Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: Death at the Bar

Ngaio Marsh wrote 32 detective novels featuring British police inspector Roderick Alleyn. Published between 1934 and 1982, most of the novels are set in England, where Marsh lived on and off during her writing career, but four are set in her native New Zealand.

Death at the Bar, first published in 1940, is the ninth book in the series. Inspector Alleyn gets called to an isolated village on the rocky coast of Devon to help the local police solve the riddle of a mysterious death in the local pub. A famous London lawyer died after a dart pricked his hand during a showy bar bet.

As it turns out, plenty of people living or visiting the village wouldn't have minded seeing the lawyer dead. The plot circles around through a long list of possible suspects, including the dead man's traveling companions, an ignored lover, and a hot-headed socialist agitator.

The puzzle is clever and Marsh's writing is intelligent and lively.  Marsh deserves her title as one of the Queens of Crime.


If you would like your review of this or any other Ngaio Marsh book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it. 


This is the first of Marsh's books that I have read, so I can't compare it to any of her others. It was one of my Golden Age Girls choices for the Vintage Mystery Challenge, hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block. The trouble with this challenge is that it leads to me starting even more book lists! Now I plan to find and read all of Marsh's novels. Good grief!


  1. I've read a couple reviews of Marsh's work and they all agree with you - she writes great mysteries. I need to try one of them.

  2. My first thought was that this was perfect for you. Well, I was partly right. It's about the death of a lawyer, but the wrong kind of bar. :) I have never read any of her work and really should get to it.

  3. I started her books a few years back but then started running into titles that were out of print. Now that I have better resources for finding used books, maybe I should start filling in the gaps!

  4. Kathy: You always have such a stack of new books, how could you ever find time to read old stuff?

    Barbara: It was definitely a play on words. That's what caught my attention when I saw the book at a library sale.

    KM: Do you use Thrift Books? I sometimes find out of print stuff there that isn't even available used on amazon. Or do you have another good source you can suggest?

  5. Hi Gilion,

    Gosh! this post brings back memories of my teenage years ... I was an avid reader of Agatha Christie, but I had forgotten all about Ngaio Marsh, whose books I had also started reading, although not all of them by any means.

    There are 32 of them in all, so the best of luck with your own personal mini challenge.

    It looks as though the books have all recently been re-printed (the covers look great when you see them all together) and most of them seem readily available mainstream.

    This is a great site to use for your research, as it lists the books in order of publication and provides availablity search functions for each title.

    Thanks for the memories and happy reading,


  6. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. And good on me for helping you add to your list (evil grin)...not that you have done that to me ever. Oh no. (Can we say Daily Telegraph 1899 Best Novels list?) I'm pretty sure that Death at the Bar was my very first Marsh book too. I've reread it several times and always love it.


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