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Death of a Fool

Death of a Fool 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 the excitement proves too heady and his de

  • Title: Death of a Fool
  • Author: Ngaio Marsh
  • ISBN: 9780312968328
  • Page: 434
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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, the excitement proves too heady, and his decapitiation turns the fertility rite into a pageant of death Now Inspector Roderick Alleyn must penetrate not only the mysteries of folklore, but the secrets and sins ofA 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, the excitement proves too heady, and his decapitiation turns the fertility rite into a pageant of death Now Inspector Roderick Alleyn must penetrate not only the 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.

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    1 thought on “Death of a Fool

    1. 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 period.Ngaio Marsh is one of those elderly English lady writers (well, she's a New Zealander, but English in spirit) [...]

    2. In the English village of South Mardian the winter solstice is marked by a complex ritual dance performed solely by men. This year, not long after WW II, the major participants in the dance are the local smithy and his four sons - who have a long ancestry in the area - a village doctor, a parson's son/lawyer, and a former army officer.The story acted out in the dance is described as resembling 'King Lear' because it involves children (in this case sons) at odds with their old father. The superst [...]

    3. 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, eccentric gentry, a village natural, and an artsy German folklorist doing a wonderful imitation of the modern obsession with ethnicity. I am in awe of a New Zealander who c [...]

    4. 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 underneath.The 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. In this mystery she has her detective, Alleyn, say "Motive, I detest motive!" Of [...]

    5. 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.

    6. This was a reread. I remembered the basics, but not all the details. Actually, I was impressed what a strong impression some parts left, while other parts I remembered as being completely different. A good Ngaio Marsh, but not her best.

    7. Set in 1950s Britain, an annual ritual dance held on the winter solstice. When one of the principle participants is beheaded, Inspector Alleyn of Scotland Yard becomes involved as he unravels the mysteries of the eighteenth century ceremony.

    8. 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 reasons:First, Marsh's books continue to be painfully class ridden. Members of the gentry are well educated, speak standard English and either privately wealthy or hold down jobs as artists, lawyers or doctors. Members of the lower class are badly educated, speak painfully broad dialect an [...]

    9. I did feel obligated to read this book I had checked out, trying to give this author another opportunity to capture my admiration. The first stumbling block is the dialect of the blacksmith and family. The next major problem is the staging of ancient dance that is too complicated to explain. It seems to me that the play was the thing for Marsh, and for me the play and all the characters were annoying at best.

    10. Sigh, why can't I make the website work so that the British version of the book is the one I can display.'Off With His Head' is my version, a much better title too!Marvellous plot this one, and a real puzzler when I read it first. The characters are a wondrous mix of the sweet and delightful, right up to the fantastic. You can tell, reading this, that Marsh was someone who loved the theatre. The plot reads like a play script, full of dramatic moments.There are some lovely in-jokes, punning and [...]

    11. 1956, #19 Roderick Alleyn, CID, rural village of South Mardian; classic village cosy/police procedural. Novel also published as DEATH OF A FOOL in US 1957. The Winter Solstice celebrations in the odd little village of South Mardian are ancient, very well-respected, and very private, seen by invitation only. But they become extremely public when the lead dancer gets his head cut off during the sword dance. Absolutely perfect setting, tone, characterization and mood, with classic characterizations [...]

    12. SynopsisWhen the Sword Dancer's mock beheading becomes horribly real, it is Superintendent Rodercik Alleyn who must discover who had the best motive for murder. One of the reasons I like these old fashioned murder mysteries - aside from all the "proper Englishness" and class snobbery which is hilarious - is because the plots are properly comlex and minutely worked out. Everything is laid out before the reader so if they wanted to make notes and work it out themselves (if given enough facts) they [...]

    13. It is easy to see who gets killed in this story – the fool - but who did it? This story takes place in the rural parts of England. There is a play dance that takes place every Wednesday after the winter solstice This performance is old and is called a 'Morris dance. That name is derived from 'morisco' dance, which is an allusion to the Moors that did not leave Spain after the Christian conquest, and that is not right for this performance if the history dates back to Druids. There are five son [...]

