Death at the Bar

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Death at the Bar
First edition
Author Ngaio Marsh
Language English
Series Roderick Alleyn
Genre Detective fiction
Publisher Collins
Publication date
Media type Print ()
Preceded by Overture to Death
Followed by Surfeit of Lampreys

Death at the Bar is a 1940 novel by Ngaio Marsh, which was adapted for television in 1993 as part of the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries.[1]

The episode was directed by Michael Winterbottom and starred Patrick Malahide as Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn. The title is a pun on the legal term the bar, and the public house in which much of the story takes place. It is set in the late 1930s.


Luke Watchman, a top London barrister and King's Counsel dies while on his annual holiday in Devon, after a freak accident in which he was struck in the finger with a dart while taking part in a darts display with his friends. Examination of the body shows that he died of potassium cyanide poisoning, and traces of cyanide are found on the dart. However, the dart was a new one just out of the packet, and the witnesses all agree that Robert Legge, the man who threw it, had no opportunity to put cyanide on the dart.

Alleyn is sent down from London to investigate. He soon deduces that at the heart of the case is a trial which took place nearly ten years before. The two defendants were Lord Bryonie and Montague Thringle, and that Watchman had defended them both. He successfully defended Bryonie and put the majority of the blame on Thringle so that Thringle was sentenced to seven years. A key to the decision to let Thringle take the blame was that Thringle had a record for being a Nazi sympathiser in the past. Analysis of Legge's fingerprints reveals that he is Thringle. Alleyn eventually concludes that it was not the dart that had killed Watchman, but the iodine that had been used to treat the wound shortly afterwards, and that Legge was guilty, because only he could have known that the dart would wound Watchman.


  1. ^ Death at the Bar on Internet Movie Database