Classic Author Focus: Dame Ngaio Marsh

Dame Ngaoi Marsh

Dame Ngaoi Marsh doesn’t exactly fit in with my idea of focusing on lesser known classic authors, at least if you’re a reader of classic mysteries, but then not all my choices have followed that theme. We also haven’t focused on anyone from that part of the world yet.

Ngaoi Marsh is best known for her 32 mysteries and her work in the theater, but she actually started out studying art. Hence, her emphasis on art or the theater in many of her Roderick Alleyn mysteries. She was the only child of a bank clerk and she described her family as “have-nots.”

In her birthplace of New Zealand, she studied art and worked as an actress and theater producer before moving to England in 1928.  She wrote her first novel in England but returned to New Zealand, where she wrote 31 more, produced and directed a Shakespearean repertory theater, and founded a theater guild. She was considered a mainstay of the New Zealand cultural world. With Agatha Christie and Dorothy L.  Sayers, she was called one of the Queens of Mystery. She also wrote about New Zealand and about theater.

Dates: 1896-1982

Most popular works:  Artists in Crime, Final Curtain, Opening Night

Other works: Black Beech and Honeydew, The Collected Short Fiction of Ngaoi Marsh, New Zealand, Singing Land, and other novels, short stories, songs, works of nonfiction, and plays

10 thoughts on “Classic Author Focus: Dame Ngaio Marsh

  1. I have quite a few classic mysteries on my list, but not one of Marsh’s mysteries. Probably because I have read most of the books in the Alleyn series and some of them twice.

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    1. Someone once told me that the best ones were either related to theater or art, and I’d agree with that. I can’t really remember them well enough to pick out the name of a book, but Enter a Murderer, which I believe I’ve read, is her second Roderick Alleyn, and it is set in a theater.


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