My Book Notes: Overture to Death, 1939 (Roderick Alleyn #8) by Ngaio Marsh

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HarperCollins, 2009. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 968 KB. Print Length: 278 pages. ASIN: B002RI91E4. ISBN: 9780007344468. First published in 1939 by Collins Crime Club in the UK and by Lee Furman the same year in the US.

x500_7fd88f51-891b-4968-8a5a-6cc4280fe018Description: A classic Ngaio Marsh novel in which she more than lives up to her reputation as a crime writer of intelligence and style. It was planned as an act of charity: a new piano for the parish hall, an amusing play to finance the gift. But its execution was doomed when Miss Campanula sat down to play. A chord was struck, a shot rang out and Miss Campanula was dead. A case of sinister infatuation for the brilliant Chief Detective-Inspector Alleyn.

My Take: The story is set in Pen Cuckoo, a small Dorset village. The action begins when a group of respectable citizens gather together and decide to stage an amateur little play, aimed to raise funds to buy a new piano for the church. From the very first moment we realise the intense rivalry between two spinsters, Miss Eleanor Prentice – a Jerningham on her mother side, and Miss Idris Campanula a wealthy woman. The rest of participants in the meeting is made up by: Jocelyn Jerningham, the local squire; Walter Copeland, the rector of Winton St Giles; the children of both, Henry Jerningham and Dinah Copeland, whom, against the wishes of both their parents, are in love with one another; Dr William Templett, the village doctor whose wife is an invalid, and of whom it is rumoured has an affair with the eight participant, Mrs Selia Ross, an attractive widow.

When it comes the function day, the act begins with Miss Campanula at the piano to perform her favourite piece, Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor. But as soon as she sits to start playing, a shot is heard and Miss Campanulla collapses dead on the keyboard. No one notes what could have happened until a macabre device is discovered:  as soon as someone steps on the “soft” pedal, a cord pulls the trigger of a revolver hidden in the piano. Who could have wanted her dead? Was she really the intended victim? Shortly before, Miss Prentice, the designated pianist, had had to give her place to Miss Campanula as she was unable to play due to a severe infection in one finger.

Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn and Inspector Fox are called in to investigate Miss Campanula’s death. The number of suspects has been narrowed down to the seven people involved in the theatrical play, perhaps eight, if we take into account Miss Campanula herself, since the hypothesis of a suicide cannot be ruled out.

My friend and fellow blogger Xavier Lechard hits the nail in the head when he writes about Ngaio Marsh: “My fondness for Dame Ngaio rests on a paradox: I see her both as the best writer of all Crime Queens in purely literary terms but also the poorest as far as plots are concerned, and the latter is probably the reason or one of the reasons why she often gets a bad rap these days”. The full article is available here. And this book is a good example of what Xavier calls “a typical Ngaio Marsh novel”. Having said that, Overture to Death is full of humour, with brilliant passages and, ultimately, it is a joy to read. We are less interested in knowing how, why and who committed the crime, but we enjoy the way in which Marsh tells the story, of her portrait of country living and of her description of the rural setting in which the story unfolds. Marsh’s excellent prose captivates us and we find ourselves immerse in a literary world of her own that is fascinating. In my book sufficient grounds to highly recommend it.

Overture to Death has been reviewed, among others, by Les Blatt at Classic Mysteries, Mike at Only Detect, Steve Barge at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Andrea Thompson at Crime Watch, Moira Redmond at Clothes in Books, Kate Jackson at Cross-Examining Crime, Bev Hankins at My Reader’s Block, John Grant at Noirish, Roberta Rood at Books to the Ceiling, and Nick Fuller at The Grandest Game in the World.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1939)

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC.Lee Furman (USA), 1939)

