Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh


Historical Mystery

Death and the Dancing Footman Death and the Dancing FootmanNgaio Marsh; St. Martin’s Paperbacks 1998WorldCatJonathan Royal has decided to hold a weekend party. This party is to be his art using live flesh and blood rather than other medium. He wants to play with people’s lives. He brings in his friend, playwright Aubrey Mandrake, to be the objective outside observer.

He first invites Sandra Compline, an older woman whose face was disfigured by plastic surgery. He also invites her two sons. William, the elder, adores his mother, has inherited everything, and is often overlooked. Nicholas, the younger, is brighter and more social, doted upon by his mother, and penniless except for his Army pay. William’s fiancee, Chloris Wynne, accompanies him. She just happened to be engaged to Nicholas before she agreed to marry William. Are you getting confused yet?

Jonathan invites an old friend of his, Lady Hersey Amblington. She runs an upscale beauty salon in town. She has been losing her exclusive clientele to a rival. The rival, Madame Elise Lisse, is also invoted to the weekend gala. Mme. Lisse also happens to be the current paramour of Nicholas Compline, and was the reason Chloris and Nicholas broke up. To finish off the party Dr. Francis Hart was invited. He is a plastic surgeon.

Most of the people in this group have little or no love for each other. Jonathan is hoping by the end of the snowy weekend a few conflicts will have been resolved. Instead, a larger problem occurs. One of the guests is murdered. The party deteriorates after that. The group is snowed in. One guest is sure another guest murdered the wrong person in a case of mistaken identity and another murder will yet happen.

Death and the Dancing Footman is a fascinating mystery. The set up is wonderful and well thought out. The murder doesn’t happen until half way through the book. I didn’t guess who was the intended victim until a page or two before the murder. The clues are nicely laid out to figure “who done it.” Enough misdirection is thrown into Death and the Dancing Footman to keep the reader guessing. I was certain I knew who the murderer was although I didn’t know all of the how’s needed to complete the deed. I was right, I’m glad to say. Ms. Marsh has done a wonderful job in this novel.

More books by Ngaio Marsh
Roderick Alleyn series at Stop! You’re Killing Me!

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