Saturday, August 20, 2011

Death and the Dancing Footman

by Ngaio Marsh

Jonathan Royal thought it would be great fun to invite a group of acquaintances along to Highfold Manor for a weekend of socialising. He was gleeful at the prospect as his flair for the dramatic lead him to carefully handpick the invitees - The disfigured Sandra Compline and her two sons, William and Nicholas. Chloris Wynne - William's fiancee and Nicholas's ex. Plastic surgeon Dr Francis Hart (the disfigurer) and his wife, beautician Elise Lisse (also Nicholas's lover). Lady Hersey Ablington, competing beautician. Aubrey Mandrake - a man with secrets of his own. Royal is delighted with the powder keg of emotion and hatreds he has created, and with a snow storm preventing anyone from escaping the confines of the Manor the fun turns rather sour with the murder of William Compline.
 Throw in further attempts at murder and a spot of mistaken identity, and with everyone having motive and many opportunity, the whodunnit leaves everyone guessing as to the identity of the murderer under his roof. A mercy dash across the snowy roads brings Detective Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn on the scene to sort out the mess before anyone else dies.

I enjoyed Death and the Dancing footman - it certainly kept me guessing right to the very last. My only quibble is that Roderick Alleyn doesn't make an appearance until 3/4 of the way through the novel, so I felt a bit cheated as I really am rather fond of him and his sidekick Fox. It did seem very appropriate to be reading a novel about people trapped in a house by snow when we were trapped in the house by the snow! Although we managed to get through without killing each other.

The cover art on this novel is by one of my favourite cover artists, Philip Hood. Fontana 1975 edition.

This novel also counts towards my tally for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge run by Bev Hankins at My Readers Block


Margot Kinberg said...

Vanda - Thanks for this fine review. I always love your perspective on Marsh's work since you know it so very well. I know what you mean, too, about Alleyn making an appearance a bit late in a story. I also prefer the stories where he's a part of the action sooner in the story.

Joanne said...

Oh, that does seem too late. I'd feel cheated as well. Sounds like a good read, though.

Dorte H said...

Ngaio Marsh is a great writer, and that cover is brilliant!

Bev Hankins said...

I love Ngaio Marsh. And that cover is wonderful! Got you updated on the progress site.