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Death in Ecstasy (Roderick Alleyn, #4)
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Ngaio Marsh Buddy Reads > Death in Ecstasy - SPOILER Thread

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Susan | 9641 comments Mod
Our April challenge book is: Death in Ecstasy (1936)

This fourth book in the series, sees Scotland Yard's Inspector Roderick Alleyn called to investigate a cult, when a member drops dead after drinking the ritual wine at the House of the Sacred Flame.

Feel free to post spoilers in this thread.

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Did anyone guess the killer in this one? I confess I didn’t.

Pamela (bibliohound) | 334 comments No I didn't, I thought it could be any of them.

message 4: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments I didn't.

In a completely unrelated comment (!), I really wonder what British writers used for reference in those days about how American talk! Was it US mystery books? Movies? Christie, whom I love, did this as well--using alleged slang no one would use in real life, even back then.

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 696 comments Mark Pghfan wrote: "I didn't.

In a completely unrelated comment (!), I really wonder what British writers used for reference in those days about how American talk! Was it US mystery books? Movies? Christie, whom I l..."

Sort of related to your comment, I hope one day we will read Michael Innes's The Daffodil Affair, which has two Scotland Yard detectives doing outrageous impersonations of Australian Outback farmers ... Ngaio Marsh was of course New Zealand, and Michael Innes spent 10 years working in Australia, although not on an outback sheep station.

Susan | 9641 comments Mod
Mark, I suspect the slang was gathered from the movies...

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Is he actually supposed to be American or Australian and putting on an exaggerated accent? I wasn’t 100 per cent sure!

Susan | 9641 comments Mod
An Australian criminal posing as an American, as I understood it. No wonder his accent got confused!

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
That was what I thought, Susan, but I found the explanation a bit confusing!

Susan | 9641 comments Mod
What did we think of the 'initiates,' generally? I found the sneering at Claude and Lionel rather over the top and it reminded me of how an obviously effeminate character was treated in a Christianna Brand novel that I, otherwise, really liked, Death in High Heels. Again, we have openly expressed views that are not acceptable now.

The side story about Maurice Pringle and Janey Jenkins was an interesting one. These girls do pick the worst men in these books! Still, we saw Inspector Alleyn being very sympathetic about the young girl's plight.

It seemed to me that some of the characters, such as Ernestine Wade and Dagmour Candour, were just bored and the group gave them something to do.

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
I thought most of the characters were stereotypes rather than individuals in this one, such as the loud American businessman and church-loving spinster - one reason I really don’t think this is one of Marsh’s best.

The portrayal of Claude and Lionel is OTT and nasty even for the period, though, having said that, it is interesting that they are shown living together openly.

Pamela (bibliohound) | 334 comments I agree with Judy, I felt the characters were mostly stereotypes, although I did enjoy the side story with Janey and Maurice. Mrs Candour was looking for a man, I think, without much success.

I did find Alleyn and Bathgate very judgemental in this book. Not only Claude and Lionel, but also Mrs Candour. She was jealous and spiteful, and made a particularly nasty remark about Cara, but Alleyn's shuddering disgust seemed out of proportion. Especially as they were fine about Maurice, whose behaviour was much worse. The attitude seemed to be - yes he's a drug addict, but he's the right sort so we'll help him out.

Susan | 9641 comments Mod
Some good points there. Pamela, yes, there was a lot of judging going on and Maurice was seen as being the right sort (as well as Alleyn having a soft spot for Janey).

Judy, you are correct in saying that Claude and Lionel were openly accepted as living together - not without comment, for sure! However, it was obviously illegal to be homosexual then and yet, nasty comments aside, there seemed to be no legal interest in their living arrangements.

Tracey | 246 comments Agree with the comments about the sympathies for a Maurice compared to nastiness about others within the group.

There were a few of lines in this book that made me laugh out loud (not entirely sure that was intended). Some of Mr Ogden's language was so over the top, such as 'well ain't you the clam' s cuticle'! Although in hindsight, this OTT makes sense. And I quite enjoyed Alleyn's 'so put that on your needles and knit it'. I think I might try to use that one!

Susan | 9641 comments Mod
There were some great lines in this, I agree, Tracey. As you say though, not sure they were all intentional :)

Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
I enjoyed this entry in the series and Alleyn is becoming someone I want to spend time with. While he is condescending towards Fox it is done with friendship and Fox doesn't seem to mind (perhaps harking back to class consciousness). Alleyn treats his men well. Bathgate involvement is almost natural, given that he was a witness and brought Alleyn in.

I didn't notice this while reading but agree with others comments that the characters are stock figures.

The American's lingo grated terribly. The Brits took it as natural however and never thought it was put on. I wonder if Marsh used it as Australian copying an American film vs. her thinking this is how Americans talk. These authors must have known some Americans!

I really disapproved of Alleyn spiking the Reverend's drink to get him to reveal his true self.

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Mark Pghfan | 362 comments I'm not sure I'm warming to Alleyn just yet. I wonder, since he is upper class, whether some of the condescension is the result of that.

