Monday, March 4, 2024

Death of a Fool

 Death of a Fool (Off With His Head; 1957) by Ngaio Marsh; read by Nadia May

Marsh gives us a tricky little murder committed in the middle of  "Sword Wednesday"--the village of South Maridan's celebration of the Winter Solstice. On the day of the dance all goes well until the Fool (the father figure in the "Dance of the Five Sons") is supposed to rise up from behind the rock where he has fallen after a mock beheading at the hands of his sons. When he doesn't get up on cue, the sons investigate only to find that William Anderson has actually been beheaded in truth. The local Superintendent and Sergeant of police were among those in the audience and everyone (including them) present--dancers and audience alike--are positive that no one came near the Guiser once he fell down, perfectly alive, behind the stone. So, how could he have been killed? Superintendent Carey and his Chief Constable have the good sense to realize that they need the help of the Yard...and the Yard has the good sense to send Inspector Roderick Alleyn to figure out the mystery of the impossible beheading. 

This review is of the audio novel performance--for a full review, including a more detailed examination of the plot and background, please see my previous review: HERE.

This was very entertaining to listen to. May does an excellent job with the various characters--especially when you consider that the vast majority are male. Her rendition of Marsh's prose makes the dance come alive (both the original, opening festival and the reconstruction of the event at the end). We also get a good feel for the relationships between Alleyn and his men and the interactions between the villagers. A terrific performance of a very strong Marsh mystery.

First line: Over that part of England the winter solstice came down with a bitter antiphony of snow and frost.

Last line: "She's been saying what a long time seems to next Sword Wednesday."
Deaths = one beheaded

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