Ngaio Marsh: A Man Lay Dead, Roderick Alleyn, Revisited

A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio MarshEvery few years I make it a point to go back and read some of the classic Cozies that really made me fall in love with mysteries. Recently I went back and revisited A Man Lay Dead, the first book by Ngaio Marsh and our introduction to Inspector Roderick Alleyn, Marsh’s primary detective through most of her long career. As many of you know, I consider Marsh one of my personal favorite authors, and revisiting a classic I’m sure to love is always something of a treat.

 A Man Lay Dead begins with a simple premise that quickly became one of the most common >>> a group of individuals with strong ties to one another gather for an extended party at the country estate of an older host. Though on the surface the visitors are all close friends, it quickly becomes apparent that one of them sits at the center of a web of questionable relationships and lies, and (lo and behold) he/she somehow ends up dead before the event is through.

Despite the rapid onslaught of characters and names, keeping the suspects relatively straight in your head isn’t a problem, as each is established quickly in broad strokes that should be familiar at once to any Cozy Mystery reader. Names can quickly become associated with well-established and beloved character types – Sir Hubert Handesley is quickly established as The Educated Host, his niece Angela as The Reliable Modern Girl, the young man who serves as one of the primary points of view of the novel as The Intrepid Young Journalist, and so forth. These are character types beloved for a reason – they’re well portrayed and sympathetic here, and Marsh is especially skilled at showing how uncomfortable many of them become with one another – and how they try to conceal that fact – as suspicions begins to prey on them as their police-enforced isolation lengthens.

Speaking of the police, this is also our introduction to Inspector Alleyn, though his regular assistant, Sergeant Fox, doesn’t make an appearance in this early Marsh book. Compared to the detectives of Marsh’s contemporaries, Inspector Alleyn is a relatively quiet, conservative sort. He certainly doesn’t employ the flamboyant manner of a Poirot or the delicate social machinations of a Marple. Instead he is a prime example of the “educated investigator”, likely serving as one of the inspirations for later characters such as Thaw’s Inspector Morse, another character who perhaps possessed a bit more education than most people would expect from a police officer of those times. Though Alleyn’s presence might be a bit less pronounced than some of his more dynamic peers in the Cozy world, this isn’t necessarily a negative – instead it serves to make the mystery itself more of a star, as the reader is encouraged to focus more on the business at hand instead of the eccentric performances of the detective.

And I suppose that really summarizes Marsh’s strongest point – the mystery is the star, in the end, and Marsh writes strong mysteries that will often leave you guessing right up until the very end. A Man Lay Dead is a classic mystery by a classic author, and as such (I think) should be read by any fan of Cozy Mysteries.

P.S. The Inspector Allyen Mysteries television series is really, really good!

Cozy Mystery Site’s Questions…

question1I thought that I would answer some questions that several of you have sent to me AND I also have a question for you ALL.

Why do you capitalize the words Cozy and Mystery?

I know it seems strange to some of you but since my website is called Cozy Mystery, I just do. I started the website in 2006, and am not sure when I started capitalizing the words, but it has become a habit now.

Why don’t you accept ARCs (Advance Reading Copies)?

I have talked about this before, so some of you already know, but I don’t accept ARCs because if I did, I would feel like I had to say something nice about the book, even if I couldn’t find something nicer to say than “It has a lovely cover.” I have a terrible guilt complex. Also, I have to admit that when I read a glowing review of a Cozy Mystery and then find out the reviewer received an ARC, the review doesn’t mean that much to me. (I figure there’s a chance the reviewer felt like he/she HAD to write a really positive review, since he/she could have my guilt complex.) It’s almost as if the reviewer was paid for the terrific review. (I know, this probably sounds pretty silly to a lot of you!)

When you do the FREE and Cheap Kindle/Nook lists, why don’t you add all of the authors you know have free or cheap e-books?

When I get those FREE and Cheap lists together, I compare my list of authors to the last five of my Free and Cheap posts to make sure I’m not repeating any of those authors. (On a few occasions, I have heard from authors who ask me to include their books again, which I have done.) I have been adding “Also, if you take a look at some of the older Free and Cheap Kindle/Nook mysteries, you may find some that are still under $5.00.” >>> that way I don’t post the same identical authors over and over.

So now for my question to you ALL:

When we do the monthly Cozy Mystery recommendations lists, would you prefer if I ask you to put your top five recommendations at the top of your lists, so that I only add those top five recommended authors/books to the list?

(Here’s is an example of the monthly recommendation lists as I have been doing them.)

