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Death at the Bar

(Roderick Alleyn #9)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,916 ratings  ·  245 reviews
Setting in for a cozy night of brandy and darts at the pub, an inebriated lawyer suffers a seemingly harmless dart puncture. But within moments of his injury, the unlucky barrister loses more than a simple game of darts--he loses his life. Called in to investigate this alleged accident, Inspector Roderick Alleyn wonders about the rules of this friendly bar game--and probes ...more
Mass Market Paperback, Pocket Books #297, 263 pages
Published May 1945 by Pocket Books (first published 1940)
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Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
Two of my bookgroups on Goodreads are reading Ngaio Marsh this month—I read the first, a later title in the series, earlier on (technically, last month), and now, this one. Death at the Bar, published in 1939, is ninth in the Roderick Alleyn series by Marsh, and is also a reread for me. Compared to Clutch of Constables, the other title I read, this one has more the ordinary format (disliked chap gets killed, police called in, investigates, denouement), and while I liked the different format in C ...more
Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*
EXCERPT: probably the alarming entrance into this village has saved it from becoming another Clovelly or Polpero. Ladies with 'ye olde shoppe' ambitions would hesitate to drive through Coombe Tunnel and very large cars are unable to do so. Moreover, the village is not too picturesque. It is merely a group of houses whose whitewash is tarnished by the sea. There are no secret stairs in any of them, no ghosts walk Ottercombe Steps, no smugglers cave looks out from Coombe Rock. For all that, the pl ...more
May 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ngaio-marsh
Well I deducted the wrong person for the murder. A barrister called Watchman goes to a town in Devon with his cousin Parish and friend Cubitt. He has a collision with his car with a lodger at the pub he is staying in called Robert Legge.

Watchman while playing darts suddenly dies. Rat poison, everyone except the publican had a motive. The village is very atmospheric with the coastal landscape the beautiful Decima, eccentric Miss Darragh, Wil the landlords son and Legge the dodgy treasurer with s
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ninth Roderick Alleyn mystery sees three friends meet up for a holiday in Devon. Luke Watchman is a top London barrister, his cousin, Sebastian Parrish an actor and Norman Cubitt an artist. The three men spent last year staying at the Plume of Feathers, whose landlord is the friendly Abel Pomeroy; aided by his son, Will, who runs, ‘The Left Group,’ a political group with more members than you would expect in the small fishing village of Ottercombe.

Watchman is looking forward to the holiday
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime
I don’t quite understand people who like Marsh’s books as much as, say, Dorothy L. Sayers’. Alleyn just doesn’t have the same depth of characterisation as Wimsey, and while the character of Troy is quite fun, she doesn’t seem to have come into it as much as Harriet. It is true that Wimsey books go buy without Harriet, though usually there’s Parker and Bunter, the Dowager Duchess and plenty of other supporting characters who pop up repeatedly. In these books, it seems to often be just Alleyn and ...more
Lady Wesley
Death at the Bar is not so much a whodunit as a howdunit. Once you figure out how the murder was committed, you will know who the killer was. I’ll bet you never figure out the how, but of course Inspector Alleyn does. Be prepared for an abrupt conclusion.
Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh is a "reread" for me. Reread is in quotes because I actually listened to it this time. Our local library had clear out of all their books on tape about this time last year and I scooped up this 8-cassette rendition read by James Saxon. Saxon, by the way is terrific to listen to. He manages to give all of the characters their own distinct voice (although I think it was a good thing that there were only two ladies--one of whom had a nice Irish brogue). I am not, gen ...more
Oct 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
While I knew that I had read this entry in the Inspector Alleyn series, as I have read all the Marsh books on my shelves at some point in the past 35 years, when I saw the audiobook on Hoopla & read the blurb it didn't sound familiar. Once I started listening though, it came back to me. Ironically, I spent about 2/3 of my time listening to this mystery sure I knew who the murderer was only to find it was someone else!

Wanda McCaddon does an excellent narration and this Golden Age mystery stands
Sep 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-classic
Alleyn investigates a murder at the Plume of Feathers, a Devon pub. The murder happens during a game of darts, and all those in the bar come under suspicion. Alleyn and Fox arrive from Scotland Yard to quiz the suspects and follow up their stories.

