Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Man Lay Dead (Roderick Alleyn, #1)” as Want to Read:
A Man Lay Dead (Roderick Alleyn, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Man Lay Dead

(Roderick Alleyn #1)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  10,418 ratings  ·  585 reviews

Commemorating 75 years since the Empress of Crime’s first book, the first volume of the 32 Inspector Alleyn mysteries.

Sir Hubert Handesley's extravagant weekend house-parties are deservedly famous for his exciting Murder Game. But when the lights go up this time, there is a real corpse with a real dagger in the back. All seven suspects have skilful alibis - so Chief

Kindle Edition, 176 pages
Published September 3rd 2009 by Harper (first published 1934)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Man Lay Dead, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Scott Isolated British country estate where most of these Golden age mysteries seem to be located.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,418 ratings  ·  585 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Man Lay Dead (Roderick Alleyn, #1)
Henry Avila
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This being the first Roderick Alleyn murder mystery... out of 33, of Ngaio Marsh, wonderful appellation, ( beats the first name of Edith... her middle one tops that, no contest) the author is getting her sea legs the plot nothing new even in 1934 when written. Sir Hubert Handesley invites a small number of guests for the weekend, a party of British frivolities, eating, drinking, walks in the woods and even a mock killing in his huge country estate , Frantock Hall; silly fun and games, ...more
I Was Amused.

Marsh borrows from Wodehouse: Countryside House Parties! Parlour Games! Conjoining Rooms! Emancipated Young Women Driving Extremely Fast! Russians! Dashing Debonair Detectives!

"He climbed in [the car] beside her, And almost immediately had his breath snatched away by Miss North’s extremely progressive ideas on acceleration.

I read Marsh decades ago, and remembered enjoying many of the books, others not so much. so I thought I might start the series from the beginning and see what an
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-books
Reason for reading
1. I needed a book by a New Zealand author for a challenge.
2. A feeling of nostalgia when I saw the name Ngaio Marsh. My mother read her books when I was a child. I may have tried one or two myself but they would have not been very interesting to me then.

Times change and I found A Man Lay Dead very interesting indeed. It is a typical mystery of the time, country house party, upper class guests, unexpected murder and the arrival of a very clever policeman to discover the evil
Oct 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

& that high only because this was Marsh's first book. Makes you realise what a remarkable achievement Christie's first , The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot, #1) by Agatha Christie was.

Other reviewers have criticised Marsh for inconsistencies in Alleyn's characterisation. I actually don't mind this. I prefer it to having Alleyn & various aristocrats angsting over being involved in something as low bred as a murder! This is very tedious in Marsh's other novels. And I did enjoy the start- although for some strange reason, the frenetic pace
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first of Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn mysteries and it contains everything that a great Golden Age mystery should. First, the house party, complete with varying guests - an adulterous wife, jealous girlfriend, mysterious Russian, etc. In this case, the country house in question is Frantock and Nigel Bathgate (a journalist) is accompanying his cousin Charles on one of the much coveted entertaining weekends, for which invitations are hard to obtain. The host, avid collector, Sir ...more
Now I am way behind with my Ngaio Marsh challenge , not because I was delaying reading these books, but for other book reasons. So when I started reading this book I was hoping I would enjoy it, and I did. I have seen a few TV episodes with Patrick Malahide, but had no pre-conceived ideas of Chief Inspector Alleyn, that said, I must admit he did come across very Patrick Malahide -ish.
My previous book was another detective story Pietr the Latvian and it was to me a fantastic, albeit short
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
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is the first of Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn mysteries and it contains everything that you expect from a Golden Age mystery. First, the house party, complete with varying guests - an adulterous wife, jealous girlfriend, mysterious Russian, and more. In this case, the country house in question is Frantock and Nigel Bathgate (a journalist) is accompanying his cousin Charles on one of the much coveted entertaining weekends, for which invitations are hard to obtain. The host intends to hold a
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, ...more
Feb 14, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bruce Beckham
I’m a soft touch for pre-war murder mysteries set amongst the English upper classes, so I guess this novel – published in 1934 – was always going to offer some vicarious appeal.

As kids, before heading off to school, my pals and I used to rendezvous on our bikes outside the village bookshop (imagine – a village bookshop!). I recall displayed in the window paperbacks by the exotically named ‘Ngaio Marsh’. I don’t know what I thought they were about, but I can’t believe it has taken me so many
Dec 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Less than I hoped, but it’s the first in a substantial series and I will continue. There is plenty of potential to be realized.
3.5 stars - While this didn't turn out to be an isolated closed circle mystery, it is a very nice little country house mystery that I enjoyed more than I thought I might. The first 25% is a little uneven, but once Alleyn comes on the scene, things pick up, and I enjoyed the murder puzzle component quite a bit and the pay off was fun.
Feb 09, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did nooootttt enjoy as I do Christie et al. in terms of vintage murder msyteries. Detective was interestingly unorthodox at times but... meh.
Jun 09, 2015 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 ...more
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
As Ngaio Marsh's fledgling flight into the world of detective novels, this book had enough in it to pique my interest and leave the door open for more of her works. Although it lacks the mellifluous flow of Dame Agatha, in style, in writing, and in ideas, I found it still filled the gap for that "country-house cosy" that I was looking for.