You would still recommend as many books as you think are really, really good, but your top five would be the ones I add. Someone (only one person) wrote to me telling me she thought the length of our lists had gotten out of hand. I replied that I still enjoy reading all of your reasons why you post the books and that I have found several new-to-me authors who I now consider favorite authors.

So, would you prefer I keep the recommendations list as is, or should I ask you to tell me the top five books you recommend (and I put those on the list) although you could still list as many other books as you wish in your comment (but I wouldn’t put the others on the list)?

Hope this makes sense!

Actors and the Roles They Play in Our Favorite Mystery Movies

sherlockholmesaug14147869708-9-90I’ve been thinking a lot recently about actors and the roles they play, and how they change how we think about the character.

Last month, I wrote about Peter Ustinov’s portrayal of one of the great detectives of fiction, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Ustinov will never be my Poirot, but after I got used to seeing him as the Belgian detective, I didn’t have much of a problem seeing him as a worthy candidate for the role. I could even see some sort of weird alternate reality where he was my Poirot, if I had been exposed to his movie version of the character first instead of the BBC television series starring David Suchet. (Well, actually, I did see Peter Ustinov’s Hercule Poirot before I saw David Suchet’s, but he really didn’t become Poirot, since I also was seeing him in other movies, and I wasn’t seeing him donning his Poirot persona week after week.)

Shortly after, I wrote about Peter Falk in Columbo. Somehow, the very idea of another actor trying to step into Falk’s battered trenchcoat, driving around in his antique car, chewing on his cheap cigars – somehow the whole idea feels wrong. Strictly speaking, the role wasn’t actually written with him in mind – instead the first portrayal was by Bert Freed, almost a decade passing before Falk would don Columbo’s rumpled suit and begin badgering murderers into confessions. Still, he played the part so long, and so well, that it has become impossible to separate the two in my mind.

In rare occasions, this sort of “true” will even be endorsed by the original creator, even if years pass between the television or movie adaptation and the work that inspired it. Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse, was so impressed by John Thaw’s portrayal of Morse that he decided that Thaw was “his” Inspector Morse. He’s even entered this in writing – Dexter has entered a clause in his will barring Morse from being portrayed by another actor after his death. For Colin Dexter, John Thaw “became” Morse, even though nearly twelve years passed between Dexter’s first book being published and John Thaw being cast in the role. (As a side note, currently-airing prequel series, Endeavor, was cast with Colin Dexter’s approval, so that show should be safe after the author’s passing, though I could be mistaken – I’m no… barrister? Lawyer? Is this a lawyer question or a barrister question?)

Other times, creators endorse an actor or actress they feel particularly well-suited to their character, making their approval of the selection known before filming even begins. This is the case with Joan Hickson, who played Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple character in the British television interpretation of Christie’s works. Much earlier in her career, Hickson had taken part in a play written by Christie, and the author sent her a note saying “I hope one day you will play my dear Miss Marple”. Though Christie wouldn’t live to see Hickson’s portrayal of Miss Marple, that series has also become my personal vision of Miss Marple, despite having been exposed to several other interpretations of Christie’s classic character before seeing the BBC production.

Other characters haven’t had so proactive a creator, or one who was born into the era of modern media. Perhaps the king of all detectives, “my” Sherlock Holmes will always be Jeremy Brett, but the great detective has been cast in a variety of different directions in the last few decades. From Benedict Cumberbach, to James D’Arcy, to Robert Downey Jr., we’ve had the mixed privilege of seeing what feels like an unending parade of “Sherlock Holmeses”, with varying degrees of success.

And this isn’t likely to end any time soon – such is the fate of the classic character in the public domain, I suppose. In 2015, Ian McKellen will get to show us his take on the vibrant detective in the upcoming movie, Mr. Holmes – I’m hoping this one rings a bit more true with the source material than some of the other adaptations in recent years, even if it is an original story and not an authentic Doyle. It could hardly be any further than Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson!

Can you think of any other actors who have come to embody the essence of a mystery author’s character? If so, please post a comment telling us who those actors are and the mystery books’ characters they bring to life so well.

The Cozy Cookbook: More than 100 Recipes from Today’s Bestselling Mystery Authors

The Cozy Cookbook: More than 100 Recipes from Today's Bestselling Mystery AuthorsI know this is way early, but I thought I would tell you about a cookbook that is being released in April. (I told you I’m a little early with this!)

The Cozy Cookbook: More than 100 Recipes from Today’s Bestselling Mystery Authors will be published, and wait until you see who the contributing Cozy Mystery authors are!

