Wealthy Sir Hubert Handesley's original and lively weekend house parties are deservedly famous. To amuse his guests, he has devised a new form of the fashionable Murder Game, in which a guest is secretly selected to commit a 'murder' in the dark, and everyone assembles to solve the crime. But when the lights go up this time, there is a real corpse....
©1934 Ngaio Marsh (P)2015 Hachette Audio
"A Man Lay Dead," although published in 1934, holds up well as an intriguing classic mystery. Like some others of its kind, the novel might have been batter read than heard. That is not to say it was not well performed,(It was.) but that there are so many characters, one practically needs a score card to keep them straight. As the book progressed and some of the red herrings were caught and set aside, it became easier to follow the development of plot and character.
I did get involved enough that I found it difficult to turn off the recording. This might be a great "read" for a long and otherwise dull car trip when one could listen to large sections at a time.
After exhausting the Hugh Fraser narrated Agatha Christie books, I turned my attention to Ngaio Marsh novels. I knew Inspector Alleyn from the 1990s Alleyn Mystery series, but nothing about the books. I decided to listen to the series in order. Lucky for me, Philip Franks narrates the first book in the series. He takes this 1934 detective story and makes it such fun. Franks' interpretation brings a breeziness to the story (especially in the way he voices Alleyn) that adds wit and charm. In a later novel, Artists in Crime, narrated by Franks, his interpretation of Alleyn's mother adds a dimension of character and wry humor that other narrators do not deliver. Mama Alleyn's analysis of the suspects is rewind and listen again funny. Franks delivers the lines as people actually speak. Franks performs this audiobook, he doesn't read it. The other predominant narrator in this series, James Saxon, seems to me, to read in such an overly melodramatic fashion that makes it much less enjoyable. In Saxon's readings, Alleyn comes across as stern and humorless, even though the books are filled with sardonic descriptions and conversations.
Not really, it's a good representation of the cozy mystery genre. I enjoy that genre for telling a story without being gory. The development of the characters is the jewel in this series. That being said, Marsh is probably a better representation of what society was like in the 1930s (that's the decade I'm currently on in this series) than Christie. Much more acknowledgement of sex, drugs and language than Christie.
Everything. He's a gem and perfectly suited to this material. He's able to perform distinct voices (in a novel with a lot of characters) so that you know who is talking. Like Hugh Fraser, his female voices are very good (although Angela's voice changes from her first scene where she has a deep voice to a lighter "girlier" voice later that's much better). He interprets Alleyn, Fox, Bathgate and Angela in a way that makes you just love them.
It was. I didn't, but I could have.
This is a solidly-crafted cozy mystery that brings a lightness and wink-wink, nudge-nudge, we're-all-having-fun-now element to it. Well worth the time and easy to listen to multiple times.** Audible: If you will re-record the Marsh novels with Franks reading, I will re-purchase every one of them - truly.** He's perfect.
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