There is a bit of a gimmicky feel to it overall as if Marsh is trying to capture Christie's style, and not quite succeeding, especially in Inspector Alleyn's
I did not particularly enjoy the first half of this book. It started off like Death of a Peer (though thankfully the murder happens much sooner) with endless recounting of whereabouts and alibis.
However, as the story progressed it became much more exciting. Russian secret societies, torrid affairs, and the subtle romance that seems to have died with the Golden Age of of Detection all blend together to create a fun, fast paced read. This is the Roderick Alleyn I was prepared to meet, complete
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dame Agatha Christie and her Peers
CAST – 3 stars: Inspector Alleyn is quick on the scene. We learn little about him in this first outing but when he says, “…I have known for some time…I find there is often a moment in a case when a piece of one’s mind…knows the end while the rest of the trained brain cuts this intuitive bit dead,” one can’t help but flash to Christie’s famous Hercule Poirot and his ‘brain cells ‘ at work. I’m not sure if this is an attempt to differentiate Alleyn from
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
New Zealand born Ngaio Marsh is one of the four ‘great ladies’ of mystery writing. This was her debut novel, first published in 1934. So, how does it hold up?

Mostly, it’s great. A lot of the language is outdated (the speech tag of ‘ejaculated’ made me flush each time I read it) but still easy enough to follow and quite fun.

The set up of the crime is inspired. A group of people attend a house party where they plan to play a murder mystery game. As in, one guest will become the corpse/victim, and
May 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a "completionist" who collects every music album and book by authors of interest; it is a pleasure to like them when I gradually try them out. I was not enthralled by "A Man Lay Dead", from infamous New Zealander Ngaio Marsh. However, other than the crass titular man; nothing put me off reading more of them. This is a relief, with a stack of Ngaio's series in this room nearly in entirety. Police crime is the mystery type I like least in the world but since too few authors think of non-crime, ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Sep 19, 2011 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,
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
tom bomp
May 25, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
The solution to the murder is just really unbelievable. It even gives a specific timeframe that's so ridiculously short plus relies on a bunch of people not noticing a bunch of things. At the end they even admit there's very little to pin it down on the murderer. The secret society subplot is goofy and doesn't make any sense either. Oh and there's a romance subplot too which is totally unconvincing and pointless but then they always are in mystery novels. There were a few sections which I had to ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
J.V. Seem
Apr 12, 2014 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 ...more
Aug 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I thought I had read all this series but realised recently that I had for some reason missed the first one. This is a typical Golden Age mystery with a group of suspects in a country house. Sir Hubert Handesley's country house weekends are noted for their murder game. Unfortunately on this particular weekend there is a real corpse with a dagger in its back.

Roderick Alleyn, ably assisted by Nigel Bathurst, a journalist who appears in many of the Roderick Alleyn mysteries, has to try and break a
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Whose Body?  (Lord Peter Wimsey, #1)
  • The Crime at Black Dudley (Albert Campion Mystery #1)
  • Hangman's Holiday: A Collection of Short Mysteries (Lord Peter Wimsey, #9)
  • The Man in the Queue (Inspector Alan Grant, #1)
  • The Case of the Gilded Fly (Gervase Fen, #1)
  • Mystery Mile (Albert Campion Mystery #2)
  • Cover Her Face (Adam Dalgliesh #1)
  • Miss Pym Disposes
  • A Presumption of Death (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane, #2)
  • Thrones, Dominations (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane #1)
  • Clouds of Witness (Lord Peter Wimsey, #2)
  • A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #0.5)
  • A Morbid Taste for Bones (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #1)
  • Flowers for the Judge (Albert Campion Mystery, #7)
  • Death of a Ghost (Albert Campion Mystery, #6)
  • Look to the Lady (Albert Campion Mystery, #3)
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (Lord Peter Wimsey, #5)
  • The Fashion in Shrouds (Albert Campion Mystery, #10)
See similar books…
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

Other books in the series

Roderick Alleyn (1 - 10 of 33 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)
“Have you never read Eyes and No Eyes? I” 0 likes
“Order me some of that delicious-looking lager those people are drinking and I’ll reveal everything,’ said Angela.” 0 likes
More quotes…