Avery Aames/Daryl Wood Gerber

Ellery Adams/J.B. Stanley/Jennifer Stanley

Connie Archer

Leslie Budewitz

Laura Childs

Cleo Coyle/Alice Kimberly

Victoria Hamilton/Amanda Cooper

B.B. Haywood

Julie Hyzy

Jenn McKinlay/Josie Belle/Lucy Lawrence

Paige Shelton

How’s that for a great cast of Cozy characters who love to bake/cook/prepare delicious Cozy delectables? The Cozy Cookbook has more than 100 recipes, which cover appetizers, entrées, and desserts.

(Now I have to go add this terrific-looking The Cozy Cookbook to all of the Cozy authors pages - as well as the Culinary theme - on the Cozy Mystery site!)

Free, Cheap, or On-Sale Kindle Mysteries AND Free, Cheap, or On-Sale Nook Mysteries – August 10, 2014

My Gal Sunday by Mary Higgins ClarkHere are the Free, Cheap, or On-Sale Kindle Mysteries that I have recently found. This list is made up of the Kindle (and Nook) mysteries that cost less than $5.00.

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Carol Higgins Clark
REGAN REILLY Series:

Wrecked ….. $1.99 (book #13)

Carol Higgins Clark on Nook

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Mary Higgins Clark

Mary Higgins Clark eBook Sampler ….. FREE

My Gal Sunday ….. $1.99 (book #13)

Before I Say Good-Bye ….. $1.99 (book #13)

Mary Higgins Clark on Nook

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Susan Rogers Cooper
MILT KOVAK Mysteries:

The Man in the Green Chevy ….. $0.99 (book #1)

Houston in the Rearview Mirror ….. $0.99 (book #2)

Other People’s Houses ….. $0.99 (book #3)

Susan Rogers Cooper on Nook

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Diane Mott Davidson
GOLDY BEAR Mysteries:

Catering to Nobody ….. $3.99 (book #1)

Double Shot ….. $4.74 (book #12)

Diane Mott Davidson on Nook

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Mary Anna Evans
FAYE LONGCHAMP MYSTERY Series:

Artifacts ….. $0.99 (book #1)

Relics ….. $4.99 (book #2)

Effigies ….. $4.99 (book #3)

Findings ….. $4.99 (book #4)

Floodgates ….. $4.99 (book #5)

Strangers ….. $4.99 (book #6)

Plunder ….. $4.99 (book #7)

Mary Anna Evans on Nook

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Jane Haddam
GREGOR DEMARKIAN Series:

Somebody Else’s Music ….. $2.99 (book #18)

Flowering Judas ….. $4.74 (book #26)

Blood in the Water ….. $1.99 (book #27)

Jane Haddam on Nook

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Lyn Hamilton
LARA McCLINTOCH ARCHAEOLOGICAL Mysteries:

The Xibalba Murders ….. $1.99 (book #1)

The Maltese Goddess ….. $3.99 (book #2)

The Moche Warrior ….. $3.99 (book #3)

The Celtic Riddle ….. $3.99 (book #4)

The African Quest ….. $3.99 (book #5)

The Etruscan Chimera ….. $3.99 (book #6)

The Thai Amulet ….. $3.99 (book #7)

The Magyar Venus ….. $3.99 (book #8)

The Moai Murders ….. $4.99 (book #9)

The Orkney Scroll ….. $3.99 (book #10)

Lyn Hamilton on Nook

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Janis Harrison

BRETTA SOLOMON GARDENING Series:

Lilies that Fester ….. $4.74 (book #3)

Reap a Wicked Harvest ….. $4.74 (book #5)

Janis Harrison on Nook

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Cynthia Hickey
NOSEY NEIGHBOR MYSTERY Series:

Anything For a Mystery ….. $0.99 (book #1)

A Killer Plot ….. $2.99 (book #2)

RIVER VALLEY MYSTERY Series:

Deadly Neighbors ….. $0.99 (book #1)

Advance Notice ….. $2.99 (book #2)

The Librarian’s Last Chapter ….. $2.99 (book #3)

SUMMER MEADOWS MYSTERY Series:

Fudge-Laced Felonies ….. $0.99 (book #1)

Candy-Coated Secrets ….. $2.99 (book #2)

Chocolate-Covered Crime ….. $2.99 (book #3)

Maui Macadamia Madness ….. $2.99 (book #4)

Cynthia Hickey on Nook

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Mary Ellen Hughes
CRAFT CORNER MYSTERY Series:

Wreath of Deception ….. $3.99 (book #1)

String of Lies ….. $3.99 (book #2)