About the Author: Ngaio Marsh, born Edith Ngaio Marsh, (1895 (?) – 1982) was a New Zealand author known especially for her many detective novels featuring Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard and, in later novels, his wife, Troy. There is some uncertainty over her birth date as her father neglected to register her birth until 1900. 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. Although as Curt Evans has rightly noted, Marsh was not well recognized until after her trio of Artists in Crime (1938), Death in a White Tie (1938) and Overture to Death (1939). 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 plays, essays, and an a lyrical but not very revealing autobiography, Black Beech & Honeydew (Collins) in 1965 (rev. ed. 1981). British author and publisher Margaret Lewis wrote an authorized biography, Ngaio Marsh, A Life in 1991. New Zealand art historian Joanne Drayton’s biography, Ngaio Marsh: Her Life in Crime was published in 2008. Towards the end of her life she systematically destroyed many of her papers, letters, documents and handwritten manuscripts. In 1966 she was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her accomplishments in the arts, and in 1978 she was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. She died in Christchurch on 18 February 1982. Her home there is now a museum.

Suggested Bibliography: Artists in Crime (1938); Death in a White Tie (1938); Overture to Death (1939); Death at the Bar (1940); A Surfeit of Lampreys (1941) [Death of a Peer in the U.S.]; Death and the Dancing Footman (1942); Colour Scheme (1943); Final Curtain (1947); Opening Night (1951) [Night at the Vulcan in the U.S.]; Scales of Justice (1955); Off With His Head (1956) [Death of a Fool in the U.S]; False Scent (1959); Dead Water (1963); Clutch of Constables (1968); Black As He’s Painted (1974); and Light Thickens (1982).

Marsh’s short works are found in Collected Short Mysteries (1989) edited by Douglas G. Greene.

Harper Collins Publishers publicity page

Felony & Mayhem publicity page

Ngaio Marsh House & Heritage Trust

Ngaio Marsh at Golden Age of Detection Wiki

Soundcloud

Preludio trágico de Ngaio Marsh

Preludio trágico, blogDescripción: Clásica novela de Ngaio Marsh en la que se muestra por encima de su reputación tanto en inteligencia como en estilo como escritora policíaca. Estaba previsto como acto benéfico: un piano para la parroquia, una entretenida obra de teatro para financiar la donación. Pero su realización estaba condenada al fracaso cuando Miss Campanula se sienta a tocar. Al primer acorde suena un disparo y Miss Campanula muere. Un caso de obsesión siniestra para el brillante inspector-jefe investigador Alleyn.

Mi opinión: La historia se desarrolla en Pen Cuckoo, un pequeño pueblo de Dorset. La acción comienza cuando un grupo de ciudadanos respetables se reúnen y deciden montar una pequeña obra de teatro amateur, con el objetivo de recaudar fondos para comprar un piano nuevo para la iglesia. Desde el primer momento nos damos cuenta de la intensa rivalidad entre dos solteronas, la señorita Eleanor Prentice, una Jerningham por parte de madre, y la señorita Idris Campanula, una mujer adinerada. El resto de participantes en la reunión lo componen: Jocelyn Jerningham, el hacendado local; Walter Copeland, el párroco de Winton St Giles; los hijos de ambos, Henry Jerningham y Dinah Copeland, quienes, en contra de los deseos de sus padres, están enamorados el uno del otro; El Dr. William Templett, el médico del pueblo cuya esposa está inválida y de quien se rumorea que tiene una aventura con la octava participante, la Sra. Selia Ross, una atractiva viuda.

Cuando llega el día de la función, el acto comienza con Miss Campanula al piano para interpretar su pieza favorita, el Preludio en Do sostenido menor de Rachmaninoff. Pero en cuanto se sienta para empezar a tocar, se escucha un disparo y la señorita Campanulla se desploma muerta sobre el teclado. Nadie se da cuenta de lo que pudo haber sucedido hasta que se descubre un dispositivo macabro: tan pronto como alguien pisa el pedal izquierdo, una cuerda apieta el gatillo de un revólver escondido en el piano. ¿Quién podría haberla querido muerta? ¿Era ella realmente la víctima prevista? Poco antes, Miss Prentice, la pianista designada, había tenido que ceder su sitio a Miss Campanula al no poder tocar debido a una grave infección en un dedo.

