In Ngaio Marsh’s Death at the Bar, Inspector Roderick Alleyn is called to a small Devon fishing village, where a well-known barrister has been murdered over a game of darts. The village is remote, separated from the outside world by a tunnel through the cliff, and only those staying at the village inn, the Plume and Feathers, would have had the means to launch an attack on Luke Watchman, taking his annual holiday with friends.
The crime is carefully set up, with plenty of motives established in the first fifty pages. The rest of the novel is a painstaking dissection of who stood where, who said what, and in what time-frame. Was it one of the two men that Watchman had named as his heirs, the painter Cubitt or the actor? The mysterious fat Irishwoman who also painted? Or the pub landlord’s sulky son Will? This is as close to a police procedural or an episode of CSI as the 1930s gets, both detailed and with plenty of twists, causing readers to double back on themselves more than once. Cleverly done, and still enjoyable to this day.
As a side note, the Guardian had an enjoyable article at the weekend on the gulf between town and country life as portrayed in television. Just the thing for people who have been snowed in for much of the week.