Monday, April 2, 2012

The Golden Age of Mystery: Ngaio Marsh

I am ending my essays about the ladies of the Golden Age of Mystery with my favorite of all of them, Ngaio Marsh. I fell in love with her sleuth Roderick Alleyn from the first book I read. I picture him as tall, dark and handsome--the way one wants a detective to be. Or at least I do. In fact when I started writing my first novel, a romance, I subconsciously named my hero Roderick Allen who lived on a Texas estate named Allensford Manor.

After I had written the first draft, I visited my mother and stepfather at their home on Lake Texoma where they had an extensive library of mystery novels. I spied their collection of Ngaio Marsh novels, grabbed one and started to read it. To my horror, I realized what I had done. Nonetheless I kept the names Allen and Allensford Manor but changed Roderick to Rockwell. I considered it my way of paying homage to Dame Ngaio.

Ngaio Marsh was born April 23, 1895 although that date can't be verified because her father didn't register her birth until 1990. She died February 18, 1982. She was born in Christchurch, New Zealand and died there also. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1966.

She studied painting and became an actress with a company that toured New Zealand. According to Wikipedia, from 1928 until the end of her life she divided her time between living in the United Kingdom and in New Zealand.

According to Wikipedia, she wrote 32 detective novels featuring her British detective Roderick Alleyn. There are only two remaining that I have not read and I'm looking forward to reading them. She has been considered as one of the four original "Queens of Crime" along with Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Agatha Christie.

Although all of her novels feature Roderick Alleyn, several also revolve around her other main interests, the theater and painting. Alleyn even marries an artist, Agatha Troy. All but four of her novels are set in England and those four are set in New Zealand.

My favorite of her novels is Clutch of Constables although when I pick up one of her books, it's with a feeling of great joy and anticipation and now I have only two remaining.

Of course, there's no law against rereading old favorites.