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A Man Lay Dead

(Roderick Alleyn #1)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  11,214 ratings  ·  669 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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Scott Isolated British country estate where most of these Golden age mysteries seem to be located.

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Average rating 3.81  · 
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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, companions ...more
Jul 02, 2018 rated it liked it
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
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
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 p
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 detecti
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
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 had me
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
May 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
Alleyn looked at him with a curious air of compassion.
‘Not even yet?’ he said.
‘Whose were the prints?’
‘That I am not going to tell you. Oh, believe me, Bathgate, not out of any desire to figure as the mysterious omnipotent detective. That would be impossibly vulgar. No. I am not telling you because there is still that bit of my brains that cannot quite accept the QED of the theorem.

Well, that was one of the silliest GA detective stories I have read. Not bad or horrible or totally off-putting, bu
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
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
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it

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, ther ...more
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ngaio-marsh
This is Ngaio’s first Roderick Alleyn novel and it is a good introduction to the series I am slowly working through in no particular order. The story is set at Sir Hubert Handsley is well-known country house, Frantock where he is having a murder mystery party. He has invited his friend invited Charles Rankin a bachelor who likes the ladies and is a bit of a scoundrel and managed to annoy everyone he meets.

The other guests include: Charle’s cousin Nigel Bathgate a journalist; Rosemund Grant who
Mar 24, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is a classic whodunnit mystery in a wealthy English manor. My first read of Ms. Marsh stories. I like how there are little humour parts in the story, make the story not so serious.

Maybe you could guess the culprit or guess the murder technique. I think the story is fair enough for giving clues.
Bruce Beckham
Feb 03, 2019 rated it liked it
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 deca
Sheila Beaumont
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A reread of an old favorite. Ngaio Marsh's first novel, this story takes place in an English country house where a parlor game of "Murder" results in a real murder committed with a real dagger. Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn comes to the rescue and eventually figures out whodunit. In this cast of well-drawn characters, my favorite was the naive young journalist Nigel Bathgate, who, at 25, "had outgrown that horror of enthusiasm which is so characteristic of youth-grown-up." I love rer ...more
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.
Jul 24, 2020 rated it liked it
"It's going to be Murders this time."

A group of friends meets at Frantock Hall, Sir Hubert Handesley's country house, where they want to play the Murders game.

One person is chosen as the murderer, his identity being concealed from all the players. They scatter, and he seizes his moment to ring a bell or bang a gong. This symbolizes the “murder”.

A murder is thus announced and one of the guests lies dead.

It was easy enough to guess who the intended victim and the murderer are. The same ca
Dec 22, 2019 rated it liked it
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.
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.
Debra Belmudes
2 1/2 stars rounded to 3.

Another classic murder mystery, but I found this less enjoyable than Agatha Christie. I found Marsh's writing style stilted, unless people of this age really talked this way, and difficult to understand. Perhaps my shortcoming in not appreciating this book is my American background.

I will say that I did enjoy the way Inspector Alleyn's mind worked and I really like the beautiful art deco cover design.
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 t ...more
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
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 Poi
Aug 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
Gave up at 72%. Just couldn't take any more. Couldn't shake the feeling that it was an extremely poor copy of Christie and PG Wodehouse. Irritated the crap out of me.
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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

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)

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“Order me some of that delicious-looking lager those people are drinking and I’ll reveal everything,’ said Angela.” 0 likes
“Alleyn asked for an adjournment; the whole affair ended, leaving the onlookers with a sense of having been served with treason when they ordered murder.” 0 likes
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