Angela North - Sir Hubert's niece 3. Charles Rankin - mid-40s, man about town 4. Nigel Bathgate - Charles's cousin and a gossip reporter. 5. Rosamund Grant – Charles’ friend. 6. Mr. Arthur Wilde - archaeologist 7. Mrs. “Marjorie Wilde - (32) Arthur’s wife 8. Doctor Foma Tokareff – old friend of Sir Hubert 9. Vassily Vassilyevitch - Sir Hubert’s Russian butler. 10. Jamison - Nigel’s chief (boss). 11. P.C. Bunce - the local constabulary 12. Chief Inspector-detective Roderick Alleyn. 13. Detective-Sergeant Bailey 14. Detective-Sergeant Smith 15. Doctor Young - the divisional surgeon 16. Mr. Benningden, the family solicitor. (hide spoiler)] In some murder mysteries it is clear from the start whom the victim will be, so it just a matter of identifying the “whodunit.” Here, the guests are together for a day before anything major happens. I didn’t have a guess who the victim would be, so it kept me anticipating the next move. Even, the characters felt an air of anticipation too, as no one wanted to be alone else they may hear someone whisper to them, "you're the corpse". As with mysteries of this period, there was the occasional, “by Jove!” exclaimed, and others like, “crikey!” and “hell’s boots!” Everyone dresses for dinner and males link arms and go about. To me, there’s something fun and relaxing in reading these classic books. With all the talk of ancient weapons and of the “secret brotherhood” and a couple of murders, Inspector Alleyn’s quite busy investigating this crime and the Russian subplot. Two guests are conscripted to do work for the inspector (which seemed a bit implausible though entertaining). Undeterred, Alleyn builds the case with little physical evidence. As tension builds, the big reveal unfolds near the end in dramatic fashion. A Man Lay Dead features all the elements of an early cozy detective mystery. And as engaged as I was in the writing and the plot, this remains just a basic mystery. Readers who relish an old-fashioned read will likely enjoy this one.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Beckham

    I’m a soft touch for pre-war murder mysteries set amongst the English upper classes, so I guess this novel – published in 1934 – was always going to offer some vicarious appeal. As kids, before heading off to school, my pals and I used to rendezvous on our bikes outside the village bookshop (imagine – a village bookshop!). I recall displayed in the window paperbacks by the exotically named ‘Ngaio Marsh’. I don’t know what I thought they were about, but I can’t believe it has taken me so many deca I’m a soft touch for pre-war murder mysteries set amongst the English upper classes, so I guess this novel – published in 1934 – was always going to offer some vicarious appeal. As kids, before heading off to school, my pals and I used to rendezvous on our bikes outside the village bookshop (imagine – a village bookshop!). I recall displayed in the window paperbacks by the exotically named ‘Ngaio Marsh’. I don’t know what I thought they were about, but I can’t believe it has taken me so many decades to discover they are of my favourite genre. A Man Lay Dead is the author’s first of her gentleman detective series, featuring the educated and erudite Roderick Alleyn. My main assessment – and I can fully empathise with the predicament – is that at this stage in her writing career she had little idea of how to construct a murder mystery. The setting and the characters – the country house party, the well heeled and even better connected circle of associates – spot on. But the plot – ouch! – she certainly loses it at times, and there is one flapping great red herring of a diversion in the middle of the story. Notwithstanding, the first two pillars carry the day, and – since (I read on Wikipedia) there are 32 books in the Roderick Alleyn series – I am looking forward to the shoring up of the third.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    3.5 stars - While this didn't turn out to be an isolated closed circle mystery, it is a very nice little country house mystery that I enjoyed more than I thought I might. The first 25% is a little uneven, but once Alleyn comes on the scene, things pick up, and I enjoyed the murder puzzle component quite a bit and the pay off was fun. 3.5 stars - While this didn't turn out to be an isolated closed circle mystery, it is a very nice little country house mystery that I enjoyed more than I thought I might. The first 25% is a little uneven, but once Alleyn comes on the scene, things pick up, and I enjoyed the murder puzzle component quite a bit and the pay off was fun.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lucia

