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Death in Ecstasy Hardcover – September, 1982
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The start of the story is seen through the eyes of Nigel Bathgate, an up and coming journalist who became friends with the lead character, Inspector Alleyn, in Ngaio Marsh's first novel, A Man Lay dead. His presence adds "fresh" eyes to the investigation as opposed to the efficient and logical views of Alleyn. In other words, Nigel plays Watson to Alleyn's Holmes.
A strange ceremony in the above mentioned place of worship, involves the communal drinking of a sacred mixture by a select few congregants. This leads to the poisoning of the Chosen Vessel (the last to drink from the cup). The cast of suspects are pretty varied including some spinsters, a young couple facing problems of their own, a stereotypical (from the then British point of view) American, a rather slimy leader of the congregation and Frenchman with refined tastes.
As always, all the loose ends are neatly tied up. If one concentrates, one can usually solve a Ngaio Marsh mystery as all the clues you need are placed before you. Her style is not of the Agatha Christie, shock twist, but rather relies on a careful examination of the facts by a likeable lead detective of perfect manners who has a keen insight into people. Her later novels reveal characters of greater depth, but for all the briefness of this novel, it is still a pleasant read as we can take pleasure in the sparkling prose of Ms Marsh and tickle our minds with a neat little mystery.