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A Man Lay Dead (Roderick Alleyn #1)

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,159 Ratings  ·  300 Reviews
At Sir Hubert Handesley's country house party, five guests have gathered for the uproarious parlor game of "Murder." Yet no one is laughing when the lights come up on an actual corpse, the good-looking and mysterious Charles Rankin. Scotland Yard's Inspector Roderick Alleyn arrives to find a complete collection of alibis, a missing butler, and an intricate puzzle of betray ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published 2000 by HarperCollins (first published 1934)
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Oct 26, 2011 Miriam rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
Marsh introduced her famous detective in this mystery, and you can tell that she wasn't entirely sure what personality to go with. At times he reads like Wimsey playing a silly ass, at other times he is crude or clever in the manner of a Bright Young Thing; he takes the official police hard-line one moment only to suddenly behave in unprofessional and even inappropriate ways. I suspect she was trying to write realistically complex character, but the overall effect is one of schizophrenia and imp ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
It is New Zealand November and I am trying to read more books from and about New Zealand as part of my year-long Oceania reading spree in 2015.

Ngaio Marsh is a well-loved crime writer from New Zealand, but most of her books are set in and around London. Her Inspector Roderick Alleyn series seem (from this first one) to be the light whodunits along the lines of Agatha Christie. Over-the-top characters, some big words I had to look up (some just being regional words we don't use in the USA), silly
BOTTOM LINE: Thoroughly old-fashioned "good read!", with an aristo-detective, all the suspects gathered in A Great House for a weekend house party, a peculiar murder method, wild Bolsheviks complicating everything, family intrigues galore, an affable-but-dim Watson - what's not to like? First mystery novel (1934) from a now-classic author isn't challenging, brilliant, or particularly special, but is still entertaining, giving a hint of her good books yet to come and, as is usual with Marsh, ther ...more
Jun 04, 2014 Nikki rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, crime
I'm not wildly enthused about Ngaio Marsh and Inspector Alleyn, at this point. It's a smooth enough read, but the murder is a little haphazardly imagined: some elements of it suggest premeditation, while others suggest a crime of opportunity, but it has to be one or the other or it just doesn't work. Too much depends on opportunity -- the availability of the weapon, the position of the murdered man, the way the murder game turns out -- and yet the rest of it smacks of pre-meditation: the bizarre ...more
May 30, 2013 Wealhtheow rated it did not like it
Shelves: historical
A young reporter is enjoying an upper-class British house party when abruptly, someone is found dead!

I can't say I enjoyed this. There's an entire subplot concerning a Bolshevic satanic cult (?!) (view spoiler) This is the first Inspector Alleyn book, and it's clear that Marsh isn't sure how to write him yet. His personality is all over the place: one moment he's burbling Bright Young Things slang, the next he's cold an
Jun 06, 2016 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gossip columnist Nigel Bathgate is invited to a weekend house party at the country home of ex-diplomat weapons collector Sir Hubert Handesley. Among the other guests are: an opinionated Russian scholar, Doctor Tokareff; the mild-mannered Arthur White; and Nigel's middle-aged cousin Charles Rankin, a roue who's having an affair with White's wife Marjorie, also there, while still being in a relationship with yet another of the guests, Rosamund Grant. Sir Hubert's niece Angela North is also among t ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Jan 06, 2014 Mary Ronan Drew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is something ineffable about the English mysteries by women from the Golden Age, the 1920s and 30s. The plots are mostly predictable and the characters are seldom real. The setting and the wardrobe contribute, but the reader has to provide the details because the books don't go on much about Art Deco architecture or the fact that the ladies are wearing furs and cloche hats.