    "It's going to be Murders this time." A group of friends meets at Frantock Hall, Sir Hubert Handesley's country house, where they want to play the Murders game. One person is chosen as the murderer, his identity being concealed from all the players. They scatter, and he seizes his moment to ring a bell or bang a gong. This symbolizes the “murder”. A murder is thus announced and one of the guests lies dead. It was easy enough to guess who the intended victim and the murderer are. The same ca "It's going to be Murders this time." A group of friends meets at Frantock Hall, Sir Hubert Handesley's country house, where they want to play the Murders game. One person is chosen as the murderer, his identity being concealed from all the players. They scatter, and he seizes his moment to ring a bell or bang a gong. This symbolizes the “murder”. A murder is thus announced and one of the guests lies dead. It was easy enough to guess who the intended victim and the murderer are. The same cannot be said about the absurd way the homicide is committed, which is really unbelievable. Also I was not particularly happy with how Yard Inspector Alleyn comes to the solution of the case, because I got the impression that much is kept from the reader. The beginning is fast paced, but then the story starts to drag and I found "The Russian Element" part rather boring. The ending was quite satisfactory to me, though.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sheila Beaumont

    A reread of an old favorite. Ngaio Marsh's first novel, this story takes place in an English country house where a parlor game of "Murder" results in a real murder committed with a real dagger. Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn comes to the rescue and eventually figures out whodunit. In this cast of well-drawn characters, my favorite was the naive young journalist Nigel Bathgate, who, at 25, "had outgrown that horror of enthusiasm which is so characteristic of youth-grown-up." I love rer A reread of an old favorite. Ngaio Marsh's first novel, this story takes place in an English country house where a parlor game of "Murder" results in a real murder committed with a real dagger. Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn comes to the rescue and eventually figures out whodunit. In this cast of well-drawn characters, my favorite was the naive young journalist Nigel Bathgate, who, at 25, "had outgrown that horror of enthusiasm which is so characteristic of youth-grown-up." I love rereading Golden Age mysteries, and fortunately I have all of Marsh's books in paperback, so I can revisit them whenever I like!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    I'm disappointed. It never hooked me. Characters and setting were blah. Then I started noticing the overabundance of adverbs and how much the dialog tags bugged me. I'm disappointed. It never hooked me. Characters and setting were blah. Then I started noticing the overabundance of adverbs and how much the dialog tags bugged me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Deanna

    Less than I hoped, but it’s the first in a substantial series and I will continue. There is plenty of potential to be realized.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Debra Belmudes

    2 1/2 stars rounded to 3. Another classic murder mystery, but I found this less enjoyable than Agatha Christie. I found Marsh's writing style stilted, unless people of this age really talked this way, and difficult to understand. Perhaps my shortcoming in not appreciating this book is my American background. I will say that I did enjoy the way Inspector Alleyn's mind worked and I really like the beautiful art deco cover design. 2 1/2 stars rounded to 3. Another classic murder mystery, but I found this less enjoyable than Agatha Christie. I found Marsh's writing style stilted, unless people of this age really talked this way, and difficult to understand. Perhaps my shortcoming in not appreciating this book is my American background. I will say that I did enjoy the way Inspector Alleyn's mind worked and I really like the beautiful art deco cover design.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cozy_Pug

    I'm not sure how in 50 years I've never read an Inspector Alleyn novel, given my love for Golden Age mysteries. This was a long overdue introduction to the series but well worth the wait. I enjoyed this novel very much! Good pacing, good dialogue, an insanely clever murder - certainly a method I've never come across before. The story has classic Golden Age elements - a country house party, a mysterious foreign element, red herrings, an intriguing sleuth. Inspector Alleyn is a man I want to know m I'm not sure how in 50 years I've never read an Inspector Alleyn novel, given my love for Golden Age mysteries. This was a long overdue introduction to the series but well worth the wait. I enjoyed this novel very much! Good pacing, good dialogue, an insanely clever murder - certainly a method I've never come across before. The story has classic Golden Age elements - a country house party, a mysterious foreign element, red herrings, an intriguing sleuth. Inspector Alleyn is a man I want to know more about. He's intelligent, cunning, and more than a little mysterious. A tantalizing bit of information is revealed about him - “Is this your first acquaintance with Inspector Alleyn?” “Yes. He’s an extraordinarily interesting man...Not at all one’s idea of a Scotland Yard official.” “No? Well, I suppose not. He has had an expensive education...He began in the Diplomatic Service, it was then I first met him. It was for private reasons that he became a policeman. It’s a remarkable story. Perhaps some day he will tell you.” That alone would be enough to lure me into the next book in the series - but I also enjoyed Marsh's writing style. There's an energetic feel to the story - some sort of synergy of plot, characters, setting, and syntax. I'm very pleased to have given Marsh's Inspector Alleyn a try - highly recommend!

