Death at the bar

I do love Ngaio Marsh, and her 1940 novel Death at the Bar is a particularly fine example of Marsh at her very best.

Inspector Alleyn is called in to investigate when noted barrister, Luke Watchman, dies of a nasty case of cyanide poisoning, following what appears to have been a freak accident. With accusations of malice aforethought whizzing around the formerly peaceful Devon village, Abel Pomeroy, the landlord of the local pub goes to London to demand justice.

The story is a little far-fetched sometimes. I did find it hard to believe that the police and coroner were content to do very little following Watchman's death, especially in the circumstances. But then again, they were in a much more easy-going age, at least as far as the standards of health and safety were concerned.

However the story generally is excellent. Alleyn and Fox are as loveable as ever, as is the enthusiastic young PC, Constable Oates. Marsh effortlessly leads her readers up the garden path, out and back again. As enjoyable a bit of Golden Age detective fiction as you could hope to find.

In my edition of Death at the Bar (a triple-decker anthology along with Death in a white tie and Overture to death) an entertaining short-story (apparently the first published by Ngaio Marsh)  The figure quoted - a comical tale of an unexpected bidder at an auction - is also included in the volume. It's very different to anything else I've read by Marsh and absolutely delightful.

As ever, Ngaio Marsh is a joy, I just wanted to go down to Devon for a spot of detecting.


Popular Posts