cyril hare

Death And The Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh

Death And The Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh was published in 1942. It is the eleventh book in Marsh’s Inspector Roderick Alleyn series.

The mischievous owner of Highfold Manor has been busy planning the ultimate weekend party. He hopes to bring together a group of people who, at best, have an uneasy relationship with each other, then sit back and enjoy the fireworks. What he doesn’t know is that it’s going to be an extremely long weekend, a weekend no one will ever forget.

I enjoyed Death And The Dancing Footman much better than my last Marsh novel, Opening Night. The women in Death And The Dancing Footman are, for one, much less stupid. Also, the dialogues are much better.

Death And The Dancing Footman is set in Highfold Manor at Dorset. As the party is all assembled there a terrible storm starts, leaving the roads deep in snow and the mansion is totally cut off from civilization. I am very fond of cosy mysteries set in isolated places with no way out.  Christie’s And Then There Were None, Evil Under the Sun and Cyril Hare’s An English Murder come to mind. But somehow I didn’t enjoy the atmosphere of Highfold Manor as much as I should have.

The mystery is good. I suspected almost everyone by turns.

The narrative does go a bit slowly. I do get that they are stuck in a snowbound mansion in the middle of nowhere. But still the time between the beginning & the crime and from the crime to its solution feels like an eternity.

Among the characters I found Jonathan Royal to be really irritating. He is childish, selfish and even harmful at times. Why would anyone want to be his friend is beyond me. Aubrey Mandrake was another childish, whiny sort of character. All the members of the Compline family are uniformly bland.

Detective Roderick Alleyn doesn’t really do much. He shows up after more than half of the book is over. He asks a few questions and solves the thing pretty easily. I’m still not sure how he hit upon the solution to the mystery.

As I have mentioned earlier the women in this book are not stupid, which is a relief for me. Almost all of them are strong characters, whether good or evil. Although I was annoyed by everyone falling in love with Chloris Wynne just because she is blonde and beautiful. She does however admit that she is not a natural blonde, which made her more likeable.

I don’t like too much romance in my mystery. One of the romances did begin to annoy me mostly because of the man but the woman sort of redeemed it.

The ending was satisfying but I do have a few qualms about the character of the murderer. I feel that the motive behind the crime abruptly changes the character of the murderer. It doesn’t really make sense.

Even though I did have some problems with Death And The Dancing Footman, I overall enjoyed the book. It is a nice, satisfying cosy mystery.

Booking Through Thursday : Thankful

This week’s Booking Through Thursday asks:

“What book or author are you most thankful to have discovered?
Have you read everything they’ve written? Reread them?
Why do you appreciate them so much?

There are quite a few authors I am thankful to have discovered. This year I discovered Cyril Hare, thanks to fellow mystery reader Bev. My year end discovery of Bill Bryson is turning out to be a good one.

I am thankful for discovering all of my favourite authors. I am thankful for Douglas Adams, Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, John le Carré, Thomas Love Peacock, Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Bram Stoker.

But above all I am thankful for discovering Agatha Christie and Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens was a prolific writer. I haven’t read even a fraction of his works. But I am determined to get there. I have read most of Agatha Christie’s books, all of the Miss Marple mysteries, most of the Poirot books and her plays. Some non-series works and a few Poirot books are left.

A writer becomes my favourite only if I re-read their books. So, of course I have re-read both Dickens and Christie’s works many times.

The reason behind my appreciation for them is that both Dickens and Christie have opened up new worlds for me, they introduced me to genres that I would grow to love. Without Dickens where would my love for the Classics especially Victorian literature be? And without Christie, I wouldn’t know what a vast world of Cosy Mysteries exists out there.

Looking at my answer, I realize I have plenty to be thankful for. Life’s not too bad when you’ve got books to keep you company.

An English Murder by Cyril Hare

Cyril Hare is the pseudonym of Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark. Hare was an English judge and crime writer.

An English Murder was published in 1951.

The master of Warbeck Hall is dying. In his last Christmas he wants to be surrounded by what little family he has left. But without warning a silent killer strikes and starts killing off the guests one by one. To make matters worse they find themselves in the middle of a terrible blizzard that has cut off the lonely county house. Now, with a killer amidst them, the houseguests bide their time, hoping to get rescued before it’s too late.

I loved the atmosphere of the book! The time of Christmas, the utter isolation of Warbeck Hall and the reactions of the characters, it was all quite perfect.

Like most Golden Age mysteries An English Murder is also very class conscious. A female character from the lower class is portrayed as a money hungry shrew.

Among the characters Dr. Bottwink is the most interesting and likeable. The rest of the characters are interesting too. Some of them do come across as unreal but that didn’t bother me that much.

I couldn’t guess the identity of the murderer till the last few pages. There are plenty of red herrings thrown our way to puzzle us. Most satisfactory!

I loved the whole book but the solution was a little unsatisfactory. I found the killer’s motive to be too complicated and kind of unnecessary. It’s like Hare couldn’t really come up with a motive and just invented this one at the last moment.

Cyril Hare’s mysteries are not that well known which surprises me. I found his writing to be very readable.

Overall, An English Murder is a reasonably satisfying cosy mystery. I liked Cyril Hare’s story telling techniques. I wouldn’t mind reading more of his books.

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Teaser Tuesdays (June 14)

Teaser Tuesdays asks us to:

Grab our current read

Open to a random page

Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like our teaser!
 
My Teaser:

The real obstacle that was worrying him at the moment was the atrocious handwriting in which the third Viscount Warbeck had annotated the confidential letters written to him by Lord Bute during the first three years of the reign of George III.

An English Murder by  Cyril Hare.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.