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Night at the Vulcan

(Roderick Alleyn #16)

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  2,696 ratings  ·  142 reviews
A London actor was dying for a star billing...

From the leading lady's liaison to the harassment of an aging juvenile lead-there's never a dull moment, darling, at the Vulcan Theatre. But vanity and hysterics, suspicion and superstition, brandy and jealousy, are upstaged by a death on opening night. Was it really suicide? Or a macabre encore to a long-ago murder in the same
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 15th 1998 by St. Martin's Paperbacks (first published 1951)
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  2,696 ratings  ·  142 reviews

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Henry Avila
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Martyn Tarne is in need of help... make that a great need, just a couple of weeks in England arriving from her native New Zealand the poor, nineteen-year- old girl wants to be a star on the London stage, but first any job will do. Luck... she has none, all her money was stolen on the long, lonely ship voyage from home, the daughter of a sheep farmer with a small amount of acting experience. Get employment or sleep on the street...even in 1951 there are risks. However The Vulcan Theatre new play ...more
Nandakishore Varma
Dame Ngaio Marsh has pulled it off big-time in this one. This mystery which moves at breakneck pace takes place over a period of four days, during the rehearsals and opening night of the play "Thus to Revisit". The author draws her knowledge of the stage enormously, and we are presented with the spectacle of the stirring human drama, taking place backstage in the dressing rooms.

Martyn Tarne is a young girl, not quite out of teenage, on the lookout to make it on the London stage. She hopes to use
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is my first read of a mystery written by Ngaio Marsh. The New Zealand author has a distinctive writing style, which I grew to like. She postpones the murder and its subsequent investigation until late in her narrative. Again, it works successfully. The setting for this
mystery is a theater and its colorful players, some of whom don't like each other. Lots of details about the occupation are included. All in all, I enjoyed my reading experience and would tackle another title by her.
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the sixteenth Inspector Alleyn book and was first published in 1951. This instalment in the series, shows Ngaio Marsh turning to a world she knew extremely well – that of the theatre.

Martyn Tarne is nineteen, and has come from New Zealand to try her luck as an actress. Unfortunately, she had her money stolen on board ship and, when we meet her, she is tramping sadly from theatre, to theatre, attempting to find work. Exhausted, and hungry, she happens to be resting in the Vulcan theatre,
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Love Marsh. She's up there with Christie as a great mystery writer. ...more
Oct 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ngaio-marsh
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Maureen E
May 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
I like detectives. Not all of them by any means, but I like them. Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey, Inspector Grant, and most recently, Inspector Alleyn. Any new-to-me Alleyn mystery is a cause for rejoicing, the donning of a smoking jacket and the putting up of an 'occupied' sign on my (non-existent) study door. Lord Peter is perhaps my favorite but Alleyn comes close.

I'm not sure how many Alleyns I've read so far; my wild guess is about ten. They have, at this point, started to g
Aug 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, england
First Ngaio Marsh book for me! Very well written, interesting murder story... I wonder if all her stories are set up like this. The story is 180 pages odd long, and the murder didn't happen till just past the 100 page mark. So it's as much a general fiction story that happens to have a murder in it as anything else.

Set in London in the 40s or 50s (I'm guessing), we see little New Zealander Martyn Tarne newly in London struggling to find acting work and getting really down on her luck. Desperate
Sep 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, favourites
Pleasantly surprised at how entertaining "Night at the Vulcan" was. I was previously thoroughly underwelmed by "Light Thickens", my first of the Alleyn novels, but found myself quite enjoying this one.

Vulcan's strength partly lies in its protagonist, Martyn Tarne, who is interesting and sweet of nature, and therefore quite easy to like. It helps considerably when you can like and follow what the protagonist is saying and doing. The secondary characters, as well, are all very well fleshed out and
Calum Reed
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Pretty much perfect for 160 pages, up until the murder is committed. Marsh is far more concerned about telling a thoroughly engaging story about a young aspiring actress thrust into the limelight than she is about forging an intricate whodunit and, in this case, I'm absolutely fine with that.
Aug 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Second Read
Now that I'm reading Marsh's books systematically in order, I find this one to be one of her best. She is at her strongest when dealing with people and situations of the theater, as she does in this novel. The mystery was fairly transparent but it didn't really matter. To me, the story was the inter-relations between all of the characters involved; all of a type. Marsh is not so great at giving us details of romance, which frustrates me, as I think she would be so good at it. She hint
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
After the disappointing Swing, Brother, Swing (or A wreath for Rivera), Marsh returns to the world of theatre. A world which she knew very well and it shows:

‘An encounter with a person hitherto only seen and heard on the cinema screen is often disconcerting.’

‘There was a kind of voluptuousness in Martyn’s fatigue. Only the chair she sat on and the desk that propped her arms and head prevented her, she felt, from slipping to the floor. Into this defencelessness Poole’s suggestions entered like th
Opening Night (aka Night at the Vulcan; 1951) finds Ngaio Marsh returning to the world of theatre--comfortable home turf for an author who claimed the theatre as her first passion. This time Marsh focuses on the back-stage antics going on as the players at the Vulcan Theater prepare for the opening of a new play by a brilliant, but difficult playwright. We see everything through the vantage point of Martyn Tarne, a young actress-in-waiting who has recently arrived from New Zealand with the hopes ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I enjoyed the first third or so, but after that it was too similar to Swing, Brother, Swing, with everyone being held in the theatre for about 48 hrs, the women lying in armchairs and men sleeping hither and yon. We have of curse the obligatory ro-mance(s); I always wonder how long they would last after the pressure is off. Knowing actors, not very long!

