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A ritual dance becomes a murderous mamboAt the winter solstice South Mardian's swordsmen weave their blades in an ancient ritual dance But for one of them th I am in the midst of a job change therefore not feeling up to reading anything heavy Fortunately I was able to pick up a few mysteries the old fashioned English ones where the murder takes place at a country mansion and everyone including the police treat it as a sort of intellectual puzzle rather than the gory and gritty American police procedurals to help me through this periodNgaio Marsh is one of those elderly English lady writers well she s a New Zealander but English in spirit for whom murder is the perfect afternoon cup of tea like Agatha Christie Dorothy Sayers and P D James Her sleuth Inspector Roderick Alleyn is however much conventional than your usual eccentric detective he also does not keep everything close to his chest until the final reveal That said he is a sharp individual and his detection process is as engrossing as any of the othersIn the village of South Mardian the Dance of the Five Sons is performed at winter solstice a leftover from a pagan past In this mumming play the father the fool is beheaded by his sons and resurrected miraculously at the end while a hobby horse called Crack and a hermaphroditic figure named Betty prance around Here the father is played by the village blacksmith William Andersen popularly known as The Guiser and the five sons are all played by his own sons The Betty is the local clergyman s son Ralph Stein and Crack is Simon Begg son of the grocer turned petrol station owner The village doctor Otterly plays the fiddle and the whole drama is enacted on the grounds of the Mardian Castle in front of the redoubtable nonagenarian Dame Alice Mardian To spice things up there is also Camilla Campion the pretty daughter of William Andersen s prodigal daughter and the love interest of Ralph and Mrs Bunz the German immigrant folklorist who is an unwelcome intruder on the scene The dance goes on as planned until the very last scene when the supposed resurrection does not take place On closer examination they find that the old man has really been decapitatedOf course it seems that almost everyone has a motive for murder The prime suspect is Ernie the Guiser s last son who is not uite right in the head his dad has killed his old dog the previous day and prevented him from enacting the coveted role of the fool by refusing to step aside But then Ralph also has a motive as the old man was dead against his marrying his granddaughter His son Chris in love with the pub owner s daughter Trixie also has a grouse against his father as he is against the match And lastly Simon Begg can also be added to the list of suspects because he wanted to convert the smithy into a garage cum service station to which idea the sons are amenable but the blacksmith dead againstEnter Roderick Alleyn As mysteries go this is only average I guessed half of it but the way the murder happened was a surprise and on hindsight entirely logical and possible But as I said earlier it is indeed a pleasure to read these cosy whodunits the writing is fluent and beautiful the English of a bygone era no four letter words sprinkled about the characters sympathetically and humorously portrayed and the story perfectly planned and rounded offRecommended for all classic mystery lovers Fishes of the Open Ocean up to reading anything heavy Fortunately I was able to pick Out of Bounds (Boundaries, up a few mysteries the old fashioned English ones where the murder takes place at a country mansion and everyone including the police treat it as a sort of intellectual puzzle rather than the gory and gritty American police procedurals to help me through this periodNgaio Marsh is one of those elderly English lady writers well she s a New Zealander but English in spirit for whom murder is the perfect afternoon cup of tea like Agatha Christie Dorothy Sayers and P D James Her sleuth Inspector Roderick Alleyn is however much conventional than your Grass, Sky, Song usual eccentric detective he also does not keep everything close to his chest Otter Chaos! (Otter Chaos until the final reveal That said he is a sharp individual and his detection process is as engrossing as any of the othersIn the village of South Mardian the Dance of the Five Sons is performed at winter solstice a leftover from a pagan past In this mumming play the father the fool is beheaded by his sons and resurrected miraculously at the end while a hobby horse called Crack and a hermaphroditic figure named Betty prance around Here the father is played by the village blacksmith William Andersen popularly known as The Guiser and the five sons are all played by his own sons The Betty is the local clergyman s son Ralph Stein and Crack is Simon Begg son of the grocer turned petrol station owner The village doctor Otterly plays the fiddle and the whole drama is enacted on the grounds of the Mardian Castle in front of the redoubtable nonagenarian Dame Alice Mardian To spice things The Illusionists up there is also Camilla Campion the pretty daughter of William Andersen s prodigal daughter and the love interest of Ralph and Mrs Bunz the German immigrant folklorist who is an O Último Testamento (Maggie Costello, unwelcome intruder on the scene The dance goes on as planned One for My Baby until the very last scene when the supposed resurrection does not take place On closer examination they find that the old man has really been decapitatedOf course it seems that almost everyone has a motive for murder The prime suspect is Ernie the Guiser s last son who is not Paragon Walk (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, uite right in the head his dad has killed his old dog the previous day and prevented him from enacting the coveted role of the fool by refusing to step aside But then Ralph also has a motive as the old man was dead against his marrying his granddaughter His son Chris in love with the pub owner s daughter Trixie also has a grouse against his father as he is against the match And lastly Simon Begg can also be added to the list of suspects because he wanted to convert the smithy into a garage cum service station to which idea the sons are amenable but the blacksmith dead againstEnter Roderick Alleyn As mysteries go this is only average I guessed half of it but the way the murder happened was a surprise and on hindsight entirely logical and possible But as I said earlier it is indeed a pleasure to read these cosy whodunits the writing is fluent and beautiful the English of a bygone era no four letter words sprinkled about the characters sympathetically and humorously portrayed and the story perfectly planned and rounded offRecommended for all classic mystery lovers