El inspector jefe Roderick Alleyn y el inspector Fox son llamados para investigar la muerte de la señorita Campanula. El número de sospechosos se ha reducido a las siete personas implicadas en la obra de teatro, quizás ocho, si tenemos en cuenta a la propia Miss Campanula, ya que no se puede descartar la hipótesis de un suicidio.

Mi amigo y colega bloguero Xavier Lechard acierta de pleno cuando escribe sobre Ngaio Marsh: “Mi afición por Dame Ngaio se basa en una paradoja: la veo como la mejor escritora de las Reinas del Crimen en términos puramente literarios, pero también como la más pobre por lo que se refiere a la construcción de la trama, y esta última es probablemente la razón o una de las razones por las que a menudo tiene mala reputación en estos días”. El artículo completo está disponible aquí. Y este libro es un buen ejemplo de lo que Xavier llama “una típica novela de Ngaio Marsh”. Habiendo dicho eso, Preludio trágico está llena de humor, con pasajes brillantes y, en última instancia, es un placer leerla. Nos interesa menos saber cómo, por qué y quién cometió el crimen, pero disfrutamos de la forma en que Marsh cuenta la historia, de su retrato de la vida en el campo y de su descripción del entorno rural en el que se desarrolla la historia. La excelente prosa de Marsh nos cautiva y nos encontramos inmersos en un mundo literario propio que resulta fascinante. A mi modo de ver razones suficientes para recomendarlo encarecidamente.

Sobre el autor: Ngaio Marsh, nacida Edith Ngaio Marsh, (1895 (?) – 1982) fue una autora neozelandesa conocida sobre todo por sus muchas novelas policiacas protagonizadas por el inspector Roderick Alleyn de Scotland Yard y, en novelas posteriores, su mujer, Troy. Existe cierta incertidumbre sobre su fecha de nacimiento ya que su padre no registró su nacimiento hasta 1900. Marsh estudió pintura en la escuela de arte y fue actriz y productora teatral en Nueva Zelanda antes de viajar en 1928 a Inglaterra, donde escribió su primera novela, Un hombre muerto (A Man Lay Dead, 1934), en la que da a conocer al detective Roderick Alleyn. Aunque como bien ha señalado Curtis Evans, Marsh no fue muy reconocida hasta después de su trio Artists in Crime (1938), Death in a White Tie (1938) y Overture to Death (1939). En 1933 regresó a Nueva Zelanda, donde escribió muchas novelas más produciendo y dirigiendo obras de teatro del repertorio de Shakespeare. La agrupación teatral que ayudó a fundar en 1944 se convirtió en un pilar importante de la vida cultural de Nueva Zelanda. Marsh continuó produciendo obras de teatro en Nueva Zelanda y en el extranjero, principalmente en Inglaterra, a lo largo de su carrera.

En la década de 1930, Marsh ayudó a elevar la novela policiaca a la altura un género literario respetable al escribir libros que combinan un estilo literario elegante con personajes hábilmente observados y escenarios sociales creíbles. El mundo del arte y del teatro fueron el trasfondo de muchas de sus más de 30 novelas, incluidas Artists in Crime (1938), Final Curtain (1947) y Opening Night (1951), todas con la participación del inspector Alleyn. Estos libros, junto con obras como Overture to Death (1939), A Surfeit of Lampreys (1941), Death of a Fool (1956), Dead Water (1963), Black as He’s Painted (1974) y Light Thickens (1982) ), son ejemplos clásicos de novela policiaca tradicional, que ofrecen a los lectores un enigma ingeniosamente construido en el que participan personajes bien dibujados en un contexto auténtico. Marsh también escribió obras de teatro, ensayos y una autobiografía lírica pero no muy reveladora, Black Beech & Honeydew (Collins) en 1965 (ed. rev. 1981). La autora y editora británica Margaret Lewis escribió una biografía autorizada, Ngaio Marsh, A Life en 1991. La biografía de la historiadora de arte neozelandesa Joanne Drayton, Ngaio Marsh: Her Life in Crime, se publicó en el 2008. Hacia el final de su vida, destruyó sistemáticamente muchos de sus papeles, cartas, documentos y manuscritos. En 1966 fue nombrada Dama Comendadora de la Orden del Imperio Británico (DBE) por sus logros en el campo de las artes, y en 1978 fue nombrada Grand Master por Mystery Writers of America. Murió en Christchurch el 18 de febrero de 1982. Su casa ahora es un museo.

