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Death of a Peer

(Roderick Alleyn #10)

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  6,931 ratings  ·  223 reviews
Ngaio Marsh’s most popular novel begins when a young New Zealander’s first contact with the English gentry is the body of Lord Wutherford - with a meat skewer through the eye....

The Lampreys had plenty of charm - but no cash. They all knew they were peculiar - and rather gloried in it. The double and triple charades, for instance, with which they would entertain their gues
Mass Market Paperback, 303 pages
Published January 1980 by Jove Books (first published 1940)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  6,931 ratings  ·  223 reviews

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Jul 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, ngaio-marsh
A prime example of the Golden Age Mystery from Britain between the wars. Pull out the whole standard toolkit: A slightly-threadbare, to-the-manor-born family finds that being bankrupt puts a real strain on the entire dotty household- Lady, Lord, bairns, domestics, butler & chauffeur. Even the usual bracing round of Charades won't lift the gloom.

An inconvenient and nasty murder disrupts the disruptions already at hand, the Yard investigates with eyebrow raised, and suspicions fly. Add some thirt
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This tenth novel in the Roderick Alleyn Series, published in 1941, was also known as, “Death as a Peer.”

Roberta Grey first met the Lamprey family in New Zealand, where she grew up. When she is orphaned, she goes to England, where the Lamprey’s had returned, to live with an aunt. However, when her aunt is taken ill, the Lampreys come and claim her, whisking her away to stay with them in London. There is Lord Charles, his wife Charlotte, the children Henry, Frid, Stephen, Colin, Patricia, Michael
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ngaio-marsh
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few years ago New Zealander Roberta Grey met the Lamprey family, a bunch of Micawberish English aristocrats, when she was an adolescent and they were living in her home country. She and Frid Lamprey were schoolmates, and before she knew it she'd fallen in love with the family and they seemingly did so with her. Soon, though, they had to move back to London as yet another of their "financial crises" overtook them -- a "financial crisis" representing one of those periods when none of their elder ...more
The pacing of Death of a Peer left me extremely frustrated. It took forever for the Peer to get murdered! He finally does get murdered and then it takes even longer for the plot to go anywhere. Arguably it never does.
I picked up this book primed to fall in love with the dashing Roderick Alleyn. He seemed a brilliant but much less awkward version of Sir Peter Wimsey...or Sherlock Holmes...or any other detective you may wish to pick. The problem is, he is also rather dull. The majority of this bo
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, mystery
There’s stuff to like about A Surfeit of Lampreys; the character portraits, the commentary on the family, the fact that it brings in Bathgate and ties some of that stuff together… but overall, I’ve totally lost my motivation to read Ngaio Marsh’s books. There’s a same-y feel to them, the characters aren’t nearly as brilliant as, say, Dorothy L. Sayers’, and it comes out feeling a little too heavy and flat, with not enough payoff. The mysteries are intricate, but everything just unravels so slowl ...more
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here is another story told like a radio play. There is a cast of women and men taking various characters, sound effects and people moving around as they speak. This is most effective. Of course they are all rich, titled persons away for a weekend at a fabulous mansion, except for the one who is away for ever.
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
Sept. 2019 reread via my dad's Kindle:

I read this mystery years ago and found upon rereading that while I remembered the Lampreys, I had no idea who the culprit was. I did manage to pick up on the most important clue but failed to see what Alleyn saw about what it meant. On another note - I find that this book was originally called "A Surfeit of Lampreys"; as with Agatha Christie books, I often believe I have found one that I haven't read before only to discover that it is just that the American
Apr 30, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Review to come.

PS: let me tell you one thing: hoping to read more books during self-isolation and work-from-home period during the time of the freaking WuHan virus outbreak probably doesn't work so good, I still have ton of unread and half-finished books to work on. *sighs*
Dec 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
2019 Reread

Upon reread, this was one of the more enjoyable non-Troy books. The Lampreys are charming, so this isn't one of Marsh's mystery novels where everyone is kind of terrible and unlikeable. I struggle more with those. Also, the New Zealand connection is interesting. I do think Alleyn shows up a bit late in this, narratively, but at least the Lampreys are entertaining in the interim.

And despite insta-love, I kinda liked the secondary romance this time around. Possibly because I was aware o
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-classic
The Lampreys of the title are a charming but impoverished aristocratic family living well beyond their means. When ruin threatens, they invite wealthy Uncle Gabriel to visit and put on a party including a game of charades hoping they will have an opportunity to borrow money from him. Instead, Uncle Gabriel is brutally murdered and suspicion attaches to the family. Inspector Alleyn must dig beneath the frivolous facade and secret conspiracies of the Lamprey family members to find out the truth.

Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
"There was no doubt the Lampreys were charmers who sported the grand style and didn't have a shilling. But when Lord Charles Lamprey's rich old brother met an untimely end, the question was raised -- were they also cold blooded killers?

"Some words by Shakespeare cue Inspector Alleyn in a case with many strutting players and one star -- a murderer."
~~back cover

The famous, beloved mystery writers are famous and beloved for a reason -- they're outstanding at what they do: characterization, descript
Jul 06, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice pleasant little mystery. As usual, the victim did not inspire much pity, the culprit did not inspire much sympathy, and the two Charming Young People ended up together … a recipe for a satisfying ending. There was a bit too much “tracking the whereabouts of the suspects” (and without a map I didn’t try very hard to be honest), but I do love the ones where Alleyn appears on Police Business (rather than turning up as a random houseguest) because it means more time with Alleyn and Fox. There ...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in June 1998.

This is one of my least favourite Ngaio Marsh novels. The crime is puzzling enough and the solution typically ingenious, and Roderick Alleyn is his usual urbane self; the problem is that I find it impossible to have any sympathy for the family at the centre of the story, the Lampreys.

