Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh

Details: First published 1934; cover shown is the 1968 Fontana (UK) fourth impression paperback. 191p.

"The act of murder has a final fascination. Sir Hubert Handesley thought so and arranged to play the game called 'Murder' during his weekend house party. The murderer's identity was secret, but when the lights went up none of the guests were prepared to see a grotesque corpse, savagely stabbed. Seven people had the opportunity, seven people had made up amusing alibis..."

Verdict: This Marsh kept me company while it was cold outside and I was curled up in front of the heater with a chest infection. Marsh, like Wentworth and Christie, are perfect rainy day/sick/lonely/premenstrual reads. The pre-1950s English language, settings and people are so familiar to me now that reading one of the aforementioned authors is all it takes to cheer me up.

A Man Lay Dead is a bit far fetched in places, especially when Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn decides to carry on the house party's game of 'Murder' in order to uncover the killer. I'll also never understand the British love of "de-bagging", where some poor soul is held down while his trousers are pulled off him, to the delight of the rest of the house party. And the instigator of the de-bagging is in his 40s! But the writing is good, if a little dated, and the murder itself (by antique Mongolian dagger, no less) is ingenious.

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