Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh

Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh
Narrator: James Saxon
Series: Roderick Alleyn #11
Published by Hachette Audio UK on October 1, 2015 (first published 1941)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Length: 11 hrs 39 mins
Format: Audiobook
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four-stars

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 party is capable of cold-blooded murder...

I love mysteries, but if I had to narrow the genre down to my favorite type, I’d pick vintage mysteries. Even narrower, I’d go with country house mysteries, preferably at Christmastime, but winter will do. Death and the Dancing Footman is one of those. Our Inspector Roderick Alleyn doesn’t show up until about 2/3rds through. Usually that annoys me, but Marsh tends to make it work. This time around, it gives us plenty of time to meet all of the guests.

Jonathan Royal is the owner of the country house and the host of the house party. He is rather not a good person. He’s invited a group of people who will quite clearly not get along well. The Compline family consists of the mother Sonia and her two sons, William who is excessively devoted and Nicholas, her favorite. William is engaged to another guest, Chloris Wynne, who used to be engaged to Nicholas. Sonia’s friend, Hersey Amblington, who owns a spa and beauty salon, and her business rival, Madame Elise Lise, are also there.  Nicholas is maybe currently seeing Elise, but she came with a plastic surgeon named Dr. Francis Hart, who years ago destroyed Sonia Compline’s face. The potential for drama is limitless. And because Jonathan needs an audience, he invites the playwrite, Aubrey Mandrake. Jonathan is looking forward to the spectacle, but then someone is killed, which was not part of his plan. Of course, there’s a huge snowstorm and they are all stuck in the house, whether they like it or not. One of them has to be the killer. With all the suspects and all their intermingling motives, I like that Marsh gives us plenty of time to get to know them before introducing Alleyn, who always takes over the story when he arrives.

The characters are all interesting. Obviously, it’s an unbelievable group, but it’s supposed to be. The clues are all there, but sometimes we overlook the obvious. Mandrake plays amateur detective for a bit before heading out in the snow to find Alleyn, who happily is an acquaintance of his and is vacationing nearby. Alleyn comes to the house to investigate and eventually Fox comes along too, although he doesn’t have as much as part in this as others. I don’t know that it’s Marsh’s best, but I enjoyed it.

James Saxon was the narrator of the audiobook I listened too. I’m not sure why, but his voice threw me off at first. Eventually I settled into it, but I still preferred his characters’ voices than the narrator voice.

About Ngaio Marsh

Dame Ngaio Marsh (23 April 1895 – 18 February 1982), born Edith Ngaio Marsh, was a New Zealand crime writer and theatre director. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1966.

Internationally Marsh is known primarily for her creation Inspector Roderick Alleyn, a gentleman detective who works for the Metropolitan Police (London). Thus she is one of the “Queens of Crime” alongside Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Gladys Mitchell, and Margery Allingham.

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10 Comments

  1. Gosh, it’s ages since I last read Ngaio Marsh! This one does sound familiar but I’ve completely forgotten whodunit – one of the joys of a rotten memory is being able to read mystery novels as if for the first time… 🙂

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