Paper-Thin Alibi ….. $3.99 (book #3)

MAGGIE OLENSKI MYSTERY Series:

Resort to Murder ….. $2.99 (book #1)

A Taste of Death ….. $2.99 (book #2)

The Woman on the Train ….. $0.99 (Stand Alone short story)

Mary Ellen Hughes on Nook

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Judith K. Ivie
KATE LAWRENCE MYSTERY Series:

Waiting for Armando ….. $2.99 (book #1)

Murder on Old Main Street ….. $2.99 (book #2)

A Skeleton in the Closet ….. $2.99 (book #3)

Drowning in Christmas ….. $2.99 (book #4)

Dying Wishes ….. $2.99 (book #5)

Judith K. Ivie on Nook

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Joyce and Jim Lavene
RENAISSANCE FAIRE MYSTERY Series:

Murderous Matrimony ….. $4.99 (book #6)

Bewitching Boots ….. $4.99 (book #7)

Perilous Pranks ….. $2.99 (Novella)

TAXI FOR THE DEAD PARANORMAL MYSTERY Series:

Undead by Morning ….. $0.99 (Novella)

Broken Hearted Ghoul ….. $4.99 (book #1)

PEGGY LEE GARDEN MYSTERY Series:

Buried by Buttercups ….. $0.99 (Novella)

A Thyme to Die ….. $4.99 (book #6)

Lethal Lily ….. $4.99 (book #7)

SHERIFF SHARYN HOWARD MYSTERY Series:

Glory’s Last Victim ….. $3.99 (book #8)

Last Rites ….. $3.99 (book #9)

Last One Down ….. $3.99 (book #10)

Before the Last Lap ….. $3.99 (book #11)

The First Shall Be Last ….. $3.99 (book #12)

Joyce and Jim Lavene on Nook

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Laura Levine
JAINE AUSTEN MYSTERY Series:

This Pen for Hire ….. $3.66 (book #1)

The PMS Murder ….. $4.30 (book #5)

Killer Cruise ….. $4.59 (book #8)

Candy Cane Murders ….. $4.99 (w/Joanne Fluke & Leslie Meier)

Laura Levine on Nook

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Karen Musser Nortman
THE FRANNIE SHOEMAKER CAMPGROUND MYSTERY Series:

Bats and Bones ….. $2.99 (book #1)

The Blue Coyote ….. $2.99 (book #2)

Peete and Repeat ….. $2.99 (book #3)

The Lady of the Lake ….. $2.99 (book #4)

Karen Musser Nortman on Nook

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Elaine Orr
JOLIE GENTIL MYSTERY Series:

Appraisal for Murder ….. $2.99 (book #1)

Rekindling Motives ….. $2.99 (book #2)

When the Carny Comes to Town ….. $2.99 (book #3)

Any Port in a Storm ….. $2.99 (book #4)

Trouble on the Doorstep ….. $2.99 (book #5)

Behind the Walls ….. $0.99 (book #6)

Vague Images ….. $2.99 (book #7)

Elaine Orr on Nook

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Gillian Roberts
AMANDA PEPPER Series:

Caught Dead in Philadelphia ….. $0.99 (book #1)

Gillian Roberts on Nook

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Maggie Sefton
WIDOW AND THE ROGUE MYSTERY Series:

Scandals, Secrets and Murder ….. $3.99 (book #1)

KATE DOYLE Series:

Dying to Sell ….. $3.99 (book #1)

Maggie Sefton on Nook

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Phoebe Atwood Taylor

ASEY MAYO MYSTERY Series:

The Cape Cod Mystery ….. $4.99 (book #1)

Punch with Care ….. $4.99 (book #23)

Diplomatic Corpse ….. $4.99 (book #24)

Written as Alice Tilton:
LEONIDAS WITHERALL MYSTERY Series:

Beginning with a Bash ….. $4.99 (book #1)

The Iron Clew ….. $4.99 (book #8)

Written as Freeman Dana:

Murder at the New York World’s Fair ….. $4.99

Phoebe Atwood Taylor on Nook

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Tamara Ward
JADE O’REILLY MYSTERY Series:

Private Deception ….. $0.99 (book #1)

Hidden Betrayal ….. $3.99 (book #2)

Jade O’Reilly and the Ice Queen ….. $0.99 (novella)

Jade O’Reilly and the Mysterious Magician ….. $0.99 (novella)

Jade O’Reilly and the 12 Days of Christmas ….. $0.99 (novella)

Jade O’Reilly and the Graveyard Shift ….. $0.99 (novella)

JONIE WATERS MYSTERY Series:

Storm Surge ….. $3.99 (book #1)

Silver Flashing ….. $3.99 (book #2)

Tamara Ward on Nook

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(All of these mystery Kindle and Nook books are on sale right now, but I don’t know how long this will last, so please check the price before you get one. Also, if you take a look at some of the older Free and Cheap Kindle/Nook mysteries, you may find some that are still under $5.00. The link is below.)

