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Death and the Dancing Footman (1941)

by Ngaio Marsh

Series: Roderick Alleyn (11)

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8011121,502 (3.67)45
A winter weekend ends in snowbound disaster in a novel which remains a favorite among Marsh readers. It began as an entertainment: eight people, many of them enemies, gathered for a winter weekend by a host with a love for theater. They would be the characters in a drama that he would devise. It ended in snowbound disaster. Everyone had an alibi#151;and most a motive as well. But Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn, when he finally arrived, knew it all hung on Thomas, the dancing footman.… (more)
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» See also 45 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Jonathan fancies himself a student of psychology. He decides to conduct a living experiment (really an entertainment for himself) by having a house party for eight people. Each one has a secret (or three) and each has a deep antipathy for at least one other guest.
Of course Murder ensues.
The plot has similarities to some of Christie’s books. There’s also a device similar to Sayers’s Busman’s Honeymoon, which one character name checks.
Overall this is a good Inspector Alleyn book. He doesn’t appear until quite late, but there is more than enough emotion to keep one reading. Recommended. ( )
  bohemima | Jul 12, 2021 |
A Classic Locked-Room Mystery
Review of the Fontana paperback edition (1976) of the 1942 original

While I still have a considerable number of new releases to read during the current lockdown, I have also been turning to several of the classics of the Golden Age of Crime, especially due to their cozy housebound type of narratives. The typical story of the genre has an assorted variety of guests snowbound or in an otherwise isolated location, so that the culprit definitely has to be found within the limited cast of characters. Another convention is that the victim not be too likable, so that no time is spent in mourning but instead the crime-solving can immediately begin.

Ngaio Marsh's Death and the Dancing Footman sticks to many of these conventions and even goes further by making most of the house-guests unlikable. The murder is committed in a seemingly locked room situation where the victim is heard to turn on the radio and the outside hallway is occupied by a servant who happens to take a private moment to dance along to the music on the radio while unobserved. They are able to testify that no one entered the room with the victim during the crucial time period. Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard doesn't appear until about 2/3rds of the way through the book to disentangle the events and to provide a solution. ( )
1 vote alanteder | Apr 28, 2020 |
this one was a little flat for me

Big Ship

14 April 2017 ( )
  bigship | Apr 13, 2017 |
Ngaio Marsh's take on the 'country house party shut in by snow' theme, covered by most Golden Age writers. Gets a bit bogged down in the middle with all the emotions and bad weather, but it is an intriguing variation on a locked room mystery. And there's a nice little nod to Dorothy L. Sayers when two characters are discussing the murder weapon. ( )
  mlfhlibrarian | Nov 16, 2016 |
A crime classic, a country house isolated by a snowstorm, a party of antagonistic guests assembled by a mischievous host, a series of threatening events culminating in a locked room murder. Alleyn is visiting a nearby rectory (familiar to readers of "Overture to Death") and is called in to investigate. As with many Ngaio Marsh mysteries, the development of the characters leading up to the murder is the main thrust of the book, whilst the detection is a minor part, however the book is no less enjoyable for taking this form. Recommended for fans of the Queens of Crime! ( )
  Figgles | Dec 29, 2013 |
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For Mivie and Greg
with my love
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On the afternoon of a Thursday early in 1940, Jonathan Royal sat in his library at Highfold Manor.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A winter weekend ends in snowbound disaster in a novel which remains a favorite among Marsh readers. It began as an entertainment: eight people, many of them enemies, gathered for a winter weekend by a host with a love for theater. They would be the characters in a drama that he would devise. It ended in snowbound disaster. Everyone had an alibi#151;and most a motive as well. But Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn, when he finally arrived, knew it all hung on Thomas, the dancing footman.

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