Bibliografía recommendada: Artists in Crime (1938); Los aristócratas también asesinan (1938); Preludio trágico (1939); Death at the Bar (1940); El crimen del ascensor (1941); La muerte y el lacayo bailarín (1942); Colour Scheme (1943); Cae el telón (1947); Noche de estreno (1951); El caso de la trucha salvaje (1955); Off With His Head [La muerte de un payaso] (1956); Falso perfume (1959); Dead Water (1963); Un asesino a bordo (1968); Tan negro como lo pintan (1974); y Light Thickens (1982).

Los relatos breves de Marsh se encuentran en Collected Short Mysteries (1989) editado por Douglas G. Greene.

Ediciones Siruela

Marsh, Ngaio (1895 (?) – 1982) updated 06-02-2022

Ngaio_Marsh_by_Henry_Herbert_Clifford_ca_1935,_cropNgaio Marsh, in full Dame Edith Ngaio Marsh DBE was a New Zealand crime writer and theatre director. She is known as one of the “Queens of Crime”, along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Margery Allingham. Marsh is known primarily for her character Inspector Roderick Alleyn, a gentleman detective who works for the Metropolitan Police (London). The Award for the best New Zealand mystery, crime and thriller fiction writing, that is granted annually, bears her name.

The picture enclosed: Ngaio Marsh by Henry Herbert Clifford ca 1935, is on the public domain and was uploaded from Wikipedia

Marsh was born in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her father neglected to register her birth until 1900 and there is some uncertainty about the date. Thus, she chose the 23 of April, and the year was most likely 1895. She was the only child of Rose and bank clerk Henry Marsh, described by Marsh as “have-nots”. Ngaio Marsh was educated at St Margaret’s College in Christchurch, where she was one of the first students when the school was founded. She studied painting at the Canterbury College (NZ) School of Art before joining the Allan Wilkie company as an actress in 1916 and touring New Zealand. For a short time in 1921 she joined the Rosemary Rees English Comedy Company, a touring company formed by actor-manager Rosemary Rees. In 1928, she went to London with friends (on whom she would base the Lamprey family [Surfeit of Lampreys]). Thus, from 1928 she divided her time between living in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In London, she began writing syndicated articles that were published back in New Zealand. In addition, she and one of the friends that she came to London with decided to open Touch and Go, an handcraft shop that sold items such as decorated trays, bowls, and lampshades. Thus, from 1928 to 1932 she operated this shop in Knightsbridge, London. During this time, she wrote her first book, A Man Lay Dead. Although Marsh was not well recognized until after her trio of Artists in Crime (1938), Death in a White Tie (1938) and Overture to Death (1939).

Internationally she is best known for her 32 detective novels published between 1934 and 1982. All her novels feature British CID detective Roderick Alleyn. Several novels feature Marsh’s other loves, the theatre and painting. A number are set around theatrical productions (Enter a Murderer, Vintage Murder, Overture to Death, Opening Night, Death at the Dolphin, and Light Thickens), and three others are about actors off stage (Colour Scheme, False Scent and Final Curtain). Her short story “‘I Can Find My Way Out” is also set around a theatrical production and is the earlier “Jupiter case” referred to in Opening Night; the short story won third prize in 1946 in the inaugural short story contest of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

Most of the novels are set in England, but four are set in New Zealand, with Alleyn either on secondment to the New Zealand police (Colour Scheme and Died in the Wool) or on holiday (Vintage Murder and Photo Finish); Surfeit of Lampreys begins in New Zealand but continues in London. Notably, Colour Scheme includes Māori people among its cast of characters, unusual for novels of the British mystery genre. This novel is said to further subvert the genre by incorporating elements of spy fiction and providing a veiled critique of the British Empire. In 2018, HarperCollins Publishers released Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy. The book was started by Marsh during World War II but abandoned. Working with just the book’s title, first three chapters and some notes—but no idea of the plot or motive of the villain—Duffy completed the novel.

