Ngaio Marsh

Ngaio_Marsh_by_Henry_Herbert_Clifford_ca_1935,_cropThis post was intended as a private note. However, I’m posting it here, as it could be of some interest to regular or occasional readers of this blog.

My first and only encounter with Dame Ngaio Marsh was some three years ago when I read Off with His Head and I enjoyed it. And recently a couple of posts about Ngaio Marsh by two of my header bloggers The Passing Tramp (Curtis Evans) and At the Villa Rose (Xavier Lechard) have renewed my interest in her books. However, given her lengthy literary production, I’ve tried to narrow it down to some of her most representatives books, which are indicated in bold in the following list. Nevertheless any suggestion from your side will be much appreciated.

Needless to say I’m planning to read them shortly.

Detective novels
All 32 novels feature Chief Inspector Alleyn (later Chief Superintendent) of the Criminal Investigation Department, Metropolitan Police (London). The series is chronological: published and probably written in order of the fictional history.

  1. A Man Lay Dead (1934)
  2. Enter a Murderer (1935)
  3. The Nursing Home Murder (1935)
  4. Death in Ecstasy (1936)
  5. Death on the Air and Other Stories (1936) Ngaio Marsh only collection of short stories
  6. Vintage Murder (1937). Marsh’s working title was The Case of the Greenstone Tiki (Otago Daily Times, 13 March 1937)
  7. Artists in Crime (1938)
  8. Death in a White Tie (1938)
  9. Overture to Death (1939)
  10. Death at the Bar (1940)
  11. Surfeit of Lampreys (1941); Death of a Peer in the U.S.
  12. Death and the Dancing Footman (1942)
  13. Colour Scheme (1943)
  14. Died in the Wool (1945). Serialised, Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser (1946)
  15. Money in the Morgue (2018) (unfinished – completed by Stella Duffy)
  16. Final Curtain (1947)
  17. Swing Brother Swing (1949); A Wreath for Rivera in the U.S. . Serialised, Home Magazine (1949)
  18. Opening Night (1951); Night at the Vulcan in the U.S. Serialised, Woman’s Day (1951)
  19. Spinsters in Jeopardy (1954); abridged later in the U.S. as The Bride of Death (1955)
  20. Scales of Justice (1955). Serialised, Australian Women’s Weekly (1956)
  21. Off With His Head (1957); Death of a Fool in the U.S.
  22. Singing in the Shrouds (1959). Serialised, Australian Women’s Weekly (1959)
  23. False Scent (1960). Serialised, Australian Women’s Weekly (1960)
  24. Hand in Glove (1962)
  25. Dead Water (1964)
  26. Death at the Dolphin (1967); Killer Dolphin in the U.S.
  27. Clutch of Constables (1968)
  28. When in Rome (1970)
  29. Tied Up in Tinsel (1972)
  30. Black As He’s Painted (1974)
  31. Last Ditch (1977)
  32. Grave Mistake (1978)
  33. Photo Finish (1980)
  34. Light Thickens (1982)

About the Author: Ngaio Marsh, in full Dame Edith Ngaio Marsh, (born April 23, 1895, Christchurch, New Zealand—died February 18, 1982, Christchurch), New Zealand author known especially for her many detective novels featuring Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard and, in later novels, his wife, Troy.
Marsh studied painting in art school and was an actress and a theatrical producer in New Zealand before going in 1928 to England, where she wrote her first novel, A Man Lay Dead (1934), which introduced the detective Roderick Alleyn. In 1933 she returned to New Zealand, where she wrote many more novels and also produced and directed Shakespearean repertory theatre. The theatre guild she helped found in 1944 became an important mainstay of New Zealand cultural life. Marsh continued to produce plays in New Zealand and abroad, mostly in England, throughout her career.
In the 1930s Marsh helped raise the detective story to the level of a respectable literary genre by writing books that combine an elegant literary style with deftly observed characters and credible social settings. The art world and the theatre provided the background for many of her more than 30 novels, including Artists in Crime (1938), Final Curtain (1947), and Opening Night (1951), all of which feature Inspector Alleyn. These books, together with such works as Overture to Death (1939), A Surfeit of Lampreys (1941), Death of a Fool (1956), Dead Water (1963), Black as He’s Painted (1974), and Light Thickens (1982), are classic examples of the traditional detective story, giving readers a cleverly contrived puzzle involving sharply drawn characters against an authentic background. Marsh also wrote about New Zealand and about the theatre. Her autobiography, Black Beech and Honeydew, was published in 1965 (rev. ed. 1981).
Marsh was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1966. (Source: Britannica)

Picture: By Henry Herbert Clifford 1872-1949 – National Library of New Zealand website,, Public Domain,

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