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This is the third novel featuring Roderick Alleyn and was first published in 1935. Home Secretary, Sir Derek O’Callaghan is very involved in introducing a Bill to deal with anarchists and has received several threats to his life. During the beginning of this novel, we are aware that Sir Derek has been having serious abdominal pains and has ignored suggestions he seek medical help until after the Bill has been successful. Sir Derek’s wife, the icy cool Cicely, does not press him to accept help, but his rather naïve and enthusiastic sister, Ruth, constantly tries to press miracle cures upon him. To add to Sir Derek’s problems, a casual affair he recently, has been taken very seriously by the young woman, now a nurse, who has taken to sending him impassioned, and threatening, letters. Complicating matters still more is the fact that his friend, and doctor, Sir John Phillips, is in love with her.

When Sir Derek collapses in the House of Commons, he is taken off to the nursing home to have an emergency operation. In the operating theatre is, of course, Sir John Phillips, the young nurse he had an affair with and at least one person with communist leanings. When Sir Derek dies, Lady Cicely demands that his death is not natural, but murder. Alleyn investigates and this involves his old friend, Nigel Bathgate, who we met in the first Detective Chief-Inspector Alleyn mystery, as well as Nigel’s fiancée Angela. We are taken from the operating theatre to communist meetings, in a wonderfully evocative Golden Age mystery. This is a delightful mystery and will appeal to anyone who enjoys 1930’s mysteries, with a good setting and an interesting cast of suspects.
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The Home Secretary collapses in the House of Commons and is taken to a private nursing home where Sir John Phillips - the eminent surgeon - operates on him for a diseased appendix. Unfortunately the Home Secretary dies and his surgeon has a motive for murdering him as do several of the operating team. Then there's his sister who had been persuading him to take patent medicines not to speak of anarchists whose activities would have been ruled illegal if the Bill the Home Secretary was sponsoring had become law.

There are almost too many suspects in this intriguing and well written mystery and I found myself switching between them almost on every page. The solution is not at all what I expected though it is obvious when you read how it was done. I like Roderick Alleyn and his sidekick, Inspector Fox as well as his friend, journalist Nigel Bathgate. The scene at the communist meeting is very well done with no one being quite who they seem to be.

The story recreates a forgotten age and some of the attitudes an ideas may seem old fashioned to modern readers. But to my mind this does not spoil the story which is well constructed and well written with believable characters. If you enjoy Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers then you will probably enjoy Ngaio Marsh.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 April 2014
This is Ngaio Marsh's second novel and the only one written in collaboration with someone else. She needed Henry Jellett's contribution because of the medical setting of the book. It is only the second Roderick Alleyn novel, and his character is not yet fully consistent, as if she has yet to decide if he is a humorous, slightly camp individual, or the intelligent, sensitive and gentlemanly figure he became.
The Home Secretary, Sir Dereck O'Callaghan, drafts a bill to curb anarchist gangs and continues working, although he is in pain from what turns out to be appendicitis. He collapses in the House of Commons, is rushed to hospital and dies during the operation.
Suspiciously, the surgeon has quarrelled with him over a woman. The nurses have motives to kill him, too.
Upper-crust Inspector Roderick Alleyn leads the investigation. He is far from being an average policeman, since he knows the Prime Minister personally and is at ease with people most detectives would find it hard to mix with. He is able to navigate the world of the Home Secretary and his friends and find the solution to this quite complex mystery, which revolves around the use of the drug hyoscene.
Ngaio March is still getting into her stride in this book, but it is enjoyable and moves at a spanking pace. It is a bit dated, though it gives an interesting glimpse into the medical world of the 1930s. It is entertaining and lays a foundation for the later and more mature Alleyn books.
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on 7 February 2012
The story revolves around the drug hyoscine and who gave the fatal injection of it, when there are already three, known injections during the operation. Also some home remedies, administered by the victim's sister,from her friend a chemist. Although there are not too many suspects, and it must be someone involved with the operation, I still fell for at least one of her red herrings. When the explanation came out it became obvious who the killer should be, and why didn't I think of that at first.
I found the setting to be enthralling and the re-enactment brilliant in finding how the crime was carried out. Once again a mixture of Alleyn being facetious and serious almost at the same time. I find this mix just right for a very satisfactory and enjoyable read.
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on 8 November 2015
Currently collecting the books by Ngaio Marsh, I wasn't quite in the mood for reading this one. The story of the clever murder of a controversial politician became a real page turner. A really good plot which carries on to the final pages where the true villain is revealed.
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on 1 January 2002
This book fails to deliver what we have come to expect from such a brilliant crime writer. The plot, though good, is slow in comparison with Marsh's normal pacey style. The characters are limited with only a small variety in change of scene. There is not sufficeint plot or involvement of Marsh's famed sluth Roderick Alleyn.
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on 20 December 2013
I love adding these to my collection. You can read them over again. I thoroughly recommend these as a very good read
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on 25 February 2014
Enjoyed this book very much. case nicely built up, with a real surprise twist at the end . familiar characters help
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on 26 April 2013
Just love Ngaio Marsh and this is one of her good ones. Really enjoyed it as I always do with her books
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on 29 August 2014
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