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

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Susan | 9319 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 do not post spoilers in this thread.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1816 comments This fourth book was probably the one I have enjoyed most so far. I thought the setting was well described, and the characters were brought to life, more than in previous books. Fox got more time in this one and Bathgate didn't jar me so much.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8323 comments Mod
This is yet another Marsh book where the murder scenario has since been "done to death" by others - religious cults and strange ceremonies are always turning up in Midsomer Murders, etc!

It must all have felt much fresher at the time than it does now. Like Christie, she is definitely good at surprising openings which hook you in.

Overall, though, I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first three - to me it seems to have too much dialogue and feels rather slow as a result.


Susan | 9319 comments Mod
I liked the book, but not my favourite so far. Enjoyed the bizarre cult though - interesting setting and odd that Bathgate didn't notice it until that evening; especially as it was opposite where he lived!


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8323 comments Mod
Yes, you would really think he would have spotted that light in the wall earlier and started to wonder!

I agree with you though, Jill, that I thought Bathgate was not annoying in this one. Though, I do always find it surprising when he has hours to spare to take shorthand notes for Alleyn instead of having to do his own job - a bit like the vicar always going out on jobs with the police in the TV series of Grantchester, lol.

I do think the opening of the book is strong, although for me it rather fizzles out in the middle.


Sandy | 2502 comments Mod
I'll be starting the book tonight - its one of those old small paperbacks and I worry about the pages falling out.


Susan | 9319 comments Mod
Really, Alleyn should not allow Bathgate to take notes - he is a journalist after all... Still, I am often happy to suspend such concerns in GA novels.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8323 comments Mod
Yes, after all there is nothing very realistic about the cult!


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 630 comments I am just about to start. I've read it before, and found that I had kept the 1970s paperback through several moves. I appreciate the plan, and the cast list of characters!


message 10: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments I do like the cast of characters in a book, only since I read this on a Kindle, it is too much trouble to keep going back to check on things! This seemed to me to be middling-Marsh to me. I did like the proper explanation of the "how-dunnit" at the end, though.


Sandy | 2502 comments Mod
I'm about half way thru and enjoying it, including Bathgate's role; I must be getting used to his note taking. There is one method Alleyn employed that I quite disapproved of, and not sure if it would that well in actuality, but I will wait until I join the spoiler thread.


message 12: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8323 comments Mod
I'm do find the ability to flip back and check who is who is an advantage to reading on paperback with some of these older mysteries - even more so when a cast list is actually supplied!


Susan | 9319 comments Mod
Cast lists - and maps - are two of my favourite things about these older mysteries.


Tracey | 236 comments I appreciate a map in a book too!

I am about halfway, and thoroughly enjoyed Bathgate and Alleyn discussing detective novels.


message 15: by Sue (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sue (mrskipling) | 250 comments I too love a map or plan in a book. Also the cast list. If one isn’t provided I write one out for myself. It’s the only way I can keep track of everybody!


Susan | 9319 comments Mod
Yes, I don't think I would tackle a book like, "War and Peace," on kindle, as the cast list is essential until you get to grips with who is who. I do sometimes scribble one too, if one isn't included, Sue.


message 17: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8323 comments Mod
I can never follow the maps or plans - then again, I'm useless at following maps in general!


message 18: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8323 comments Mod
While this book wasn't one of my favourites from the series, I do think it would work very well on TV, so I'm a bit saddened it wasn't included in the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries series.

However, there have been plenty of other TV mysteries with similar openings!


Susan | 9319 comments Mod
Maps don't translate well on kindle - they are too small. However, I used to love them in my old Christie paperbacks.


message 20: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments There are a lot of shortcomings on a Kindle, certainly. But getting books cheap or even free is one, and not having to find room on the book shelves is another! I have been inventorying my books and am up to 1250, and not done yet! Thank goodness for IKEA shelving! (Certainly, most are mysteries.)


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 630 comments For those of a certain age and Britishness, Claude and Lionel are just too Julian and Sandy, at the House of the Bona Flame! I can imagine Kenneth Horne as Inspector Alleyn.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_...


Susan | 9319 comments Mod
Ha ha! Yes, I thought so too, Rosina :)

Mark - my husband tactfully suggested a kindle to me some years ago. I think it was when I was trying to whittle down the books I wanted to take on holiday and most were hardbacks...


message 23: by Leslie (last edited Apr 07, 2018 02:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leslie | 592 comments Judy wrote: "This is yet another Marsh book where the murder scenario has since been "done to death" by others - religious cults and strange ceremonies are always turning up in Midsomer Murders, etc! ..."