  27. 5 out of 5

    ☆ BON ☆

    Did nooootttt enjoy as I do Christie et al. in terms of vintage murder msyteries. Detective was interestingly unorthodox at times but... meh.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Simona B

    Rather clumsy and a bit too obvious, and the mechanics of the crime are definitely too far-fetched, but I had fun, and it was nice getting to know a new whodunit author, especially one as renowned as Ngaio Marsh.

  29. 4 out of 5

    John

    Gossip columnist Nigel Bathgate is invited to a weekend house party at the country home of ex-diplomat weapons collector Sir Hubert Handesley. Among the other guests are: an opinionated Russian scholar, Doctor Tokareff; the mild-mannered Arthur White; and Nigel's middle-aged cousin Charles Rankin, a roue who's having an affair with White's wife Marjorie, also there, while still being in a relationship with yet another of the guests, Rosamund Grant. Sir Hubert's niece Angela North is also among t Gossip columnist Nigel Bathgate is invited to a weekend house party at the country home of ex-diplomat weapons collector Sir Hubert Handesley. Among the other guests are: an opinionated Russian scholar, Doctor Tokareff; the mild-mannered Arthur White; and Nigel's middle-aged cousin Charles Rankin, a roue who's having an affair with White's wife Marjorie, also there, while still being in a relationship with yet another of the guests, Rosamund Grant. Sir Hubert's niece Angela North is also among the company, and soon she and Nigel have taken a shine to each other. Sir Hubert proposes that on the Saturday evening they play a game of Murder. The butler will randomly select a guest to be the "murderer"; between 5.30 and 11.00 the "murderer" must tell another of the guests that s/he is the "corpse"; the "murder" thus having been committed, the "murderer" must go to the hall, sound the gong there and throw the main switch for the house's lighting. The "murderer" then has two minutes to make an escape in the darkness to another part of the house. Once light's restored, the guests are to use their ratiocinative powers to deduce the identity of the culprit. You're way ahead of me. That evening the gong sounds and, when the scattered guests arrive in the hall, they discover the murder is for real. Stretched out in front of the gong is Charles Rankin, stabbed through the heart by a ceremonial knife he'd brought to the house with him to show Sir Hubert. Enter Inspector Roderick Alleyn . . . This was the first of the Alleyn mysteries, and it has some unpolished edges; for example, Marsh can't decide if Alleyn's a Detective-Inspector or has the nonexistent rank of Inspector-Detective. (It's odd that her publisher didn't correct this for her.) In an essay by Marsh that I read a few months ago, she recounts how she dreamt up Alleyn as a sort of response to the other aristocratic detectives whose exploits were at the time forging bestsellers. Like Wimsey and Campion, then, Alleyn has a light-hearted, foppish surface persona that's at odds with the steely intellect beneath. This persona, I know, gets the backs up of some readers, and I recently saw quoted with loathing a line of Alleyn's from A Man Lay Dead: "You've guessed my boyish secret. I've been given a murder to solve--aren't I a lucky little detective?" In the book itself, however, the line appears in a context that gives it a very different color: "What's the matter with you?" said Inspector Boys. "Has someone found you a job?" "You've guessed my boyish secret. I've been given a murder to solve--aren't I a lucky little detective?" In other words, Alleyn isn't being a fey fathead: he's responding in kind to a bantering remark. Whether cops in the real world would ever speak like that is a different matter. But in Golden Age mysteries we don't expect our detectives to be especially realistic. Wimsey? Poirot? Marsh actually has a sly dig at this trope in the text: "My only information [about police detectives] is based on detective fiction," said Nigel. "So is mine," Rosamund laughed silently, shrugging up her thin shoulders. "And nowadays they make their Yard men so naturalistic that they are quite incredible. This man Alleyn, with his distinguished presence and his cultured voice and what-not, is in the Edwardian manner. He hectors me with such haute noblesse it is quite an honour to be tortured. . . ." From the arrival of Alleyn onward, the plot really divides into two. One strand concerns the provenance of that ceremonial dagger and its connection to Russian/Polish secret societies currently active in London. There's some great fun to be had with this strand, although in truth it's merely a red herring. The other strand is of course the solution of the murder. Here Marsh plays pretty fairly with us, although the actual technique used by the murderer is, while feasible, quite absurd, especially given the fact that the foul deed had to committed opportunistically rather than being carefully planned in advance. In this, of course, Marsh was once again conforming to a fairly standard Golden Age practice. A Man Lay Dead is a tremendous romp. It's a short book by today's standards, and I galloped through it in a single evening -- well, the evening did run a tad late. I didn't actually guffaw at any point, but I did chuckle quite often, and I did enjoy some of the characterizations. There's a delightful sort of Pre-Code feeling to the proceedings, too. All in all, splendid entertainment. ===== This is a contribution towards Rich Westwood's Book of the Century meme at his Past Offences blog; this month the year in question is 1934.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lee at ReadWriteWish

