Nancy Oakes's Reviews > A Man Lay Dead

A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh
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's review
Feb 12, 2008

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bookshelves: crime-fiction-uk, mystery-series-first-novel, crime-fiction, crime-fiction-new-zealand
Read in November, 2006

This book really isn't my favorite Ngaio Marsh mystery. It's understandable that it's not really that good (imho) since it was her first novel and that she was competing with two other mystery greats at the time this was written: Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. I know, having read others, that she could and did do much better, so we'll chalk it up to this being her debut.

summary, no spoilers:
Ah! The ever classic English country house murder in all of its glory. At this particular country house, Frantock, young reporter Nigel Bathgate has accompanied his cousin Charles Rankin for a weekend stay. While there, the guests are invited to play "Murders," in which an unknown "murderer" is supposed to tap someone on the shoulder and say "you're the corpse." At that point, a gong is sounded and the fun is supposed to begin with the rest of the company trying to deduce who is the murderer. Well, someone forgot to tell a murderer that this was just a game; after the gong sounds, one of the group is found dead, and it's for real. Enter Inspector Alleyn and his associates to solve the case.

All the classic elements are here: the country house, the multitude of subjects & motives, several red herrings and a baffling solution. This was fine. What really was not fine was the "Russian element" that sort of took way too much time and energy in the book. I think that truly if she'd just focused on the murder & its solution, it could have been a lot better. But that's just my opinion, and god knows I'm a very hard-to-please mystery reader.

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