In Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh, three longtime friends join together to visit their annual vacation spot in Ottocomb in Devon, where they gather at the Plume of Feathers Pub. All three friends are famous in their own right, with Luke Watchman an elite barrister, Sebastian Darrow a famous actor, and Norman Cubit a top painter. The pub is a central gathering point for the community, where locals and gusts gather one stormy night. They discover that Abel Pomeroy, the owner of the pub, owns three valuable bottles of a high quality brandy, so the group breaks open one bottle. One local man, Bob Legge, has a reputation for being a genius with darts and convinces Luke, who has been sniping at Legge in underhanded hints about some knowledge of a potential criminal background, to let him throw darts between each finger spread out against the dartboard. But in his first ever error, he nicks one of Luke’s fingers with a dart, which sends Luke into a near-fainting fit, as he can’t stand the sight of blood. Just as they try to clean the wound with iodine and give Luke brandy to steady him, the storm kills the power. When it comes back on, Luke Watchman lies dying.
Almost two weeks later, Will Pomeroy travels to London to visit Detective Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn in order to beg him to take on the case of who killed Watchman. The local police have not been able to determine even if the death was murder or accident. Just that same afternoon, Will had been using cyanide to poison rats in the garage, so certain locals have been accusing Pomeroy of being careless with the poison. Though Scotland Yard can’t take a case without a request from the local police, Pomeroy’s visit serves as a catalyst to get the local police to request Alleyn’s assistance, so Alleyn gets to visit Devon.
This book follows a path of investigation that twists and follows intrigue and curious interconnectedness among many characters. But above all, the question keeps arising how the murder could possibly have been administered. This book really shows Inspector Fox to be a great sidekick for Alleyn. It also features some interesting philosophical discussions centered around the Coomb Left Movement, a group devoted to socialist causes. The members of the discussions do seem to have some confusion about the specific philosophies that they support, but that just makes the book more enjoyable.
I love the narration of Nadia May, who makes all her books come to life. She helps to keep the book moving, and I think the book would be less fun just reading it instead of listening to the book.
Death at the Bar is a strong book, with an interesting pun in the title for both the bar where the alcohol is served and the bar of justice where Luke Watchman served. This book has a clever solution and believable characters. I give this book five stars.
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