    New Zealand born Ngaio Marsh is one of the four ‘great ladies’ of mystery writing. This was her debut novel, first published in 1934. So, how does it hold up? Mostly, it’s great. A lot of the language is outdated (the speech tag of ‘ejaculated’ made me flush each time I read it) but still easy enough to follow and quite fun. The set up of the crime is inspired. A group of people attend a house party where they plan to play a murder mystery game. As in, one guest will become the corpse/victim, and New Zealand born Ngaio Marsh is one of the four ‘great ladies’ of mystery writing. This was her debut novel, first published in 1934. So, how does it hold up? Mostly, it’s great. A lot of the language is outdated (the speech tag of ‘ejaculated’ made me flush each time I read it) but still easy enough to follow and quite fun. The set up of the crime is inspired. A group of people attend a house party where they plan to play a murder mystery game. As in, one guest will become the corpse/victim, and the other guests will face the challenge of solving the crime/mystery and coming up with the murderer’s identity whilst they carry out a mock inquest. The game goes awry when the supposed pretend corpse is found truly dead. This book introduces us to Marsh’s Scotland Yard detective hero, Inspector Alleyn, who will go on to feature in a further 32 books of hers. I have read one other Alleyn book, Artists in Crime, and adored that and him, but I thought he was a little enigmatic (and erratic at times) in this novel. Not only do I put this down to being his debut but also because he doesn’t actually make an appearance into the story until around the 30% mark. Yes, Marsh was taking a gamble by not introducing her hero until later, but I still think things worked. Until then, we read from the point of view of young Nigel, a journalist who is one of the guests. Luckily Nigel, along with his potential new girlfriend, Angela, is quite an affable and likeable character. They have a real teenage sleuthing couple vibe going on. Of course, Marsh is clever enough to write the book in such a style that I couldn’t discount them completely from my list of suspects, keeping me on tenterhooks. Like all good mystery novels, everyone has a motive and most of them are pretty well telegraphed beforehand. There is no end of the book reveal of why the murderer carried out their crime. Instead, the end of the book reveal is how the murderer killed their victim. When this is revealed it’s quite original (although admittedly a little unbelievable). The thing I didn’t like about the novel was the ‘Russian element’. It seems so ridiculous now, to read about evil Russian ‘brotherhoods’. It’s pretty much just a bit of racist paranoia. Of course, you have to remember the book was written in the 1930s. (And now Russian brotherhoods have probably been replaced by Muslim terrorist cells or something similar…) Apart from the racism of the Russian element, which I had to put down to its age, there's nothing offensive about the book. If you’re a fan of clean cosy mysteries, you should try this one. All in all this is a solid start to a series and I’m looking forward to seeing how Marsh and Alleyn mature. 4 out of 5

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