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Off with His Head

E excitement proves too heady and his decapitiation turns the fertility rite into a pageant of death Now Inspector Roderick Alleyn must penetrate not only th Just ok 2 stars on my personal scale I listened to this one on Audible and although Nadia May is usually a favorite narrator the rural accents of some characters were almost unintelligible and the constant descriptions of folk dances didn t make sense I don t know if reading the book would ve helped me to make sense or be interestedI found it interesting once the murder occurred during a performance of a folk dance and Inspector Alleyn and crew arrived to investigate Then i5 became rather obvious who the killer was and I skimmed the last few chapters to the end Some interesting characters but this one really didn t hold my interest

Summary Off with His Head

E mysteries of folklore but the secrets and sins of an eccentric group who include a surly blacksmith a domineering dowager and a not so simple village idiot Part of the enjoyment of this book was not only the excellent descriptions but the historical information regarding some of the ancient English folk dances and traditions occurring around the Christmas seasoning Marsh also presents material that would suggest that Shakespeare incorporated some of the folk themes in his King Lear Marsh s knowledge of theatre was also very helpful


10 thoughts on “Off with His Head

  1. says:

    I am in the midst of a job change therefore not feeling up to reading anything heavy Fortunately I was able to

  2. says:

    In this 19th book in the 'Roderick Alleyn' series the British detective investigates the death of a folk dancer The book ca

  3. says:

    An entertaining read Morris dancing with a twistAnnually in the depths of winter in a remote English village the Dance of the five sons is pe

  4. says:

    This is the nineteenth Roderick Alleyn novel in what is a slightly infuriating series If any author could be cal

  5. says:

    My favourite Ngaio Marsh story is the one that does not involve the theatre or New Zealand Death of a Fool is set in a snowy English village holding out against the 20th century It could easily be silly but Ngaio Marsh is far too good a writer to slip into that error The story has a village smithy a mediæval folk dance e

  6. says:

    Just ok 2 stars on my personal scale I listened to this one on Audible and although Nadia May is usually a favorite narrator the rural accents of some characters were almost unintelligible and the constant descriptions of folk dances didn’t make sense I don’t know if reading the book would’ve helped me to make sense or be interestedI found it interesting once the murder occurred during a performance of a folk dance and Inspector Al

  7. says:

    Ngaio Marsh in the second of her mysteries I have read shows herself to be a master of human observation Marsh combines that with the ability to describe her well drawn characters using humor and engaging them actions that hint at the psychology underneathThe murder mystery is a perfect genre for someone able to portray the smallest ripples of emotion and perception One of these characters is capable of murder

  8. says:

    Part of the enjoyment of this book was not only the excellent descriptions but the historical information regarding some of the ancient English folk dances and traditions occurring around the Christmas seasoning Marsh also presents material that would suggest that Shakespeare incorporated some of the folk themes in his King Lear Marsh's knowledge of theatre was also very helpful

  9. says:

    Set in 1950s Britain an annual ritual dance held on the winter solstice The winter solstice is nearing and South Mardian is preparing for its local mummery play that the community has held on Sword Wednesday for centuries passing along the music and dance Dame Alice Mardian is greatly displeased by the presence of an outsider Mrs Bunz a folklore specialist because the people of South Mardian want to keep things local Dr Otterly pl

  10. says:

    At this point in my rereading of Marsh I realize that I am having trouble seeing the books as they were received when first written and published This particular story bothered me particularly for a number of reasonsFirst Marsh's books conti

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