Marsh’s great passion was the theatre. In 1942 she produced a modern-dress Hamlet for the Canterbury University College Drama Society (now University of Canterbury Dramatic Society Incorporated or Dramasoc), the first of many Shakespearean productions with the society until 1969. In 1944, Hamlet and a production of Othello toured a theatre-starved New Zealand to rapturous acclaim. In 1949, assisted by entrepreneur Dan O’Connor, her student players toured Australia with a new version of Othello and Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author. In the 1950s she was involved with the New Zealand Players, a relatively short-lived national professional touring repertory company. In 1972 she was invited by the Christchurch City Council to direct Shakespeare’s Henry V, the inaugural production for the opening of the newly constructed James Hay Theatre in Christchurch; she made the unusual choice of casting two male leads, who alternated on different nights. She lived to see New Zealand set up with a viable professional theatre industry with realistic Arts Council support, with many of her protégés to the forefront. The 430-seat Ngaio Marsh Theatre at the University of Canterbury is named in her honour.

Her home, now known as Ngaio Marsh House, in Cashmere, a suburb of Christchurch, on the northern slopes of the Port Hills is preserved as a museum.

Marsh was unofficially engaged to Edward Bristed, who died in action in December 1917. She never married and had no children. She enjoyed close companionships with women, including her lifelong friend Sylvia Fox, but denied being lesbian, according to biographer Joanne Drayton. She also wrote plays, essays, and an a lyrical but not very revealing autobiography, Black Beech & Honeydew (Collins) in 1965 (rev. ed. 1981). British author and publisher Margaret Lewis wrote an authorized biography, Ngaio Marsh, A Life in 1991. New Zealand art historian Joanne Drayton’s biography, Ngaio Marsh: Her Life in Crime was published in 2008. Towards the end of her life she systematically destroyed many of her papers, letters, documents and handwritten manuscripts. In 1966 she was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her accomplishments in the arts, and in 1978 she was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. She died in Christchurch on 18 February 1982. (Source: Wikipedia among other sources)

Bibliography: A Man Lay Dead (1934); Enter a Murderer (1935); The Nursing Home Murder (1935 with Henry Jellett); Death in Ecstasy (1936); Vintage Murder (1937); Artists in Crime (1938); Death in a White Tie (1938); Overture to Death (1939); Death at the Bar (1940); Surfeit of Lampreys (1941) [Death of a Peer in the U.S.]; Death and the Dancing Footman (1942); Colour Scheme (1943); Died in the Wool (1945); Final Curtain (1947); Swing Brother Swing (1949) [A Wreath for Rivera in the U.S.]; Opening Night (1951) [Night at the Vulcan in the U.S.]; Spinsters in Jeopardy (1953) [The Bride of Death in the U.S.]; Scales of Justice (1955); Off With His Head (1956) [Death of a Fool in the U.S]; Singing in the Shrouds (1958); False Scent (1959); Hand in Glove (1962); Dead Water (1963); Death at the Dolphin (1966) [Killer Dolphin in the U.S.]; Clutch of Constables (1968); When in Rome (1970); Tied Up in Tinsel (1972); Black As He’s Painted (1974); Last Ditch (1977); Grave Mistake (1978); Photo Finish (1980); Light Thickens (1982), and Money in the Morgue (2018) (unfinished – completed by Stella Duffy)

Marsh’s short works can be found in Collected Short Mysteries (1989) edited by Douglas G. Greene.

