Friday, 26 March 2010

Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh

Ngaio Marsh is New Zealand’s own Agatha Christie and I’ve been wanting to read one of her books for a long time but hadn’t had the opportunity. I finally got a hold of one in the last Audible sale and dug straight in. It took me a while, but I finally cottoned on that these are the books to the series The Alleyn Mysteries which I loved.

In Death at the Bar, three gentlemen meet up for their annual vacation in a small Devonshire town. The local pub has both a public and a private tap. These gentlemen meet in the private tap and are joined by a few others in the evenings for a game of darts and a drink. Amongst them is a relative stranger to the area, but who is an excellent darts player, dares Watchman, a famous London Barrister, to a game of darts where Watchman must hold his hand up to the board while this man, Legg, throws the darts between his fingers, with a storm raging outside all the while. Unfortunately, one of the darts his Watchman then the lights go out and suddenly Watchman is dead. Inspector Alleyn is then called in from London to ferret out the killer.

I wouldn’t have said this is one of the better mysteries, although I think it might make an excellent play. In novel form, it drags a bit because most of the action and deduction takes place in the pub where the murder occurred giving it a bit of a stifling feeling. Although Marsh introduced enough characters to keep you guessing whodunit, the scene and motives were still a little too obvious. On the plus side, it’s a good, comfortable murder mystery of the kind I like and I’ll probably read it again sometime, even if it isn’t up to Christie standard. 3 out of 5 for this particular book, but I’ll be giving the author another try to see if it was just this one that didn’t overwhelm me.

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