Mystery Authors You May Have Missed
Ngaio Marsh

Photo of Ngaio Marsh

Ngaio Marsh ranks with authors Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Agatha Christie as the doyennes, or “Queens of Crime”, of twentieth century traditional British mysteries. Marsh was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1895 and died there in 1982. Her first name is a Maori word meaning "reflections on the water." Marsh attended St. Mary’s College, Canterbury University, where she studied painting, and served in the New Zealand Red Cross Transport Unit during WWII. She had a lifelong love of the theater. She acted, wrote for television and plays, and directed and produced several Shakespeare plays in New Zealand. In England, in 1949, she founded the British Commonwealth Theatre. She lived long enough to see theater-starved New Zealand set up with a viable professional theater industry. The Ngaio Marsh Theatre at Canterbury University is named in her honor. The theater appears as a setting in several of her novels.

What she writes: Over a span of fifty years, Marsh wrote 32 mystery novels featuring Scotland Yard Superintendent Roderick Alleyn, a member of the nobility who joined the police force after returning from World War I. The Inspector Alleyn mysteries are praised for the puzzle-like nature of the plots, ingenious murder methods, and excellent dialogue. As a writer, Marsh delights in country house amenities, dotty English lords, vicars, village busybody spinsters, maps, bizarre murder weapons, and a large cast of characters. Most of the novels are set in England, but four are set in New Zealand. The Inspector Alleyn mysteries have been serialized for television by the British Broadcasting Corporation.


List of works
Inspector Alleyn series
  A Man Lay Dead (1934) Spinsters in Jeopardy (1953)
  Enter a Murderer (1935) - CD Scales of Justice (1955)
  The Nursing Home Murder (1935) Death of a Fool (1956) - CD
  Death in Ecstasy (1936) Singing in the Shrouds (1958)
  Vintage Murder (1937) - CD False Scent (1960) - CD
  Artists in Crime (1938) Hand in Glove (1962)
  Death in a White Tie (1938) Dead Water (1963)
  Overture to Death (1939) - large type Killer Dolphin (1966)
  Death at the Bar (1940) Clutch of Constables (1968)
  Death of a Peer (1940) When in Rome (1970)
  Death and the Dancing Footman (1941) Tied Up in Tinsel (1972)
  Colour Scheme (1943) Black as He's Painted (1974)
  Died in the Wool (1944) Last Ditch (1977)
  Final Curtain (1947) Grave Mistake (1978) - large type
  A Wreath for Rivera (1949) Photo Finish (1980)
  Night at the Vulcan (1951) Light Thickens (1982) - CD


Grand Master Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Mystery Writers of America.

In 1966 she was appointed a Dame of the British Empire, largely as a result of her work in the theater.

What the critics say
"Some of Dame Ngaio’s murder weapons are diabolically ingenious." - The New Republic
"It's time to start comparing Christie to Marsh instead of the other way around." - New York Magazine


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