Further Reading:

My Book Notes: Artists in Crime, 1938 (Inspector Alleyn #6) by Ngaio Marsh

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HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2009. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 725 KB. Print Length: 298 pages. ASIN:  B002RI90UE. eISBN: 9780007344444. First published in Great Britain by Geoffrey Bles, in 1938.

x298Synopsis: One of Ngaio Marsh’s most famous murder mysteries, which introduces Inspector Alleyn to his future wife, the irrepressible Agatha Troy. It started as a student exercise, the knife under the drape, the model’s pose chalked in place. But before Agatha Troy, artist and instructor, returns to the class, the pose has been re-enacted in earnest: the model is dead, fixed for ever in one of the most dramatic poses Troy has ever seen. It’s a difficult case for Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn. How can he believe that the woman he loves is a murderess? And yet no one can be above suspicion…

The novel was televised in 1990 as the pilot for the television series The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, starring Simon Williams as Inspector Alleyn.

My take: One always doubts which book to begin with when faced with a long series, but after a short search in the Internet, I finally arrived at this title, the sixth instalment in Roderick Alleyn book series. And I believe it is a good choice, even though, strictly speaking, I had previously read Off with His Head (1957) by Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn #19) my review is here. In my opinion, there’s always the possibility to return back to previous titles, if the series ends up interesting us as much as to read it as a whole. Anyway, you can find here the Ngaio Marsh books  I have picked to start reading shortly.     

Coming back to the book at hand, we find Inspector Roderick Alleyn on board the ship that is bringing him back home from New Zealand, where he had moved on to solve the previous case. Following a layover in Suva (Fiji), Alleyn fixes his attention on a young woman who is making a preliminary sketch of the landscape. After awhile, he realises she is Agatha Troy, whom he had seen a year ago at a solo exhibition in London. From now on, she will be known as Troy only. Back in England, Troy is directing a course for a diverse group of young artists at her house in Tatler’s End. One day, while making a sketch of a model laying on the floor next to a knife, they discuss the different alternatives by which she, the model, could have been really murdered. Much to their surprise, she ends up being truly murdered. One Monday, after spending the weekend in London to attend a theatrical performance, everything thing is ready to start a new session. The model gets ready to pose. Regretfully, the knife had been disposed in such a way that when she leans her back over a drape, the knife pierces her, killing her almost instantly. Coincidentally, Alleyn  is close to Tatler’s Ends, spending a few days with his mother, before getting back to his duties in Scotland Yard. But he must put an end to his holidays when his superiors order him to get a handle on the case.

Artists in Crime is a thoroughly entertaining book, nicely written and, at its core, a neatly crafted intelligent enigma. Although its pace might seem a bit slow at times, that doesn’t prevent us to fully enjoy its reading. A classic detective story, a mystery novel littered with red herrings that plays fair with the reader and with a denouement that, I’m sure, will astound the most perceptive reader. Highly recommended.  Next, I look forward to reading Death in a White Tie, 1938.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

Artists in Crime has been reviewed at Mystery Mile, Classic Mysteries, My Reader’s Block, Death Can Read, Gadetection, among others.

About the Author: Dame Ngaio Marsh was born in New Zealand in 1895 and died in February 1982. She wrote over 30 detective novels and many of her stories have theatrical settings, for Ngaio Marsh’s real passion was the theatre. She was both actress and producer and almost single-handed revived the New Zealand public’s interest in the theatre. It was for this work that she received what she called her ‘damery’ in 1966.

HarperCollins Publishers UK publicity page

Felony & Mayhem US publicity page

Ngaio Marsh House & Heritage Trust

Ngaio Marsh: A Crime Reader’s Guide to the Classics

audible

Artists in Crime (Artistas del delito), de Ngaio Marsh

Sinopsis: Uno de los más famosos misteriosos asesinatos de Ngaio Marsh, en el que el inspector Alleyn conoce a su futura esposa, la indómita Agatha Troy. Comenzó como un ejercicio de aprendizaje, el cuchillo debajo de la cortina, la postura de la modelo marcada en su lugar. Pero antes de que Agatha Troy, artista y profesora, regrese a clase, la pose ha sido recreada de verdad: la modelo está muerta, inalterable para siempre en una de las posturas más dramáticas que Troy haya visto. Es un caso difícil para el inspector jefe inspector Alleyn. ¿Cómo puede creer que sea la asesina la mujer a la que ama? Y sin embargo, nadie puede estar por encima de toda sospecha ….

