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Death and the Dancing Footman

(Roderick Alleyn #11)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  3,018 ratings  ·  157 reviews
The party's over when murder makes an entrance...

With the notion of bringing together the most bitter of enemies for his own amusement, a bored, mischievous millionaire throws a house party. As a brutal snowstorm strands the unhappy guests, the party receives a most unwelcome visitor: death. Now the brilliant inspector Roderick Alleyn must step in to decipher who at the pa
...more
Mass Market Paperback, Berkley New Edition; 2nd printing, 254 pages
Published 1969 by Berkley Publishing Corporation (first published 1941)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  3,018 ratings  ·  157 reviews


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Olivia-Savannah  Roach
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I absolutely loved this one and it was definitely my favourite of the bind up!

The set up to this murder mystery is so dramatic because of the fact that all of these characters have a history with one another. None of them like each other for very different reasons, and nearly all of them are keeping secrets too. All these people who don’t like each other and end up in the same house which somehow happens gets snowed in? It’s a murder mystery waiting to happen. And I was so here for all the drama
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Nandakishore Varma
This is a perfectly crafted mystery which sadly, suffers from its perfection: the clues are so clear that anyone with a fair acquaintance of whodunits will guess the murderer, and the way the crime was carried out. The most interesting thing in the book is the dancing footman, and how he becomes important to the tale.
John
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ngaio-marsh
Written in 1942 the story is set in an isolated house in winter. The owner Jonathan is a nasty piece of work who invites a group of people who mostly hate each other to see what will happen.

Jonathan Royal likes trouble and invites people to a house party over a weekend who clearly do not like each other. There is the Compline family with the mother Sonia and her two sons, William who is devoted and Nicholas, her favorite. There is tension as William is engaged to another guest, Chloris Wynne, w
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Susan
Mar 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did not like the premise at the beginning--seemed too controlling and manipulative of Jonathan Royal to have a weekend party where everyone started off with reasons not to like each other. The plastic surgery "mistake" was an interesting twist. As the book progressed, my likes and dislikes of the characters went back and forth. The romance was nice-- felt the people involved (no spoiler alert needed) were due something nice in life. And of course, snowbound people who have all sorts of quirks in ...more
Susan
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1942, this is the eleventh of the series featuring Roderick Alleyn. Although this was published during wartime, and the war is mentioned, this feels more as though it were written during the very early months of the conflict, with mentions of various characters looking to enlist and comments of surgeons being needed as time goes on.

That said, wartime or not, country house parties are obviously still going on and host, Jonathan Royal, is planning one with a difference. In fact, he de
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Kathy
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If one adjusts to the vernacular of the time (1940) and has a desire for reading a longish Dorset country house gathering designed for murder in the midst of a snowstorm - this is the book for you. The opening chapters were electric with sadistically joyful anticipation felt by the author of this gathering. I was giddy reading of the preparations by Jonathan Royal, owner of Highfold Manor who had arranged the invitation of guests most likely to kill one another as an exercise in drama most elabo ...more
Tara
A very entertaining read with an eclectic cast of characters. Marsh spent a lot of time developing the story and letting us get to know all of the players, which made for a more gripping story. I was able to pick out the murderer pretty early in the going, which means it was either blatantly obvious, or I have read so many detective stories, I am finally getting good at it (I prefer to believe the latter, although it is likely it is the former). I get somewhat annoyed with ridiculously tight tim ...more
Bev
Death & the Dancing Footman (1941) by Ngaio Marsh is one of those Golden Age mystery stand-bys: a murder at a country house party--and in the middle of a snow storm no less. But Marsh gives the standard a slight twist. Jonathan Royal, who by his own reckoning is a stifled artist, has decided to use human beings in a drama of his own contrivance. He has deliberately invited a houseful of guests where each person is at odds with at least one other person (and sometimes more). And he has invited Au ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Jonathan, a lonely and cantankerous bachelor, decides to hold a house party of people he knows will dislike at least one other member of the party, sit back and watch the duh-rammma unfold. Kind of like "reality TV" today. However, of course he gets more than he bargained for, as an apparently dull and innocent young man is murdered in a most distressing and uncouth way--getting his head bashed in with a Maori mere! Whodunit and how, since the rest of the party were just on the other side of the ...more
Krista
Jan 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, Ngaio Marsh. What is it about you that I don't really care about whodunit?

