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Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh
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Overture to Death (1939)

by Ngaio Marsh

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Roderick Alleyn (8)

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Tensions among the residents of a small English village erupt the evening of a theatrical performance. Wealthy spinster Idris Campanula drops dead as she plays the opening chords of the piano prelude. Until moments before the program started, everyone thought that the other village spinster, Eleanor Prentice, would be playing the prelude. Which woman was the intended victim? And which village resident wanted her dead? The squire, who is a cousin to Miss Prentice? His son, Henry? The rector's daughter, Dinah, who, much to his family's dismay is the object of Henry's affection? The rector? The local doctor? Or new arrival Mrs. Ross, who repels the village women as much as she attracts the men? Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard patiently assembles details from the suspects' statements and seemingly innocuous clues to identify the murderer.

This isn't the best of Ngaio Marsh's mysteries. For one thing, it's slow to start. For another thing, one of the clues was emphasized so often that it became obvious why it was important and who it pointed to. The descriptive details and the conversations between the characters are longer than they needed to be. Marsh's writing isn't as concise as her contemporary, Agatha Christie's. Christie was a master at revealing both character and plot in a few words. My mind wandered a bit as I listened to the audio version and I still managed to correctly identify the murderer well before the end of the book. ( )
  cbl_tn | May 27, 2016 |
A couple of ladies are vying for the attentions of the rector. There is a play to be performed to raise money for a new piano. The old piano is played when one of the ladies dies while playing the third note of an overture. With a last-minute change in pianists, Roderick Alleyn must figure out the motive and the intended victim. Only a few persons could have been responsible for the dastardly deed. It's a fun visit to a locked room puzzle. It took me awhile to get used to the narrator's accent in the Blackstone Audiobooks version. It's a classic cozy mystery that will be enjoyed by those who like the genre. ( )
  thornton37814 | Jun 23, 2014 |
No one can write a caustic old parish busy-body quite like Marsh. They appear throughout her books, but in this one we have two of the best. Eleanor Prentice and Idris Campanula spend their days trying to uphold the moral standards of the village, lusting after the vicar, and intervening everywhere they aren't wanted. A parish play to raise money for a new piano gives both women ample opportunity to try and control the festivities and outdo one another for the vicar's affections. Both are thoroughly irritating, and one winds up dead.

Aside from the brilliant characterization of the two old biddies, this novel features one of the moral inventive murder methods-- shooting through a piano, triggered by one of the pedals. All in all this is a compelling and satisfying mystery. It has the small English village, the country estate, the quirky characters. Inspector Alleyn is in his usual top form. This is one of my favorite of Marsh's novels. ( )
  lahochstetler | Jun 21, 2014 |
The murder method is ingenious. The talkative constable is fun. Some of the characterizations are just deeply annoying. Nigel Bathgate is still around and annoying as ever. Alleyn is still terribly irritating and pretentious.

Published in 1939, but no hint of the war. ( )
  themulhern | Mar 23, 2014 |
Grand traditional yarn with the usual characters well built up before the action - some borderline cariacature, some more complex. Setting conventional English village, method quirky and cunning. Police detective lovely and witty. I'm rereading a whole shelf of these Ngaio Marsh so won't review all of them, but I do enjoy them - and am rather surprised, since I'd forgotten most of them, how much they seem to have influenced my own writing. Hum. ( )
  lexieconyngham | Jan 29, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ngaio Marshprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Azimi, RoxaneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
For the Sunday Morning Party:
G.M. Lester
Dundas and Cecil Walker
Norman and Miles Stacpoole Batchelor
& My Father
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Jocelyn Jernigham was a good name.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312964250, Mass Market Paperback)

Amateur actors set the stage for murder...

Who in the quiet village of Chipping would kill wealthy spinster Idris Campanula? Plenty of people, among them her fellow cast members from a troubled charity production. Miss Campanula was a spiteful gossip, gleefully destroying others' lives merely for her won excitement. But once Inspector Roderick Alleyn arrives, he quickly realizes that the murderer might have killed the wrong woman-and may soon stage a repeat performance...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When wealthy spinster Idris Campanula turns up dead at Chipping's troubled charity production, Inspector Roderick Alleyn realizes she may not have been the intended victim and sets the stage for a repeat performance. Reprint.

» see all 4 descriptions

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