Rosina wrote: "For those of a certain age and Britishness, Claude and Lionel are just too Julian and Sandy, at the House of the Bona Flame! I can imagine Kenneth Horne as Inspector Alleyn.

https://en.wikipedia.o..."


Of course you realize that Marsh wrote this ~30 years before Julian & Sandy were created...

It strikes me as unfair to blame Marsh for unoriginality when the fact is that others have copied her in the years since 1936!


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 630 comments I don't think either I or Judy were accusing Marsh of unoriginality. Only, for me, Lionel and Claude speak with the voices of Julian and Sandy, especially with the bit about censing like mad all the time. Which amuses me on re-reading it.

Another more disturbing parallel is with some of the more occult beliefs of leading Nazis, incorporating Nordic mythology. Though I'm not sure if there is meant to be any links, and I don't think Germany is mentioned at all as a source for Garnette's little cult.


Leslie | 592 comments Apologies if I misinterpreted the comments but that was how they struck me.


Susan | 9319 comments Mod
I think Judy was suggesting that this scenario has since been used so often that it seemed unoriginal. I wonder who first used a religious cult in a mystery - we have seen artifacts, such as the jewels in the Patricia Wentworth books, haven't we?

It seems as though, in London between the wars, you could indulge any interest - from spiritualism, to communist workers meetings, to religious offerings of any denomination.


message 27: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8323 comments Mod
Yes, that was my point, that it's hard to recapture the excitement which the original readers would have had when it was possibly the first time a religious cult had been used in a mystery - as you say, Susan, it would be interesting to know who did use this first.

Rosina, that's an interesting point about the Nazi interest in the occult - I hadn't thought of this.


Tracey | 236 comments Rosina you've reminded me that one of the books on Garnette's bookshelf was 'from wotan to Hitler'. I was a little shocked by this, as the book was from 1936. But I suppose he was in power at the time, although this is pre-WW2.


message 29: by Susan (last edited Apr 08, 2018 07:13AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Susan | 9319 comments Mod
Yes, he was Chancellor in 1933. I think there was, initially, a lot of interest in how fascism was being implemented in Italy and Germany. Miss Brodie was certainly a great supporter of Mussolini and the darker side was not necessarily apparent to those not living in those countries (although the rhetoric must have given people an idea!).


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 630 comments Tracey wrote: "Rosina you've reminded me that one of the books on Garnette's bookshelf was 'from wotan to Hitler'. I was a little shocked by this, as the book was from 1936. But I suppose he was in power at the t..."

I've just got to the bookshelf on this re-read (previous reads were probably decades ago). It is not clear if it means much to Alleyn, but as he obviously dislikes most of those involved, especially Father Garnette, it would just be a minor additional blemish.


Susan | 9319 comments Mod
Alleyn did show his feelings about the various suspects quite openly, didn't he?


message 32: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8323 comments Mod
Yes, he doesn’t hold back with Bathgate or Fox!


message 33: by Bev (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bev | 28 comments I don't know if this would be of interest to anyone, but I just this evening discovered a BBC radio dramatization of Death in Ecstasy on Youtube. I enjoyed listening to it having already read the book in the last few days. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mC2rI...


Tara  | 741 comments I'm a bit late to the party, but still in ahead of the wire, so that counts! Sadly my old paperback started falling apart from the beginning, but my husband recently purchased some bookbinding glue, so hopefully we can fix it up.
There is something rather fascinating about cults, even if you can't understand why someone would ever join one. I agree that Bathgate's role is more natural here than in other circumstances. I wonder if his editor gave him more latitude in his work and deadlines since that gave him almost unlimited access to inside scoops? It would seem like a fair trade-off.


Susan | 9319 comments Mod
He certainly did get some scoops, didn't he, Tara? I think he enjoyed walking past the press pack, with his nose in the air and Inspector Alleyn's personal invitation to view the crime scene :)


Bruce I’m a good bit of the way through, and still can’t figure out who did it. I usually find with these kinds of mysteries that it’s either the least or one of the least likely people who did it, or someone with a motive is believed not to have been able to have done it, but at the end it’s shown how that person did do it. There’s definitely some suspects with motives and some who don’t appear to have motives.


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