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Enter a Murderer (1935)

by Ngaio Marsh

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Roderick Alleyn (2)

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9472418,788 (3.58)60
The crime was committed on stage at the Unicorn Theatre, when an unloaded gun fired a very real bullet; the victim was Arthur Surbonadier, an actor clawing his way to stardom using blackmail instead of talent; the suspects included two unwilling girlfriends and several relieved blackmail victims. The stage was set for one of Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn's most baffling cases.… (more)
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English (23)  Italian (1)  All languages (24)
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Summary: Invited to see a play with his sidekick Bathgate, Alleyn actually witnesses the murder he will investigate.

Nigel Bathgate is friends with the lead actor in a play at the unicorn and receives two tickets to a performance. His friend, and lead partner in crime investigation, Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn is free and joins him. Before the play, they visit the lead actor, Felix Gardner and witness tensions within the cast as Arthur Subornadier barges into a conversation with Gardner and actress Stephanie Vaughn, a lovers’ triangle with Subornadier the jilted lover. We also learn that Subornadier had threatened the theatre owner, Jacob Saint with blackmail to get the lead part. Are you getting the picture that Subornadier is not a very likable character. Turns out he has offended most of the cast and crew.

During the climactic scene, the character played by Subornadier loads a gun (supposedly with dummy bullets) quarrels with Gardner’s character. Gardner gets the gun, fires and kills Subornadier as the stage manager fires a blank shot. Only Gardner really kills Subornadier, and Alleyn sees it all and calls in his crew to investigate. Quickly, they figure out the murder is the one who substitute real bullets for the dummies that were in the top drawer of a desk during a short time when the stage was blacked out. Attention focuses on various characters including Jacob Saint, who is eventually arrested, and Albert Hickson, the property manager who was responsible for the bullets–until Hickson turns up dead while Saint is in jail.

The climax comes when the actors return to the theatre to re-enact their movements in the final scene. In the end the murderer self-exposes, the very person who Alleyn had written down for his newswriting sidekick, Bathgate. And so ends the first of Marsh’s murder mysteries set in a theatre–a favorite location.

This is early Alleyn. He and Bathgate are still learning to trust each other. Alleyn seems a bit rougher around the edges than in later novels, and without Troy in the picture, suggestively returns the attentions of lead actress Stephanie Vaughn, who doesn’t seem to mind gathering men around her. At the same time, the trademark qualities of Alleyn emerge, his quiet, commanding character that marshals the efforts of his team, including Bathgate and his focus on details and not appearances until the murderer is revealed.

This was a quick read and great fun with an unexpected twist at the end–all the ingredients for a good mystery, and for one just beginning the series, an indication of the good things to come with thirty more of these to go! ( )
  BobonBooks | Apr 28, 2022 |
I've had Ngaio Marsh on my TBR pile for a few years now, and kept putting her off because the titles I have are all related to acting (Marsh herself being a former actress), and the stage and it's behind-the-scenes drama doesn't interest me much. Still, she's a Golden Age writer of note, and I was determined to give the books a try.

I got off to a rough start; Golden Age writers generally have a very different writing style from most of today's fiction. More staccato, more concise, and it takes me a period of adjustment to find the rhythm. Enter a Murderer felt like that adjustment period took longer than usual, but once I found the groove, it was easy reading.

Alleyn has pale shades of Holmes about him; he's a thinking man's detective, and he likes to hold the clues close. This was not a fair play mystery, though it was written smack in the middle of the era of Fair Play. Still, I liked Alleyn well enough and I quite liked his sidekick, Nigel Bathgate.

The plot was, perhaps, trying too hard to be clever. By the end (after the reveal) it's obvious what Marsh was aiming for, and it was an admirable goal, but achieving it required a fair amount of convoluted plotting. I don't know if it didn't work for me because it was overdone, or because it required too much time with the secondary characters, all stereotypical stage actors of one sort or another, and hence, unreliable in the extreme. Either way, I was unable to buy the motive, although I did enjoy the ride for the most part.

I have a few other Marsh books on the TBR pile, and I'll happily read them; there's enough here to peak my interest, if not quite enough to spark my devotion. ( )
  murderbydeath | Feb 9, 2022 |
I usually dislike theatre-centric novels/storylines. This one shows the author has an excellent understanding of the theatre - both on stage and off. Her mystery moves a little slowly, and there were points wherein it felt both Nigel and Alleyn were annoying each other and themselves. However, there are some great quotes, witty moments, and overall its a lot better read than many, many novels. ( )
  AQsReviews | Jan 22, 2022 |
On the morning of June 14th, when The Rat and the Beaver had run a week to full houses, Felix Gardener sent Nigel Bathgate two complimentary tickets for the stalls. Angela North, who does not come into this story, was away from London, so Nigel rang up Scotland Yard and asked for his friend, Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn.
  taurus27 | Aug 21, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marsh, Ngaioprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pece, FrancaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saxon, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On May 25th Arthur Subornadier, whose real name was Arthur Simes, went to visit his uncle, Jacob Saint, whose real name was Jacob Simes.
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The crime was committed on stage at the Unicorn Theatre, when an unloaded gun fired a very real bullet; the victim was Arthur Surbonadier, an actor clawing his way to stardom using blackmail instead of talent; the suspects included two unwilling girlfriends and several relieved blackmail victims. The stage was set for one of Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn's most baffling cases.

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