    14. WKKPL | Too much detail in the wrong places, too much repetition. | I just didn't enjoy this very much. There was so much extra description of the dance, over and over, beforehand and during rehearsals and while it was happening and while it was being reprised--once was certainly necessary because of the nature of the murder, but this felt like word-padding. Then, as several writers of the time period were wont to do, Marsh kept having characters rehash the facts. I haven't forgotten the details [...]

    15. When a country Morris dance (the dance of the five sons) goes awry, Alleyn is called in. One of the five sons of the local smith is a little weak in the head, and the others are constantly hushing him. The local garage owner wants to build a petrol station on the site of the backmith shop, and the five sons are all for it, but their father, who plays the Fool in the dance, is violently against it. A mild love interest is provided by the smith's granddaughter, whose mother (the sons' sister) "mar [...]

    16. I can’t find the Ask a Question about This Book, so I’ll ask here. Marking this a Spoiler; Ngaio Marsh is so subtle, I don’t want to get in the way. So: Alleyn and Fox seem to have “deputized” Tricia to get some info on Mrs. Bunz (with umlaut). She reports on “So broad’s that, and proper masterpieces for color: blue and red and yaller and all puffed up angrily-like, either side.” Later Mrs. B is afraid that Trixie has found something on her. But the point, as far as I can tell, [...]

    17. First book of 2017!This one is fairly solid. I like the location - rural English village. And the Morris dancing stuff is interesting. Don't think I've read it before. And the dialect being written out helped rather than hindered, which is something of a feat. Solid addition to the series.And because I'm apparently giving this a try again this year (until I get distracted and forget about it, I'd imagine) - 2017 Reading Challenge: A book by an author from a country you've never visited (New Zeal [...]

    18. This is a charming mystery story set in an English village post WWII. Charming because March does a fantastic job of richly describing her setting, village life, and the era. I especially enjoy the class issues and medical beliefs and how they have changed. And the mystery is solid. A good book for light reading. I listened to it on audiobook, so the characters had full blown and diverse accents, which added to the pleasure.

    19. Wel een aardig boek, maar vond het soms wat verwarrend omdat er zoveel personages zijn. Ook komt er niet echt diepgang in het verhaal, waardoor je er toch niet helemaal in wordt gezogen. Het verhaal was leuk, maar helaas niet heel spannend.

    20. Ancient rites, almost, and pagan festivities take place in this book which is set in winter in a small northern village. A smithy and several sons perform an annual pagan dance at the home of an older, rather out-of-touch aristocrat. Alleyn and Fox are always in top form.

    21. 3.75 stars.As before, the rating would have been higher if I wasn’t able to figure out the murderer so easily.It’s easy for me to spot because I know Ngaio Marsh’s psychology. Over the course of several books I’ve been able to figure out who the murderer can and can’t be. There are people who her mind refuses to allow to become murderers. Unfortunately, that leaves me with very few suspects. The novels are entertaining, so I shall keep reading them, but the mystery is much too easy to [...]

    22. This one starts off so badly and boring that I had to make myself finish it. Still, it did get interesting in the end and the villain wasn't a cop out. But it makes me wonder if I really do want to read all of Marsh's books.

    23. Well, this one was an education. I love Marsh and the way she illuminates traditions and groups that I've never thought about. Mummers and mumming and Morris dancing are central to this tale. (And yes, I had to Google several terms whilst reading.)

    24. Review by K.N.: "I disliked this book entirely. I know what was going to happen right away. I would not recommend this book at all." 0.5 stars

    25. If you can get past the mid-1950s takes on mental health and neuroatypical people, this is a good one.

    26. Ngaio Marsh knows her way around a mystery. I couldn't believe it when this one centered around a traditional regional folk dance, but she made a great story out of it. Always enjoyable.

    27. Didn't enjoy as much as I have most in the series. Couldn't relate at all to the folklore aspect, and none of the characters (outside of Alleyn and crew) is that appealing. Onward to #20.

    28. Originally published on my blog here in January 1999.Having in her previous novel, Scales Of Justice, written a fair imitation of Agatha Christie, in Off With His Head Marsh attempts an imitation of certain aspects of Dorothy Sayers. Marsh always has a style which is more like Christie than Sayers, and this she keeps; it is the setting which reminds me of Sayers. In several of her books, Sayers took a particular part of English culture and wrote a mystery absolutely steeped in that culture: bell [...]

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