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.