Friday, January 16, 2009

Death in Ecstasy

By Ngaio Marsh

Nigel Bathgate has followed his nose into the temple of the Sacred Flame, a cult under the thrall of charismatic priest Jasper Garnette. As Bathgate watches the ceremony in which the Chosen Vessel drinks from the Flaming Cup, the young woman initiate drinks, twitches and pitches forward dead.

The cup has clearly been poisoned with cyanide and Bathgate calls his friend Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn onto the case.

They find themselves immersed in the inner workings of a cult that seems to cater for the monied and restless, where petty jealousy and pandering for the favours of the cults leader seems to be the norm. So is the motive jealousy, or money? Both are involved. Throw in an outspoken American, odd and challenged couple, young women and plenty of gullible people, et voila, you have a mystery.

I enjoyed this book. It was first published in 1936, but I couldn't help but imagine this is what it is like in modern day cults which prey on the monied, disenchanted and gullible.

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