- Format: Kindle (Amazon)
- File Size: 1262 KB
- Print Length: 752 pages
- Publisher: Harper (July 18, 2013)
- first published 1936
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00D0VYEB2
- source: I bought it
Who slipped cyanide into the ceremonial wine of ecstasy at the House of the Sacred Flame? The other initiates and the High Priest claim to be above earthly passions. But Roderick Alleyn discovers that the victim had provoked lust and jealousy, and he suspects that more evil still lurks behind the Sign of the Sacred Flame…
This was #4 in Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn series (although Marsh's first novel was published only in 1934, two years earlier).
It features the team of Detective Inspector Alleyn, his offsider Fox, and journalist Nigel Bathgate. It all begins when Bathgate enters the House of the Sacred Flame, a new religious sect not far from his flat, in search of amusement, and witnesses the death of a woman from poisoning. She has been participating in a ceremony where a chalice of wine is handed around a small circle of people and is finally drunk by her. Bathgate catches the unmistakeable smell of bitter almonds.
Cara Quayne was an extremely wealthy woman who was known to have left most of her fortune to the House of the Sacred Flame and to it's priest. This was her first occasion as the Sacrificial Vessel. She had been training for a month for the event.
To make sure the reader is up to speed, Alleyn and Bathgate draw up a list of suspects with motives at least twice. The author drops a couple of large hints about the identity of the murderer, which I should have picked up but didn't. There's a matter of missing bearer bonds, addiction and drug running, and entrapment, but in the long run Alleyn would not have solved the case without help from a couple of suspects.
It is an interesting novel because there is mention of how other authors like Agatha Christie would have fleshed out a plot like this.
I have read this for my participation in Crime Fiction of the Year Challenge @ Past Offences
My Take: 4.2
I have also reviewed
A MAN LAY DEAD
TIED UP IN TINSEL
4.3, DIED IN THE WOOL
THE NURSING HOME MURDER