I figured this one out. Easily. The mystery was thin and rather transparent.

But who cares? Especially when one gets to relish in her characterizations and her way with words. Descriptions like these make these cozies worth reading, even if you aren't a mystery buff;

"A popinjay," he muttered, "a stock figure of dubious gallantry." And he pronounced the noise usually associated with the word "Pshaw."

" ... [he's] bone
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Ivonne Rovira
Needless to say, Dame Ngaio Marsh can write some riveting mysteries: Death In A White Tie, A Man Lay Dead, and Enter A Murderer come immediately to mind. However, at times, Marsh becomes so enthralled with ridiculing some of her characters that she spends entirely too much time on the back story and her writing veers into tiresome parody. Such was the case in Overture To Death, first published in 1939. So, too, with Death and the Dancing Footman, published two years later.

The flamboyant Jonathan
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Alan Teder
A Classic Locked-Room Mystery
Review of the Fontana paperback edition (1976) of the 1942 original

While I still have a considerable number of new releases to read during the current lockdown, I have also been turning to several of the classics of the Golden Age of Crime, especially due to their cozy housebound type of narratives. The typical story of the genre has an assorted variety of guests snowbound or in an otherwise isolated location, so that the culprit definitely has to be found within the
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Gillian Kevern
I loved this! I think it may be my new favourite Ngaio Marsh.

I must have read this before, but I had no memory of it. I picked out a suspect early on and thought 'I must have read this before, because X is obviously guilty.' And the story continued and more and more clues pointing to X were found--and then the rug was pulled completely out from under me. I did not see the solution--and it fell together perfectly.

Death and the Dancing Footman is also interesting because it is a book written dur
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Andree
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
2019 Reread

Tempted to change my rating, but am not, because it's probably mood dependent and this is one of the better mysteries.

This did not work well on reread. Everyone is far too unlikeable, including the host, who invites a completely unsuitable combination of people, many of whom don't like each other, to a house party, just so he can watch the ensuing fireworks. I was left thinking it was a shame he wasn't the murder victim.

Add to that, Alleyn doesn't show up until the last third of the n
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ShanDizzy
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(08/21/18 at 6:15pm CST) So far, I have only gotten through the list of Jonathan's invited guests and I chuckled. I must say, he is deliciously sneaky to compile this list of unsuspecting guests who have issues with one another. This mix of people will definitely bring the high drama. Let's raise the curtain and see what transpires. (I think this appeals to a dark part of my humor.) No wonder someone ends up liquidated. "It seems to me," said Mandrake, "that you have invited stark murder to your ...more
Moira
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the better ones, I have all of her books but one and can't find it.
Cybercrone
Very odd book in this series. The story just dragged on and on, and went round in circles. Alleyn didn't make an appearance until nearly the end.
FangirlNation
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Death and the Dancing Footman, one of Ngaio Marsh’s most creative, complex, and crazy books, Jonathan Royal has decided that he needs to work out his aesthetic cravings. However, Jonathan is no good at writing or art, so he has decided to work out his frustrations in the genre of human manipulation. He conceives of the idea of planning a weekend party at his estate of Highfold at which the guests are all at daggers drawn towards each other. And Jonathan will direct the action. He first introd ...more
Adam Carson
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve read several Ngaio Marsh books now, which I’ve enjoyed, but this is my favourite by a long shot!

A group of people brought together for a party, each with a reason to hate at least one other guest. A snow storm that traps them all in a house. Sounds a bit contrived, but it’s masterfully done!

There’s no murder until halfway through this book, and no Detective Alleyn until the last third. It certainly doesn’t suffer for that though, being hugely character driven. The first half of the book s
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Louise Culmer
A house party of ill assorted guests leads to tensions,arguments, and eventually murder. This one is quite enjoyable, and there are some interesting characters. I remained uncertain of the identity of the murderer until the end, which is always satisfactory. Unfortunately Alleyn does not appear until two two thirds of the way through the book, and Inspector Fox only towards the end. The conversations between Fox and Alleyn are one of the most enjoyable features of this series, so this is a bit d ...more
Calum Reed
Mar 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: upcoming
B–:

