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Death of a Fool
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The village of South Mardian likes the old ways. This may be 1957, but South M. still features a blacksmith, a village idiot, and an elaborate fertility ritual performed at the winter solstice. There's squabbling, of course, and things come to a head when one of the ritual's main players is found be-headed, everything north of his neck having been neatly lopped off by a ritual sword.
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About the Author

Ngaio Marsh was one of the queens of British mystery. Born in New Zealand, she was the author of 32 titles in the Inspector Roderick Alleyn series.

Reviews

The Mardian Morris Sword Dance and Play of the Five Sons, performed annually on the first Wednesday after the winter solstice, is as tantalizingly half-meaningful, as hauntingly evocative as anything you've ever read in the annals of folklore; and it furnishes a superb background for murder. New York Times

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