There are many misused question marks in the text, which may be due to reading the ebook edition, but opened several sentences to varying interp
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Martyne Tarne has been in England from New Zealand for two weeks, and her money is about to run out when she happens upon the Vulcan Theater in Night at the Vulcan, also published as Opening Night, by Ngaio Marsh. Overhearing that the lead actress, Helena Hamilton, has just lost her dresser to illness, Martyne jumps at the opportunity for any job in the theater, where she has long wanted to work. The play features a role by the famous actor, Adam Poole, in which a young woman plays his daughter. ...more
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I rather miss the age of actually describing things in books. Halfway through I had to check to see if it was a mystery, but it was an engaging enough book to keep my interest. By the time the murder had happened, I was engaged with the characters and wanted to know what would happen to them. We simply don't get that type of set-up anymore. Typically we get a murder that's orbited by the characters, but Marsh wrote it as characters who are eventually orbited by a murder. Frankly, it's something ...more
Adam Carson
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marsh had a masterly skill of writing a whodunnit where the murder didn’t occur until at least halfway through, as is the case here. You’d think that would making the pacing slow, but the build up really makes you invest in the characters.

I enjoyed this book a lot - another theatre based mystery, but certainly not a repeat of her past work. By the 40s and 50s Marsh really was at her best!
Excellent entry in the series with an interesting and sympathetic cast of characters. Marsh is at her best when she uses theatre settings. This book heavy references an earlier short story, 'I Can Find My Way Out', and I recommend reading that first if convenient. ...more
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
Great story. Excellent writing. One of her best work.
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
Such an engrossing story that it was almost a surprise when Alleyn & Co. made their appearance about two-thirds of the way in. Clever how bits from earlier books in the series are woven in.
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
So this was an enjoyable book, but it was not what the summary and back covered promised. I was expecting something along the lines of Agatha Christie, where the murder is right up front and then you spend the story uncovering the awful secrets of the characters and the detective wraps it up by confronting the group. Well the detective - Roderick Alleyn - did confront the group, but he didn't show up before page 147 (on my copy). The first 146 pages follow the story of a girl who shows up in Lon ...more
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. Ngaio Marsh is a favorite mystery/detective writer, and this story has been my most appreciated of her books since I first read it half a lifetime ago.

Ms. Marsh loved the theater, and used it as a setting quite often. As with many female detective writers of her day, she hankers after a gentleman from the upper classes. Roderick Alleyn is one of those well-bred Englishmen who have perfect manners, perfect clothes and just the right behavior in any circumstance. He is also a pol
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is something so enjoyable in picking up and tearing through these vintage British crime/detective novels, though it is not till over half way through that either crime or the detectives enter this story set in the theatre.

The writing is descriptive and evocative, but at the same time tight, so that reading it for me was a pleasurable indulgence that kept me engaged for a lovely couple of hours in a single sitting.
May 29, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read other books from Ngaio Marsh and I liked them but this one... I can't seem to find anything to like.
It is too slow-paced, it doesn't really seem like a mystery. I find a large part of the story to be quite boring and useless to the essence of the murder.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Flex and Herds from Death of the Reader
On Death of the Reader's 2020 recommendations this Review Season, we placed Opening Night/Night at the Vulcan in fifteenth. This novel, amongst her other contributions to revitalising theatre in New Zealand led to Ngaio Marsh's Damehood in 1966, and as such makes a fascinating look into the theatre culture she loved so much.

The Vulcan begins by following the frantic thoughts of our heroine, Martyn Tarne, a young woman who acts as our point of view and as our humanising Watson throughout the stor
Jj Li
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
You can always tell which character you're supposed to like, and for me, it spoils it when I don't like them. Martyn was supposed to be this down to earth girl who trips into riches, and usually that's am enjoyable story line for me. But this one... no. I really didn't like any of them, including the other half of the young lovers who really isn't quite so young (and also a relations, and also instalove, and also huge age difference = it's a no from me), and while the rest of the cast might not ...more
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ngaio-marsh
This has been my favorite Marsh novelette so far. It's really not a mystery story at all. It's a rather fantastical coming of age romance set in the theater world. While normally I dislike Marsh's mysteries where Alleyn comes in late, here it's was a rather a disruption at first but it kept the brisk pace and melodrama that had preceded it. Unlike many Marsh mysteries where the characters are all quite broad and unsympathetic, these characters had a bit more depth than the tropes they represente ...more
Matthew Talamini
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I think she wanted to write a novel about a play much more than one about solving a mystery. Or, maybe I'll say it this way: She seems to have enjoyed tying the knot much more than loosing it. Even just judging by page numbers, the detective doesn't show up until very late in the book.

It's about these characters getting into terrible trouble with each other and burying it, everybody hiding what's really going on beneath layer and layer of camouflage until the whole little tribe of the play is li
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thought I had read all Ngaio Marsh's books, but didn't remember this one at all. Its original title was Opening Night, & it's not in my collection, so either it's one of the ones that has gone missing over the last 40 years & many moves, or I never bought it - probably the latter, as nothing about the plot was familiar to me, & usually I remember who the villain was even after so long. (I still enjoy re-reading them, though, along with Dorothy Sayers & Margery Allingham.) This was published in ...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 of a Peer (Roderick Alleyn #10)

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