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Sue (mrskipling) | 250 comments I enjoyed the plot of this one but I didn't like the characters. I know we weren't supposed to of course! But it made it hard to push on with the book. The person who came out of it the best was Fox I think. I'm growing fond of him!

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Sandy wrote: "I really disapproved of Alleyn spiking the Reverend's drink to get him to reveal his true self. ..."

Oh yes, I was a bit shocked by this too - I'm sure I've read other GA mysteries where characters get drunk and say something incriminating, but I don't think I've come across a detective spiking a drink like this before!

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Sue wrote: "I enjoyed the plot of this one but I didn't like the characters. I know we weren't supposed to of course! But it made it hard to push on with the book. ..."

I felt a bit like this too, Sue - hoping the next one will have some more likeable characters again.

Susan | 9641 comments Mod
The next one is set in New Zealand, I think, so I am sure that the accents and slang will be impeccable :)

Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
New Zealand! Interesting. Will Alleyn be with The Yard? Probably eliminates Bathgate and Fox. So many questions and so soon to be answered. I will start investigating my library options.

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Sue (mrskipling) | 250 comments I've had a look at the synopsis for the next one and it looks good!

Susan | 9641 comments Mod
I'll probably start it next weekend - I am enjoying my forays into the world of Inspector Alleyn, so far.

Leslie | 592 comments I finished rereading this today -- I must admit that I had forgotten almost everything about it so I am glad that I decided to join in!

I really like the way Alleyn, Fox and Bathgate work together (even though my rational mind knows that a 'true' policeman would never work hand-in-glove with a reporter!).

Sandy - regarding Alleyn's spiking Garnette's drink: I wonder if he did it because of how he felt about Garnette "spiking" those cigarettes to get certain Initiates hooked on drugs? It doesn't excuse his (Alleyn's) behavior but might explain it as otherwise that does seem quite out of character for him.

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Leslie wrote: "Sandy - regarding Alleyn's spiking Garnette's drink: I wonder if he did it because of how he felt about Garnette "spiking" those cigarettes to get certain Initiates hooked on drugs? ..."

Great point, Leslie - this would never have struck me. As you say, this doesn't excuse Alleyn's behaviour, but it's an interesting connection nevertheless.

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Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1950 comments Good point Leslie. I think we do tend to look the other way when we feel someone who is not a nice character gets treated in a somewhat unfair way. Rather like we tend to feel little pity for the nasty character Christie kills off in her books.

Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
Garnette certainly deserved any mistreatment and he did reveal himself.

Susan | 9641 comments Mod
That is an excellent point, Leslie. I do enjoy Alleyn, Fox and Bathgate. I am glad that I am finally getting to this series.

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
I’m wondering how long Bathgate will continue to feature, and whether we will get to see him and Angela as a married couple?

Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 696 comments My problem with Death in Ecstasy on this re-read is that I find all the suspect characters unappealing, and the victim is almost indistinguishable from them. I don't care who killed her, I don't care if the wrong person is tried, and there doesn't seem to be any other jeopardy. Yet it was a book I liked enough to have kept my copy through three house moves.

I do wonder just how popular Nordic Paganism was in the thirties. If the cult had been Revivalist Christian, or outright Wiccan I might have accepted it, and the characters' involvement, more readily. But The House of the Sacred Flame sounds like a load of tosh.

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Mark Pghfan | 362 comments I'm sure The House of the Sacred Flame was intended to be a load of tosh, and it certainly is. I guess that that sort of church was popular at that time.

One of the things that I think keeps Marsh from being read more these days is that she used settings and backgrounds that were distinct to their times and not easily relatable to today. On the other hand, Christie, though many settings were of their time, the jealousy and relationships lying at the heart of her books are still understandable today.

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
I wonder if Marsh picked a sort of church that nobody would really be interested in, such as Nordic Paganism, in order to avoid being too similar to and possibly offending/incurring lawsuits from any real churches?

Susan | 9641 comments Mod
I think of the major Queens of Crime had to have their own particular style. For Marsh, it seems to be the theatre and art, which were her own particular interests. She is very much an author of her time, but I don't particularly mind that. Allingham also seems to be - so far, at least and I admit that I have not read many - more interested in crime syndicates and gangs, which Christie and Sayers barely touch on.

Mark makes a good point, that Christie is, perhaps, the author we can most relate to. Her crimes tend to be more personal and the settings less extreme. Still, I can't say the fact that the House of the Sacred Flame was utter nonsense bothered me too much. There are always gullible people willing to give money to bizarre sects, so, in that sense, she was correct and pointed out what such places gave those involved in return.

message 35: by Roman Clodia (last edited Apr 21, 2018 01:54AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Roman Clodia | 758 comments Yes, interesting points about the differences between GA writers. I would agree that Christie has the knack of making us believe in her characters, however stereotypical they are, while we're in her books. I still think she's the best plotter in the business, and she pulls us along by sprinkling clues along the route - she plays fair with the reader and doesn't generally pull out a left-field solution that we couldn't have reached ourselves.

Tey, for me, is the most elegant stylist, and pulls off some original plots (The Franchise Affair comes to mind). She's the best writer in my view.

