Ngaio Marsh Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Ngaio Marsh’s novels embody many of the traditions of the British Golden Age of detective fiction. Most critics include her among the grand dames: Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, and Margery Allingham. She enjoyed a writing career second only to Christie’s in longevity and productivity. She is separated from her colleagues by her New Zealand background and loyalties, which give her a different, “outsider’s,” view of the England about which she writes. She transcends many of the familiar limitations of detective fiction as she creates an aristocratic professional police officer who solves crimes committed in theaters, drawing rooms, and the New Zealand wilderness. Marsh writes with a uniquely well-honed ear for dialogue and how it reveals character. Her genius lies in her synthesis of three great traditions: detective fiction, character study, and the novel of manners.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Acheson, Carole, and Carolyn Lidgard, eds. Return to Black Beech: Papers from a Centenary Symposium on Ngaio Marsh, 1895-1995, Christchurch, New Zealand, 1996. Christchurch, New Zealand: Centre for Continuing Education, University of Canterbury, 1996. Collection of ten papers on Marsh given at an academic conference celebrating her hundredth birthday. Bibliographic references

Acheson, Carole, and Carolyn Lidgard, eds. “Roderick Alleyn: Ngaio Marsh’s Oxonian Superintendent.” The Armchair Detective 11 (January, 1978): 63-71. Discussion of one of Marsh’s most famous characters, comparing him to other famous fictional detectives.

Boon, Kevin. Ngaio Marsh. Wellington, New Zealand: Kotuku, 1996. A native New Zealand study of Marsh’s life and work.

DuBose, Martha Hailey, with Margaret Caldwell Thomas. Women of Mystery: The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists. New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2000. Compares Marsh to five of her fellow female mystery novelists, examining her distinctive contribution to the genre.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. Great Women Mystery Writers: Classic to Contemporary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Places Marsh within a coherent lineage of female mystery writers, emphasizing her relationship to those preceding and following her.

Lewis, Margaret. Ngaio Marsh: A Life. Scottsdale, Ariz.: Poisoned Pen Press, 1998. Reprint edition of one of the more successful Marsh biographies.

Rahn, B. J., ed. Ngaio Marsh: The Woman and Her Work. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1995. Collection of essays by Marsh scholars examining various aspects of her fiction and experience. Bibliographic references.

Weinkauf, Mary S., and Mary A. Burgess. Murder Most Poetic: The Mystery Novels of Ngaio Marsh. San Bernardino, Calif.: Brownstone Books, 1996. A study of Marsh as a stylist, emphasizing the artistry of her writing and its contribution to the overall effects of her mysteries.