The detection feels really hasty and uneven in this one, considering that Alleyn turns up for just the last 30% of the story and then proceeds to solve it all very easily. Alleyn cannot conceivably be present at the house party because he would not allow the danger to reach the stage it does, but surely there was another way to relay some of the detection over to the third act? The key false alibi for the murder is also quite transparent in the moment, but I did enjoy the various connections
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Jinx
Jun 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tried and failed to finish a number of Ngaio Marsh's books - this is the first I've successfully completed. This may have been due to the fact I listened to it on audio, narrated by James Saxon. Not sure she is the author me me when it comes to mysteries, but I'm glad I've finally finished one of her books.
Tom Lee
"You may as well know straightaway that I can't [supply an alibi]. I seem to remember reading somewhere that that makes me innocent and I'm sure I hope it's true."
"It's in the best tradition of detective fiction, I understand."


This exchange epitomises this novel's fun pastiche of the whodunit formula. Like an author gathering together a likely band of suspects, bored gentleman Jonathan Royal assembles a group of friends and acquaintances who he knows dislike or despise one another to varying de
...more
Susan
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jonathan Royal assembles a house party of people who dislike each other, treating it as a game - he thinks perhaps he can get some of them together. The guests include the Complines, mother and two sons, William and Nicholas; Aubrey Mandrake, a playwright with a club foot, who is very sensitive about his origins; Dr. Hart, a plastic surgeon and this girlfriend Madame Elise, a beauty specialist; Lady Hersey Amblington, Jonathan's cousin and a rival beauty specialist; and Chloris Wynne, William Co ...more
Heather
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ambitious, brutal, and flawed.

I thought that NM tried something different in this book, but didn't necessarily pull it off. In every book she seems to skewer some group, whether it is aspiring actresses or folk dancers or surrealist playwrights, and initially, I wasn't sure who she was skewering. There were a few digs at experimental theater, but instead of really sinking in her teeth, she chose to make Aubrey Mandrake sympathetic rather than absurd. So who is getting the NM Treatment? Ultimatel
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Bev Taylor
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
jonathan royal invites 8 people to spend a winter weekend with him.

they, alone or in groups, were unconnected to one another but jonathan knew what lay beneath the surface of each one

h/e it all went terrifying wrong. 2 attempted murders, one successful and one suicide

were all these events related and administered by the same person? or were there more grudges to bear and false leads being laid all of which seemed to lead to one person

alleyn only arrives after two thirds of the novel has pass
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Victoria Mixon
What's not to love about a murder mystery that gets solved because somebody's footman can't resist shaking his booty to "Boops-a-Daisy" when nobody's looking?

Ngaio Marsh cheats shamelessly when she throws in innumerable clues to the guilt of someone who, for that much authorial attention, really has no business wandering off scot-free. The solution's a bit Ellery Queen-ish, and the descriptions of a jolly brass Buddha as some kind of ghastly, horrifying relic of a loathsome pagan cult get old. (
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John Frankham
Dec 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-detective
One of the best Inspector Alleyn whodunnits, best read in snowy December. A fabulous cast of isolated country-house-party characters, just destined to produce antagonisms and more.

The GR blurb:

‘The party's over when murder makes an entrance...

With the notion of bringing together the most bitter of enemies for his own amusement, a bored, mischievous millionaire throws a house party. As a brutal snowstorm strands the unhappy guests, the party receives a most unwelcome visitor: death. Now the brill
...more
Monika Pawłowska
I liked most of the previous books from this series, but this one was a real pleasure. The setting with a group of people in a isolated country house is given a few twists. All the different and often tense relationships between the characters are a result of deliberate actions of the host, who wanted a 'dramatic' atmosphere. The characters notice soon enough that their situation is peculiar and start making allusions to crime novels and detection (including a work by Dorothy Sayers when they di ...more
Kyrie
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
There was so much antagonism is this book, and the characters were played off each other so very well. Made me wonder if Marsh had attended a house party like this one, or merely contemplated having one when enough people got under her skin.
The dancing footman was just the sort of whimsy that the plot needed to keep things light.
I had the feeling I missed a lot of jokes that I'd have caught were I British.

6-15-20 Reread and this one has stuck in my mind. I actually remembered who the murderer
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496 followers
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
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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 at the Bar (Roderick Alleyn, #9)
  • Death of a Peer (Roderick Alleyn #10)

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