Although I liked the country pub setting, this mystery took an age to get going and I never really cared who did it. The plot is clever and skilfully put together, and the Alleyn and Fox relationship continues to work well. However, this didn't really
A British crime novelist that I had not read before (I say read, but I listened to the audio book).

Early on the format of this book caught my interest. The first few chapters introduced all the suspects, some of their backgrounds and some potential motives. All of this before the actual crime had been committed. Normally we only find out about the suspects after the crime and the investigation is underway.

Characters were pretty varied and interesting. Plot wise this kept me guessing up until th
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish there were a detective who gets it totally wrong, admits his/her mistake, and muddled through, rather than being mostly perfect. This one was twisty and unpleasant and I’m not sure I’m very fond of Alleyn at the moment.
Jul 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After a very slow build-up, we finally have a corpse after almost eighty or so pages and the introduction of Marsh's hero, the aristocratic Roderick Alleyn. Having said that, once Alleyn and the faithful Fox turn up, the action really starts and this becomes an engaging and worthwhile read, perfect for a couple of hours in the garden on a sunny day.

Barrister Luke Watchman is a far from attractive character and probably deserves to be bumped off whilst spending a rural idyll with his cousin (anot
Louise Culmer
Aug 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
A distinguished barrister dies, apparently accidentally, in a pub in Devon, where he is on holiday. But it emerges that the death may not have been accidental after all, so naturally the local constabulary calls in Scotland Yard. there are some very interesting characters,and it is not too easy to guess how the murder was done, and by whom. The romance also is more a bit more interesting than in most of the Inspector Alleyn books, less predictable. I would have liked to see more of Constable Oat ...more
Calum Reed
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I'm coming around to Marsh as my favourite of the supposed four "crime queens". Although she doesn't quite have the same ability as Christie to pull the rug completely from under you (indeed I guess the culprit half the time, although not on this occasion), she plays fair with the reader, and her methods of murder are totally original. Books #6-#10 of the Alleyn series (I haven't read past there) sustain a high level of quality. This particular installment features a typically diverting mix o
Jul 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
During a dark and stormy night (I've always wanted to type that), a well-known barrister's hand is punctured by a dart during a demonstration in the private taproom of the pub in a small village in Cornwall. Within minutes, he is dead. Inspector Roderick Alleyn is called in to sort through the plentiful suspects--most of whom seem to have a motive--sift through the clues, and discover what happened. An enjoyable mystery with plenty of twists, turns, and red herrings. ...more
The puzzle to be solved is elaborate and generally well-constructed, and the whole thing is a witty bit of froth, just the right thing for my addled and overloaded brain right now.
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh, three longtime friends join together to visit their annual vacation spot in Ottocomb in Devon, where they gather at the Plume of Feathers Pub. All three friends are famous in their own right, with Luke Watchman an elite barrister, Sebastian Darrow a famous actor, and Norman Cubit a top painter. The pub is a central gathering point for the community, where locals and gusts gather one stormy night. They discover that Abel Pomeroy, the owner of the pub, owns thre ...more
Mandy Dimins
This was a serviceable mystery with a fairly interesting (although confusing) mechanism, and an okay solution - nothing super mind-blowing.

Luke Watchman falls down dead after being nicked on the hand by an errant dart, when another pub patron attempts to do a dart trick on him. The dart is later found to be laced with cyanide, but the packet of darts was newly opened and all the people in the private bar couldn't have done the poisoning without the others seeing them at it.

I missed Marsh's engag
Alan Teder
Poison in the Pub
Review of the Felony & Mayhem paperback edition (2013) of the 1940 original

Death at the Bar was rather a simple Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn story which didn't have many of the features that I most love about the series. Although this is after Alleyn's marriage to painter Agatha Troy, Troy does not make an appearance. The banter between Alleyn and his No. 2 Fox is very minimal. Alleyn makes few quotes from Shakespeare or other classics. The solution, although clever enough, d
russell barnes
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, golden-age
Within the context I love Ngaio Marsh, I FRICKIN LOVED Death at the Bar.

