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Death in the Fifth Position (Peter Cutler Sargeant II #1)

3.27  ·  Rating Details ·  118 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
In Death in the Fifth Position, dashing P.R. man Peter Sargent is hired by a ballet company on the eve of a major upcoming performance. Handling the press seems to be no problem, but when a rising star in the company is killed during the performance—dropped from thirty feet above the stage, crashing to her death in a perfect fifth position—Sargent has a real case on his ha ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 22nd 2011 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1952)
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Jan 21, 2016 Nooilforpacifists rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
A young Gore Vidal, behind the pen name "Edgar Box", tries his hand at hard-boiled detective fiction--and does better than many of his later more serious novels. (If you can tolerate his over-compensating sneering about "fags" throughout.) Vidal wrote two other "Edgar Box" books, which are worth reading.
May 05, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
DEATH IN THE FIFTH POSITION. (1952). Edgar Box (pseud. of Gore Vidal). ****.
This was the first of three mystery novels written by Mr. Vidal under the pseudonym Edgar Box. This particular edition contains a preface by the author that explains why the pen name and why it was used; an interesting story in itself. As you might guess from the title, the mystery has something to do with ballet. In this case, our protagonist, Peter Sargeant, is introduced. He is a young man who owns a small public rela
May 20, 2010 Ivan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is second time I've read this. I think it's my favorite detective/mystery story. I remembered who the killer was, but it was the journey which was the thrill. This story is smart and bitchy and loads of fun to read. Highly recommended.
May 07, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful period piece combined with a clever murder mystery. Smart, bitchy and fun.
May 05, 2011 Scot rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a murder mystery I don't recommend this. Its appeal is as a cultural and historical artifact: Gore Vidal wrote this, under a pseudonym, during the era of Joe McCarthy. At age 23 in 1948, he had written The City and the Pillar, which had been heavily panned for its shocking portrayal of homosexuality, so to make a buck, the young author changed his name and took a stab at mystery novels.

A surprisingly strong undercurrent of nonchalance toward and awareness of homosexuality and an underground
Feb 28, 2012 Ann rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I like novels written in the fifties, I like mystery novels and I like it when literary lights try their hand (usually pseudonymously) at popular literature. So I expected to love this novel written by Gore Vidal. And I did finish it, but I can't say that I was all that impressed.

First, I found it hard to have any type of sympathy or empathy for the main character. Peter Sargeant is a WASPy product of Harvard and WWII, now man-about-town and and head of his own Public Relations company. He is
Mar 30, 2011 Philip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first of the three mystery novels Gore Vidal wrote in the 1950s as Edgar Box - I'm actually reading it in the omnibus volume published in 1978 as Three by Box. I've been aware of these for many years and figured it's about time I got around to reading them!

3/30: A fun read: Behind-the-scenes intrigue in a ballet company, sprinkled with Vidal's dry wit, which enabled him to get around some of the social and sexual conventions of the early 1950s.

Vidal's narrator/protagonist, public relations
Aug 08, 2011 Cissa rated it did not like it
This is not a good mystery, nor is it a good book.

Partly, I suppose, the early-1950s sensibility grates, especially in the handling of women, gay men, and lesbians. None of the characters came alive for me; they were all cardboard figures doing what the plot- such as it was- required, not acting like people. The plot was very timely at the time, but structurally weak; at the end, it looks like Our Hero uncovered the murderer only by accident, since his "aha!" of guilty knowledge from the guy was
Pamela Mclaren
Feb 07, 2013 Pamela Mclaren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
This is the second book that I have ready by Edgar Box, otherwise known as Gore Vidal.

The story is one about a public relations man named Peter Sargent, who is hired by a ballet company in which people start to die. Sargent, who I think acts mighty silly through the whole book, somehow falls in with one of the dancers, moving into her apartment. The whole story is pretty ridiculous and unreal. I didn't like any of these one dimensional characters and wasn't surprised by the ending. And I was dis
I read this because of a recent positive review. I'm not sure what the reviewer saw that they liked. The mystery aspect was okay, but that was about it. The characters were thinly drawn and unappealing. The ballet setting was uninteresting. I did find the 1950's communist "witch hunt" aspect of interest, but it was a minor plot point. A quick, forgettable read.
Well read and decent characterisation but really quite boring. You could probably think of a better plot easily. I listened to this because of the ballet connection and I find audio a really accessible format for me. Wouldn't have persevered with the paper book.
Jan 31, 2012 Noah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gore Vidal writing under a pseudonym? Described as "the forerunner of the mod-and-sex mystery"? How could it go so wrong?

Ultimately, the murderer was predictable. The stakes seemed low, despite multiple murders, since we never really met the people who died. And the many things included to be scandalous/titillating when Vidal was writing it just aren't anymore (homosexuality, get out of town) so there's lots of passages that are meant to be exciting but are actually quite boring.

The second sta
This was the first of three mysteries that Gore Vidal wrote under the name of Edgar Box back in the Fifties. The lead character,a PR man, was a bit too slick but the pace was quick and interplay between the ballet company members was entertaining.
Dec 11, 2010 Joy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gore Vidal/Edgar Box's wry, ironic social observation works much better in his novels than in this mystery. Relationships are essential to the solution, and Vidal's relationships work themselves out in a Rubik's Cube fashion. The special interest here is the look into the world of 1950s ballet.
Marshall Thornton
It was pretty good. If I didn't know it was written by a gay man I might be really offended. He writes a typical heterosexual of the period and a lot of what he says would be offensive know, no matter who said it...
Jemera Rone
I think I bought this at a second-hand book sale and for what I paid for it it was okay. An early literary effort by Gore Vidal (writing under a pen name he explains in the intro).
Sep 01, 2013 Pili rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I used to dance and I think it captures the real atmosphere of the backstage.
It's in the line of A Christie's crimis
Tom Ratliff
Oct 24, 2011 Tom Ratliff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mystery by "Edgar Box" aka Gore Vidal...catty as expected and easy to read and lots of fun.
Nov 28, 2011 José rated it it was amazing
I love Gore Vidal's style. Salinger's irreverence with Waugh's wit.
The first in the series and lots of fun.
Apr 26, 2011 Kari rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting little mystery.
Katherine Jensen
Series #1. iBook, own.
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