I'm enjoying Marsh in a frothy kind of way so far but her books to date haven't been memorable.

Susan | 9641 comments Mod
I have always struggled with Tey, but I would like to read her books. However, perhaps I need to keep going with Allingham first. I do agree that, for me, Christie has longevity, due to her excellent plots and scenarios/motives, which still ring true.

Roman Clodia | 758 comments If you struggle with Tey, maybe just accept she's not for you? I can't get on with Allingham at all, so have just given up and moved on - more time to read what we love!

Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
I don't try too hard with a author I don't like, there are just so many others I want to read. I realize I may miss a winner but I'm not about to run out of books. For me it is Wentworth.

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Mark Pghfan | 362 comments I have only read a very few Tey books, but enjoyed them. I have a number on the shelves, ready to read at some point. (Along with countless others!) I do like Wentworth as well--she sticks to her formula and though, not terribly tricky, they are like comfort food.

Tara  | 767 comments I finally finished, after an early start in the month, a stalling mid-month, and then a mad dash to wrap it up before the month was over. Unfortunately the start and stopping led me to lose details of the storyline along the way, but overall I enjoyed this one. And, for the first time, I actually guessed the killer (Ogden's maid's casual reference to the pot that needed to be replaced was the clincher).
I agree that this was a rather odious bunch, with Janey being the only character that garners sympathy (although clearly she has very bad judgment). I found it interesting that Alleyn changes his tone and mannerisms to reflect what he thinks his witnesses/suspects want to hear. It is a psychological element to detective work that I can't say I have seen much of.
Personally I think Marsh's storytelling has gotten stronger as the series has moved along, so I am looking forward to the next one. They might not be as classic as Christie, but they are just the type of books you would pack into a suitcase for a vacation, and gobble them up as you lounge by the pool.

Susan | 9641 comments Mod
Good to hear you enjoyed it, Tara. I am busy at work all week, so I will open the thread for the new book today, just in case I forget! I hope you enjoy the next one too.

Sandy | 24 comments Finally finished this one. The cult setting didn't grab me but I did enjoy getting to know Fox and Alleyn better.

Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
Sandy wrote: "Finally finished this one. The cult setting didn't grab me but I did enjoy getting to know Fox and Alleyn better."

I agree about the cult setting. We are back to the theatre in the next. Much better setting.

Jan C (woeisme) | 1314 comments I finally finished this tonight. I had a little trouble getting going on this book. I guess the cult business didn't appeal to me too much. But I thought it picked up.

I was wishing that I knew more about the dead lady before she became dead. She didn't come upon the cult on her own but was roped into it by one of the partners. I suppose like a Ponzi scheme. And part of the deal was to hook the dupes on drugs.

Laura | 11 comments Hi all! Unfortunately I'm a little behind on the challenge and have just finished this book. I found this one really, really dull. The characters didn't speak to me at all. The plot was pretty thin in the end and I was quite disappointed. I just didn't care enough about the characters and there were too many with too little characterisation of each. I feel these books are more about Inspector Alleyn and Nigel Bathgate than they are about anyone or anything else. I'm hoping the next one is better.

Bruce I agree, although it was engaging. I read it on audiobook, so it probably seemed even more comedic and with more spoken emphasis on stereotypes (Americans, LGBTs) than a written book. While the plot was thin, it was easy to guess, although I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I went by the rule of Marsh/Christie (because both seem to big on this) are leading the reader to think the killer (in this case Ogden) is an ally or otherwise the least to be the killer, when in fact he/she/they is/are the killer(s).

The main thing I’m finding about Marsh is that she’s not the most realistic in her scenarios, characters, and settings. I find the books to be a little cartoonish at times. Christie, while not realistic per se, had the right balance of entertainment and realism, which is probably why she’s the most legendary and enduring, in addition to other factors, i.e., multiple detectives and the fact that she wrote for over 50 years. That being said, Marsh’s books are entertaining, and the dialogue is good.

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Interesting comments, Bruce. The funny thing is, I don't think this was one of my favourites by Marsh, because of all the stereotyping and lack of likeable characters, but it has stuck in my mind better than most of the others! I do agree that the detective's confidante among the cast can often turn out to be the killer.

I can see what you mean about "cartoonish" as some of her characters are so stereotyped - I think some other authors, such as Sayers, tend to make them more individual (although there is a lot of prejudice in Sayers too.)

I'm finding the very late Marsh books are a lot of fun, as they have a quirkier feel and she seems to have lessened the procedural element - not so much time spent on interviews with all concerned.

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Also, Bruce, what did you think about Alleyn spiking Ogden's drink? A bit out of character and dodgy for him to do?

Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
I found Marsh's plots and murder methods became a bit more realistic in later books.

Tara  | 767 comments I think her dialogue gets better in later books too. I recall from early on in the series (was that really 2 years ago now?!), that the writing felt anachronistic, which could be both entertaining and confusing. Later outings feel more relaxed and realistic, and she is clever in terms of figuring out how to get her police detective involved in a case other than the usual way, which can get old pretty quickly.

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