Published in 1934, this first of Ngaio Marsh's Detective Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn mysteries, A Man Lay Dead, of
Feb 10, 2016 Nathan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I'm disappointed. It never hooked me. Characters and setting were blah. Then I started noticing the overabundance of adverbs and how much the dialog tags bugged me.
A MAN LAY DEAD (Police Procedural-England-1930s) – G+
Marsh, Naigo – 1st in series
St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1997
Introducing Inspector Roderick Alleyn, who is called to the country home of Sir Hubert Handesley. Sir Hubert had arranged "The Murder Game" as entertainment for his weekend guests. Unfortunately, someone is playing for real and one of the guests is found dead.
*** This is a good introduction to a delightful series set in the classic English manor house. Marsh takes her reader along not le
Janne Varvára
Apr 25, 2014 Janne Varvára rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being a bit fuzzy on which John Dickson Carr that was next on my list, I started this, A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh, another golden age crime writer. Until almost at the end, when I looked it up, I thought I was reading a man, when in fact I was reading *Edith* Ngaio Marsh. In the male-centered world that was the first half of the 20th century, and classic crime's golden age, I think there's a lot to be said for being a male writer. I don't know about the name, except that it's Maori for a cert ...more
Dec 19, 2014 Jillian rated it liked it
I really enjoyed Ngaio Marsh's detective stories. (I feel lazy so I'm going to review them all en masse). They are somewhat ludicrous, heavily theatrical, very very easy to read and display a blatant snobbishness that I can totally understand as a fellow antipodean. Thankfully, the cultural cringe doesn't exist like this any more! What really gets me, is the sensitivity that Marsh has for most of her subjects, she really loves actors and the theatre, she really loves New Zealand and has a passio ...more
Melissa McShane
Not too bad, particularly for a first novel. A Man Lay Dead is one of those lovely 1930s English manor mysteries--or at any rate I think they're lovely, which is probably why I love Downton Abbey so much. A bunch of people are invited to play a game called Murder, in which one of them is secretly assigned the role of murderer (by the butler, and books like this make me wonder how anyone gets by without a butler these days, they do so many things) and must "kill" one of the others, and then the s ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I really must stop reading mystery series from Book 1, particularly in the case of the "cosies." In those days, the public was far less demanding, and as a first attempt to find a voice, a rhythm and a character, the beginning novel in a series can be unsatisfying. I found this with Patricia Wentworth, and have found it equally true with N. Marsh.

Like the Wimsey and Poirot/Marple series, Marsh's books were directed to a very definite sector of society: educated, middle class people of the sort t
Nov 08, 2015 Berry rated it really liked it
I think I was spoiled by repeated viewings of the tv show adaptation, but it is still both a promising debut and a solid golden age mystery.

Marsh is highly underrated.
Jan C
May 02, 2013 Jan C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, england, 2013
I didn't remember enjoying her the last time I read Marsh. Maybe I just wasn't ready for her then. Because I really did enjoy this book.j.

It is kind of the reverse of the "locked room" mystery. Here was a man at a country estate weekend party who was murdered out in the open but everybody has an alibi.

I certainly never figured it out.

There was a side story about a Russian brotherhood, presumably an anarchist group, as some of their party had gathered in a house and then blew it up.

I look forward
Jamie Collins
Dec 19, 2008 Jamie Collins rated it it was ok
An unremarkable English country house murder mystery. I read this because it's the first book with her recurring detective Roderick Alleyn. He's a poor substitute for Peter Wimsey. I might try one more to see if they get better.
Sep 20, 2011 Cera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this for the same reason a lot of people disliked it -- the character of Roderick Alleyn. By making Alleyn a _Scotland Yard_ detective who also seems to be a gentleman, Marsh creates a tension that surfaces throughout the story; the other characters can't decide whether they like him for his gentlemanly qualities or despise him for his professional ones. This is very different from the private gentleman who choses detection as a hobby, such as Sayer's Wimsey, or Christie's Poirot. ...more
May 12, 2012 meeners rated it did not like it
Shelves: mystery
everything about this book is clumsy, and the ending is so silly it verges on farce. it might make for a great dinner party conversation and after-dinner reenactment, though. if you could reign in the guffaws. (yes, that's right! GUFFAWS.)

last night instead of concentrating on reading i ended up thinking about what it might be like to encounter the detectives of the golden age of mystery in the 21st century (all steven moffat's fault). so instead of doing a proper review i am going to give you m
Apr 21, 2015 Monica rated it liked it
This is the first book in the series featuring Scotland Yard's Inspector Roderick Alleyn. And what a nice introduction it is. Murder in a country home, a murderer among the guests...whodunnit!

A British mystery is always one of my favourites, and this one doesn't disappoint. There is something about golden age crime novels that make me want to curl up on a rainy day with cat and coffee.
Nov 19, 2013 Gail rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
A country houseparty with many clever and witty guests convenes at Frantock. Nigel, a young reporter and cousin to the urbane, rich, and not-quite-likable Charles Rankin, attends for the first time. Over cocktails, their host explains the game of Murder they are about to have over a weekend of drinks, food, and laughter. Unfortunately, as the game begins, Charles Rankin is murdered.

