Saturday, February 5, 2011
Rec. #37: Death and the Dancing Footman
What: Death and the Dancing Footman is not the first mystery novel written by Ngaio Marsh. It's not my favorite novel written by Ngaio Marsh. It's not even one of my top three. It is, however, very good evidence of one of Marsh's strengths as a writer: She has the ability to steep the reader fully in one set of characters and then seamlessly shift to the detective's point of view when he comes on the scene halfway through. I adore Marsh's detective, Roderick Alleyn, so it's worth noting that his appearance always comes as a pleasant surprise in a story I was already absorbed in. Marsh's characters are believable, recognizable, and unique. Some of them just happen to be murderers.
Comparable to: Ngaio Marsh is often compared to Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers, and Agatha Christie, her contemporaries during the Golden Age of detective fiction.
Representative quote: "Mandrake, nursing his brandy-glass, presently felt his head clear miraculously. He would speak to these people in rhythmic, perfectly chosen phrases, and what he said would be of enormous importance. He heard his own voice telling them that Nicholas, in the event of a crisis, would treat them to a display of pyrotechnics, and that two women would applaud him and one man deride. 'But the third woman,' said Mandrake solemnly, 'must remain a shadowed figure. I shall write a play about her. Dear me, I am afraid I must be a little drunk.' He looked anxiously round, only to discover that nobody had been listening to him, and he suddenly realized that he had made his marvelous speech in a whisper. This discovery sobered him. He decided to take no more of Jonathan's brandy."
You might not like it if: You are truly bothered by the fact that no one dies in the first hundred pages.
How to get it: OK, so it's not out of print, but frankly the newer cover art (not pictured above) does not give you a good feel for the book inside. Much better to seek out the older editions with awesome, noir-ish cover illustrations.