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)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  8,345 Ratings  ·  389 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)
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

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Oct 25, 2011 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
Carol ♔Type, Oh Queen!♕
2.5 ★

& 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 h
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 Huber ...more
Maria Clara
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delicioso! En serio, que delicia leer esta historia, que conserva el toque inocente de la Era Dorada (1920/1930). Esta es la primera novela que leo de Ngaio Marsh, y con seguridad, seguiré los pasos del inspector Roderick Alleyn.
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
Libros Prestados
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
¡Lo sabía! Bueno, vale, no sabía cómo, pero sabía que tenía que ser esa persona. Por pura intuición. O porque ya me he leído muchas novelas de misterio "quién lo hizo" y me huelo el percal.

Porque esta novela es exactamente eso: una muestra del "whodunit" británico más clásico. Todo mecánica y juegos de espejos. Tiene todo lo esperable en el género: pistas falsas del tamaño de China, personajes funcionales que como máximo te van a caer simpáticos, un detective que se guarda información clave porq
Feb 14, 2012 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
Oct 24, 2013 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
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 t ...more
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.
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, of
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
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 c
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
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 cert ...more
Aug 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 c
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
Jan C
Feb 16, 2013 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
Apr 23, 2013 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
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, 2017
I decided to read this book because the author's writing is considered similar to Agatha Christie's classic mystery style. I was not impressed. The slang is so over-the-top that it gets in the way of the story and the flippant attitude of the characters is not only off-putting, it makes them seem ridiculous. I doubt I'll seek out other books from this author. Not recommended.
tom bomp
May 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: mystery, fiction
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
May 05, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Aug 22, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this (found it on a shelf at home) not realizing that it was Marsh's first in a series of 32. It has the likable energy of a first novel but also the usual rough edges which come with first time out.

The upside is this was fun to read. A group of largely unlikable people is cloistered in a posh country house, where the murder totally expected by the reader occurs. Everyone could have done it, even some of the servants, and there is really no way to work out the answer until it is revealed
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
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
Nov 08, 2015 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.
Un hombre muerto es una novela de misterio tipo quién lo hizo de corte clásico (lógico, pues fue escrita en 1934) en el que nos presentan una prototípica historia en la que tenemos a un grupo de personas juntas y una de ellas fallece a manos de uno de los reunidos. Es tan clásica que se trata de un grupo de personas relativamente adineradas que se reunen en una casa a las afueras de Londres para celebrar una reunión (en este caso van a celebrar una fiesta en donde se juega a asesinato) y durante ...more
Oct 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Ngaio Marsh published her first novel in 1934’s A man Lay Dead. Nigel Hawthorne gets invited to a weekend party at the estate of Sir Hubert Handesley, joining his cousin Charles Rankin, a well-known socialite. Nigel gets greeted by an assortment of guests, and they learn that the big game that weekend will be a game that was popular for weekend parties at the time of the writing of the book, Murders. In it, one person gets randomly assigned the role of murderer and has to get someone alone, anno ...more
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was left completely guessing to the very end. A country house murder mystery that introduces Inspector Alleyn. Published in 1934 and set in England, there was some period slang, a cozy setting, and a tenacious detective. I think this will be an excellent choice for the Mystery Book Discussion group at my library next year.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading the Detec...: A Man Lay Dead - SPOILER thread 41 28 Sep 29, 2016 02:07PM  
Reading the Detec...: September 2016 - A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh 37 30 Sep 27, 2016 08:52AM  
English Mysteries...: March 2013 - A Man Lay Dead 61 125 Jul 12, 2013 05:08PM  
  • The Man in the Queue (Inspector Alan Grant, #1)
  • Mystery Mile (Albert Campion Mystery #2)
  • Hangman's Holiday: A Collection of Short Mysteries (Lord Peter Wimsey, #9)
  • The Case of the Gilded Fly (Gervase Fen, #1)
  • Death at the President's Lodging (Sir John Appleby, #1)
  • Miss Silver Deals With Death (Miss Silver, #6)
  • Trent's Last Case (Philip Trent, #1)
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)
“Have you never read Eyes and No Eyes? I” 0 likes
More quotes…