Chief Inspector-Detective Roderick Alleyn arrives to investigate. Obviously upper class, he questions the group and
Dec 28, 2013 Lemar rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
This is a thoroughly satisfying mystery. I grew up with a Mom who always read mysteries with the most gruesome covers and Ngaio Marsh was a favorite! Now I see why, Her characters have the depth needed to make for a really good mystery. Added to that is an unexpected lightness and wit brought fun in just the right doses and places to a murder mystery.
I am going with 5 stars because she seems to have been a real pioneer from whose work people have been stealing and lifting in much the same way I
Oct 25, 2014 Lara rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
I love a country-house murder-mystery, so looking forward to this by one of the queens of crime fiction. Hadn't read her before, and not overly impressed by this first outing. A lack of description, and not much scene-setting, and some daft business with a Bolshevik secret society. But enough of a puzzle that I will probably attempt another.
Oct 27, 2015 Morgan rated it really liked it
Finally finished! This book was super quirky and hilarious! The way that the characters spoke to one another reminded me of the show Gosford Park. Very funny/sassy detective and an extremely interesting turn of events to solve a murder!

Not my favorite murder mystery (that one is still And Then There Were None by Agatha Cristie) but this one was good nevertheless. I could see myself reading more of this series (revolving around cases this particular detective has been involved in).
Oct 12, 2014 Jan rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
I really enjoyed this. It was my first reading of a Marsh novel, having concentrated on Christie in the past. The writing is witty and the characters very believable. Chief Inspector Alleyn is a sharp man who tries to dissemble his cleverness while reading his suspects. I liked him instantly as a character. The crime was a classic - hateful womanising bachelor who has numerous beneficiaries on his death, some of whom have good reason for wanting him dead, attends house party in the country with ...more
Dec 28, 2015 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
I know the formula for Detective Alleyn books and love it. This particular book, however, was over the top. The dramatic scene in London near the end was too much.
Mar 28, 2015 Susan rated it really liked it
Somewhat dated, but a reminder of what fun a classic British mystery can be.
Jun 17, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok
This was not particularly a good book. I had a difficult time trying to decide who was the main character and the mystery was pretty weak. It seemed that at the last minute the author randomly picked one of the characters to be the murderer and then came up with some unconvincing clues to tie it all together. And there was an unrelated Russian crime ring randomly thrown in.

I'm going to attempt a few more of her books because I adore all sorts of English mysteries and Ngaio Marsh is well loved b
Maria Thermann
Sep 17, 2015 Maria Thermann rated it it was amazing
Published first in 1934, this classic whodunit by Ngaio Marsh is masterfully written and, despite its initial stagey setting, a great joy to read.

Having arranged for a murder game to entertain his houseguests of an evening, Sir Hubert Handesley is not amused to find that one of his guests got a bit carried away and has actually committed a murder in the hall. And by the cocktail cabinet, too! How rude!

Practically everybody seems to have an alibi, but Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn from Scotla
Michael A
Dec 13, 2014 Michael A rated it liked it
This novel is from golden days of the puzzle mystery and everything about it stinks of the stereotypes of the day. I do find it odd that the blurb on this book is trying to convince me that we should be comparing Christie to Marsh -- while this book is just as good as anything Christie came up with later in her writing career, it can hardly touch Christie at the height of her powers.

Anyhow, this is another one of those 2.5 star books that only gets the bump to up to three because of its cleverne
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English Mysteries...: March 2013 - A Man Lay Dead 61 125 Jul 12, 2013 05:08PM  
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Dame Ngaio Marsh, born Edith Ngaio Marsh, was a New Zealand crime writer and theatre director. There is some uncertainty over her birth date as her father neglected to register her birth until 1900, but she was born in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand.

Of all the "Great Ladies" of the English mystery's golden age, including Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh
More about Ngaio Marsh...

Other Books in the Series

Roderick Alleyn (1 - 10 of 32 books)
  • Enter a Murderer (Roderick Alleyn, #2)
  • The Nursing Home Murder (Roderick Alleyn, #3)
  • Death in Ecstasy (Roderick Alleyn, #4)
  • Vintage Murder (Roderick Alleyn, #5)
  • Artists in Crime (Roderick Alleyn, #6)
  • Death in a White Tie (Roderick Alleyn, #7)
  • Overture to Death (Roderick Alleyn, #8)
  • Death at the Bar (Roderick Alleyn, #9)
  • Death of a Peer (Roderick Alleyn, #10)
  • Death and the Dancing Footman (Roderick Alleyn, #11)

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