La novela fue televisada en 1990 como la prueba piloto de la serie de televisión Los misterios del inspector Alleyn, protagonizada por Simon Williams en el papel del Inspector Alleyn.

Mi opinión: Uno siempre duda con qué libro comenzar cuando nos enfrentamos a una larga serie, pero después de una breve búsqueda en Internet, finalmente llegué a este título, la sexta entrega en la serie de libros de Roderick Alleyn. Y creo que es una buena opción, aunque, estrictamente hablando, anteriormente había leído Off with His Head (1957) de Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn # 19), mi reseña está aquí. En mi opinión, siempre existe la posibilidad de volver a los títulos anteriores, si la serie termina por interesarnos tanto como por leerla en su totalidad. De todos modos, aquí puede encontrar los libros de Ngaio Marsh que he elegido para comenzar a leer en breve.

Volviendo al libro que nos ocupa, encontramos al inspector Roderick Alleyn a bordo del barco que lo trae de regreso a casa desde Nueva Zelanda, donde se trasladó para resolver el caso anterior. Después de una escala en Suva (Fiji), Alleyn fija su atención en una joven que está haciendo un bosquejo preliminar del paisaje. Después de un rato, se da cuenta de que ella es Agatha Troy, a quien había visto hace un año en una exposición individual en Londres. De ahora en adelante, será conocida solo como Troy. De vuelta en Inglaterra, Troy está dirigiendo un curso para un grupo diverso de jóvenes artistas en su casa en Tatler’s End. Un día, mientras hacen un boceto de una modelo tendida en el suelo junto a un cuchillo, discuten las diferentes alternativas por las cuales ella, la modelo, podría haber sido realmente asesinada. Para su sorpresa, ella termina siendo asesinada de verdad. Un lunes, después de pasar el fin de semana en Londres para asistir a una representación teatral, todo está listo para comenzar una nueva sesión. La modelo se prepara para posar. Lamentablemente, el cuchillo había sido dispuesto de tal manera que cuando se recuesta sobre una cortina, el cuchillo la atraviesa, matándola casi instantáneamente. Casualmente, Alleyn está cerca de Tatler’s Ends, pasando unos días con su madre, antes de volver a sus tareas en Scotland Yard. Pero debe poner fin a sus vacaciones cuando sus superiores le ordenen que se haga cargo del caso.

Artists in Crime  es un libro muy entretenido, bien escrito y, en esencia, un enigma inteligente perfectamente elaborado. Aunque su ritmo puede parecer un poco lento a veces, eso no nos impide disfrutar plenamente de su lectura. Una historia de detectives clásica, una novela de misterio llena de pistas falsas que juega limpio con el lector y con un desenlace que, estoy seguro, asombrará al lector más perspicaz. Muy recomendable.  A continuación, espero leer Los aristócratas también asesinan (Death in a White Tie, 1938).

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Dame Ngaio Marsh nació en Nueva Zelanda en 1895 y murió en febrero de 1982. Escribió más de 30 novelas de detectives y muchas de sus historias se desarrollan en un entorno teatral, dado que la verdadera pasión de Ngaio Marsh era el teatro. Fue actriz y productora, y casi sola resucitó el interés del público de Nueva Zelanda por el teatro. Fue por este trabajo que recibió lo que ella denominó su “damery” (título honorífico de Dama del Imperio Británico) en 1966.

Mis destectives favoritos Roderick Alleyn – Ngaio Marsh

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, http://find.natlib.govt.nz/primo_library/libweb/action/display.do?fn=display&doc=nlnz_tapuhi962084&vid=TF&afterPDS=true, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11037280

Review: Off with His Head (1957) by Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn #19)

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Harper an imprint of HarperCollinsPublisherss, 2009. Format: Kindle. File size: 603 KB. Print length: 304. First published in Great Britain by Collins, 1957. eISBN: 9780007344727. ASIN:B002YPORTY

