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Ngaio Marsh

Overture to Death

Collins Crime Club 1939
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SYNOPSIS
JOCELYN JERNIGHAM was a good name. The seventh Jocelyn thought so as he stood at his study window and looked down the vale of Pen Cuckoo towards that precise spot where the spire of Salisbury Cathedral could be seen through field-glasses on a clear day. " Here I stand," he said, without turning his head, " and here my forebears have stood, generation after generation, and looked over their own tilth and tillage. Seven Jocelyn Jernighams." " I'm never quite sure," said his son Henry Jocelyn, " what tilth and tillage are. What precisely, father, is a tilth ? " " There's no feeling for that sort of thing," said Jocelyn, angrily, " among the present generation. Cheap sneers and clever talk that mean nothing." " But I assure you I like words to mean something. That is why I ask you to define a tilth. And you say, ' the present generation.' You mean my generation, don't you ? But I'm twenty-three. There is a newer generation than mine. If I marry Dinah——" " You quibble deliberately in order to lead our conversation back to this absurd suggestion. If I had known——"

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