It's absolute perfection: It takes place in a pub in a mythical Devonian coastal village with a smuggling backstory, there's vintage brandy, poisoned darts, old lags, communistic rustics, famous artists and a crazy local Chief Inspector. And who you gonna call when the local plod can't solve a seemingly simple death in the bar over a game of Round the Clock? Inspector Alleyn & Foxkin or course.
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-crime, 2020
Alleyn went ahead. His pleasant voice ran on and on and a kind of orderliness began to appear. The impossible, the possible, and the probable were sorted into groups, and from the kaleidoscopic jumble of evidence, was form a pattern.
As part of the Ngaio Marsh Reading Challenge, I am rereading her first 12 Inspector Alleyn books (one per month). I read nearly all of these back in junior high school when I had run through all of the Agatha Christies that our public library had and was looking for more classic crime. This was my first time sitting down with Death at the Bar (1945) since then. I did listen to it as an audio novel several years ago and I have watched the televised version with Patrick Malahide, so the culprit di ...more
Manjot Kaur
I'm sure other people have felt and expressed this, but Roderick Alleyn is no Peter Wimsey. And this comparison is worthwhile because Ms Marsh, in her book introductions, loves to express disdain at the fact that Dorothy L Sayers made the mistake of falling in love with her Wimsey whereas Ngaio Marsh has managed to keep her head and just stay friends with her Alleyn. I say Bah to that. There's no question in my mind that Ngaio harbored a sincere passion for her inscrutable Inspector Alleyn. And ...more
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
there's a lot of talk about class and politics in this book, which takes it a bit away from what you'd usually expect from a cozy. there's also quite a bit of dense dialogue and descriptions of minute details. I like the level of detail because it's so immersive, and I like the setting (a different time and place, for me). ...more
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A rather disappointing end to my summer binge reading of 1930s British crime fiction. Marsh goes in for complex plots, but this one is so convoluted that one finishes the book and still is not sure exactly what has happened.
Kathy Davie
Jul 14, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ninth in the Inspector Roderick Alleyn vintage detective mystery series with this tale set in Ottercombe in Devon. It was originally published in 1940. The focus is on three close friends.

My Take
Marsh makes good use of dialect in both spelling and sentence structure showing us the social status and/or origins of various characters. I know it's not acceptable today, but in Marsh's day it was quite the thing.

Marsh has created a more realistic set of characters who care about each other, but do not
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This one falls into the group of several Marsh books featuring Alleyn where I have no interest in or respect for any of the characters and would just as soon see them all poisoned and on their way. Since it is one of the earlier ones (1940) it is before Alleyn meets Troy so there is that predictable factor that I may not enjoy the book.
The Devon Inn where the action is centered is at the end of a hazardous tunnel roadway, so that difficulty in itself should be enough evidence anyone who makes t
Dec 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another strong installment, but not my favorite after two such strong contenders. The setting was certainly unique - the town, the pub, the characters. Maybe it was because the victim's personality was rather elusive. Or maybe he just wasn't very likable! Lots of murky motives from the various players. My favorite riddle was trying to figure out not if but how the victim was poisoned. Lots of different options, but I had my suspicions from the start and they were eventually confirmed, though the ...more
Death at the Bar is the 9th book in the Inspector Roderick Alleyn mystery series by Ngaio Marsh and the 14th that I've read; obviously not all sequence. I don't think it's critical to read them in order but there are changes in Alleyn's life that do make it worth while to do so.

The story start at an isolated village and pub in south Devon. We meet the main characters; one Luke Watchman, distinguished barrister, gets into a fender bender with another man, while on his way to the Plume of Feather
May 15, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ylto_road_trip
In the beginning, I did not enjoy the story; the references and the language were a little hard to follow, and some of the conversations were hard to comprehend. But as the story progressed, it continued to get interesting, and I kept comparing this to the works of Agatha Christie. Unlike Hercule Poirot, who has a sense of the perpetrator of the crime, Detective Alleyn is more human and makes several findings throughout the story that are tied together logically with the deductions. I am not sur ...more
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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)
  • A Man Lay Dead (Roderick Alleyn #1)
  • 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 of a Peer (Roderick Alleyn #10)
  • Death and the Dancing Footman (Roderick Alleyn, #11)

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