The Lampreys are an upper class family always suffering from financial crises, yet unable to work or to save because of their frivolous background. Marsh keeps on e
Ghastly murder; nothing cozy about it. Entertaining Lamprey family based on real family friends Marsh adored. Nigel makes a brief appearance. Marsh has a real way with her characters; mystery is secondary, but well done. Considering this was published in the1939-1940 era there is very little in the book to suggest the turmoil of Europe and a pending war. There is a passing reference that someone might be "one of them Nazzys." ...more
Nancy Cook-senn
A Golden Age Mystery replete with poor but profligate aristocrats, dotty aunts, precocious children, sarcastic teens, the credulous journalist Nigel Bathgate, Inspector Alleyn (dubbed "Handsome Alleyn" by the press) and his ever-stolid "B'rer" Fox. ...more
Julie  Durnell
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england-uk, mystery
A first-rate mystery! The Lamprey family members are engaging and quirky, the Inspector Alleyn a top notch detective. It was a bit slow going in the beginning but as the murder commenced I was sorely tempted to flip to the ending to find out the culprit, I didn't of course! ...more
Alleyn grinned, "No," he said. I'm not bored by my job. One gets desperately sick of routine at times but it would be an affectation to pretend one was bored. People interest me and homicide cases are so terrifically concerned with people.

Death of a Peer (originally published as A Surfeit of Lampreys; 1940) by Ngaio Marsh features the very interesting, very charming and very peculiar Lamprey family. Alleyn will certainly get his fill of interesting when he manages to work out who coldbloodedly m
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Something that distresses me about the Golden Age of Mystery: As it wore on, authors tended to included maps with decreasing frequency. Instead of a focus on clever use of spaces to hide opportunities for criminals to commit murder/crimes, mysteries increasingly relied on explorations of psychology and motive. Now, it's possible to have all of the above, and certainly, opportunity and motive get a lot of attention together in early GAD. But later Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen (which I've been ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I did enjoy this light-hearted cosy mystery about an "impoverished" family of the minor nobility whose rich uncle (yes, really!) is killed in the lift after refusing to bail them out yet again. Marsh repeatedly mentions that it's like a set-piece social comedy play, and it is that. Her acting/directing experience shows at every turn. She can't resist bringing in MacBeth, and the solution is a bit unbelievably convenient, but hey, it's mental popcorn and I munched it quite happily in a few hours. ...more
Mar 01, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Uni assignment reading. Annnnnnd of course the poor servant murdered the rich ass guy. And the main rich ass family is portrayed as "irresponsible" with money but ultimately have a heart of gold. And of course they get a slap on the wrist and still call themselves poor, while poor people are portrayed as money greedy deviants. The classist massage is enough to choke me. But there's still casual racist things, honestly by this point with this module's assigned reading I'm doing a challenge for th ...more
Ciaran Monaghan
If I read anymore detective novels of this type from this era and I am unable to guess the culprit, I will adopt a new rule of thumb to do so - It was the poor person that did it - I think it will work well. There are also several other tropes that you find in older books like this; the locked room scenario, the weighing and reweighing of witness statements which hold the key to break the case and the importance of minutiae like whether the suspects are left or right handed. All in all, it make ...more
Adam Carson
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve read Surfeit of Lampreys and Death and the Dancing Footman in quick succession - and these truly are my two favourite Marsh books to date.

Based around a aristocratic, but extremely hard up family, Marsh expertly write these characters so that their glaring eccentricities are endearing from the first chapter.

The whodunnit element is simple and plausible, and inspector Allyn, while not the showman detective of Christie, Sayers or Allingham, adds a weight to the plotting that moves the story
Mar 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now there is something about a nice bit of vintage murder that is ever so slightly comforting, now I can’t say I have ever understood why this should be so – but it does seem to be the case for many readers. I love Agatha Christie – I have loved her forever, and remain a staunch fan, however, I wonder if Ngaio Marsh wasn’t a rather better writer. I discovered Marsh much later than Christie, and those novels I have read have been consistently good. Chief Inspector Alleyn and his trusty Inspector ...more
Audio version adapted for the BBC with a full cast.
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly enjoyable read! Love the Lampreys! A grisly murder mixed with light hearted banter. I must admit I was biting my nails hoping a Lamprey wasn’t a murderer! A great escape from reality!
Lori Rader-Day
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
QUITE engrossing and fun to read with lots of nice little creepiness supplied by Lady V., although the actual solution was not as juicy as I was hoping it would be.
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Lord Wutherford meets a nasty death at the home of the Lampreys.

Roderick Alley series:
3* A Man Lay Dead (Roderick Alleyn, #1)
4* Death in a White Tie (Roderick Alleyn, #7)
3* Death of a Peer (Roderick Alleyn, #10)
3* Death and the Dancing Footman (Roderick Alleyn, #11)
3* Night at the Vulcan (Roderick Alleyn, #16)
3* When in Rome (Roderick Alleyn, #26)
TR Enter a Murderer (Roderick Alleyn, #2)
TR The Nursing Home Murder (Roderick Alleyn, #3)
TR Death in Ecstasy (Roderick A
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is also titled A Surfeit of Lampreys. I suppose the title was changed for US publication - why the heck do they do that? It happened with some Christie books, too. The Lampreys are a family living in new Zealand, who go home to England. Roberta (Robin) Grey, a young woman who was great friends with them in NZ, comes to England after her parents die. She is supposed to live with an aunt, but when the aunt becomes ill, the Lampreys invite her to stay with them, which she is more than happy to ...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 at the Bar (Roderick Alleyn, #9)
  • Death and the Dancing Footman (Roderick Alleyn, #11)

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