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♦For more Free and Cheap Kindle Mystery Books click here.♦

Re-Trying an Old Favorite Author Who You Discarded…

negative nellieSo, a few months ago Angela gave me this great idea for an entry. I’m going to post her comment, and then my comment back. BUT I’d love to know what you ALL think.

Angela:

With current series, I have found that I have burned out on the series after a few books and I do wonder if I had spaced them out more if I would have been more tolerant of all the things that bugged me so much I decided to stop reading the series. But ultimately I figure there are so many books out there to discover and by dropping one series I just made room for another one that I will potentially enjoy so much more than the one I just dropped so either way I win. To take the question further, how many of us go back to a dropped series years later and find that we do like it?

My Answer:

Angela, I have a good friend who shares a lot of my favorite authors. She has persuaded me twice to go back to an author who I finally decided to drop. Both times, she was absolutely sure I was going to add these authors right back to my favorite authors lists. Nope! The same things that caused me to drop the authors kept me from enjoying them.

Good grief, now that I just re-read that answer of mine, I know I look like a “Negative Nellie” (I think that’s the expression, although I could be wrong…) When I wrote that answer, I had forgotten that one of my current favorite Cozy Mystery authors is someone who I tried reading way back in the early 2000s >>> who I put my “*****YUCK” next to. Now I read one of her Cozy Mystery books whenever I’m looking for a really good, light Cozy Mystery. She simply writes what I think of as a good, light, and enjoyable Cozy Mystery.

When I try to re-read an author who I previously enjoyed, and then moved to my “*****YUCK” list, I try to remain positive >>> since I know there were things I loved about this author before. However, that doesn’t always work! (Actually, it barely ever works for me!)

How about you? Do you ever re-try an author who you absolutely knew you didn’t like, and then find that you enjoy him/her? Or, once you put an author on your personal “*****YUCK” list, does he/she remain there forever? Do you even re-try him/her once you have sent him/her to your “don’t-want-to-see-you-again”list?

(Since I’m asking about authors who you don’t like, or at least didn’t like in the past, please do not name specific authors!)

Valentine’s Day Mystery Books being Released during September 2014!

Here is our final batch of holiday theme mysteries that will be released very soon. These Valentine’s Day mysteries will be released during September 2014. (I know it seems early for Valentine’s Day mysteries, but maybe we can wait to read them. Hmmm… that could be a difficult task for some of us!)

New Valentine’s Day Mysteries:

Marked Down for Murder by Josie Belle (aka Jenn McKinlay & Lucy Lawrence) Josie Belle (aka Jenn McKinlay & Lucy Lawrence) will be releasing the 4th in her Good Buy Girls Mystery Series, entitled Marked Down for Murder. This Valentine’s Day theme mystery has the founder of the Good Buy Girls barbain hunters group, Maggie Gerber, vying for her sweetheart, Sam. Unfortunately, Maggie is going to have to prove that her nemesis isn’t guilty of a murder. Hmmm… This could pose a do-I-do the right thing, or do-I-just-let-things happen dilemma! (As Jenn McKinlay she writes the Cupcake Bakery Mystery Series, the Library Lover’s Mystery Series, and the Hat Shop Mystery Series. As Lucy Lawrence she writes the Decoupage Mystery Series.)

The Coniston Case by Rebecca Tope The Coniston Case is the 3rd Lake District Mystery Series by Rebecca Tope. This Valentine’s Day mystery sees Simmy going through one of the busiest time of the year at a floral shop. As Simmy delivers her Valentine’s Day bouquets, she finds that some of the recipients aren’t happy to recieve the flower arrangements. For those of you who are Rosemary and Thyme fans, Rebecca Tope is the ghostwriter of those mystery novels. (Rebecca Tope writes three other British mystery series: the Cotswold Mystery Series, the Den Cooper Mystery Series, and the Drew Slocombe Mystery Series.)

If you would like to see more Cozy Mystery Valentine’s Day mystery books, click on this link to take you to the Valentine’s Day theme mysteries page.

(If you are interested in all sorts of holiday mysteries, click on this link to take you to the Holiday Mystery Book page.)