9780006512455

The story revolves around a Morris dance known as the Dance of the Five Sons; a folk dance that, according to the author’s note, ‘is a purely imaginary synthesis combining in most unlikely profusion the elements of several dances and mumming plays’. The action takes place in the fictional village of South Mardian and it begins  with the arrival of Mrs Anna Bünz, a German refugee, who came over with her late husband before the war. Mrs Bünz has interest in the study of folklore manifestations and she intends to attend the representation of the Morris Sword Dance that it is performed annually on the first Wednesday after the Winter Solstice at Mardian Castle’s courtyard, the home of Dame Alice Mardian. After the introduction of the characters involved, it arrives the day of the performance. Nine men have a direct participation in the dance: Five Sons, a Fiddler, a Betty, a Horse and a Fool. The Fool is played by William Andersen, also known as Old Guiser. The Five Sons are his five sons in real life, Dr Otterly plays the fiddle. The Betty is Mr Stayne, a lawyer from Biddlefast and the great grand nephew of Lady Mardian. And the Horse, called “Crack”, is played by Simmy-Dick Begg, who has a garage at Yowford. At one point the Fool is decapitated by his Five Sons and he hides himself behind the Mardian Dolmen. The show ends up with his resurrection. But this time the Fool is found dead, he has been killed in front of the audience and nobody has been able to see how it has happened. Inspector Roderick Alleyn finds himself faced with one of the most difficult cases in his career.

Off with His Head (aka Death of a Fool), the nineteenth detective novel to feature Roderick Alleyn, has been my first encounter with Ngaio Marsh. I chose this book to participate in Crimes of the Century, last month over at Past Offences. Regretfully, I did not make it on time. In any case I enjoyed the experience and I’m looking forward to reading more of her novels. But to tell you the truth I found myself with some difficulties, though perhaps they can only be attributed to myself only. First and foremost I have had to struggle with some words. Fortunately enough, I read it on my Kindle which provides immediate access to an English dictionary. Secondly, I also had to struggle with the local dialect that, in some instances, I found it hard to understand. But I was not discouraged by those hurdles. My true objection is that, in my view, some chapters are too repetitive. In particular, when each character gives his/her own account of the facts. Though maybe that is also part of the police investigation. Anyway, the narration improves as we approach to the last chapters and, both the murder as the solution, turn out to be extremely clever. It also provides some thought upon the difficulties soldiers may find to resume their places in civil life. I would not want to miss pointing out that Marsh’s love for the theater, in general, and Shakespeare, in particular, is present in all her works, and this one is no exception. All in all, a highly entertaining novel populated by attractive, peculiar and picturesque characters.

My rating: A (I loved it)

Off With His Head has been reviewed at Gadetection and at Mystery Mile

Dame Ngaio Marsh, one of New Zealand’s most remarkable and charismatic women, was world-renowned as a leading crime fiction writer and as an eminent Shakespearian producer. Internationally she is best known for her 32 crime novels featuring Detective Roderick Alleyn, published between 1934 and 1982 (the year she died). Along with Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Dorothy Sayers she was considered one of the original “Queens of Crime” – the four ‘British’ women who dominated the Golden Age of detective fiction in the early part of the 20th century. (Source: Craig Sisterson at his blog Crime Watch Have you read Ngaio Marsh?) Other Ngaio Marsh books on my radar: Artists in Crime (1938), Death in a White Tie (1938), Overture to Death (1939), Surfeit of Lampreys (1940), Death and the Dancing Footman (1942), Opening Night (1951), Scales of Justice (1955) and False Scent (1960).

HarperCollins Publishers publicity page

Felony & Mayhem publicity page

audible 

Ngaio Marsh House& Heritage Trust

Have you read Ngaio Marsh? 

Ten Tastes of Dame Ngaio Marsh 

Some Thoughts on Ngaio Marsh

La muerte de un payaso de Ngaio Marsh

La historia gira en torno a una danza Morris conocida como la Danza de los Cinco Hijos; una danza popular que, según la nota de la autora “es una síntesis puramente imaginaria que combina, con profusión los más improbables elementos de varios bailes y teatros de máscaras”. La acción tiene lugar en el pueblo ficticio de South Mardian y comienza con la llegada de la señora Anna Bünz, una refugiada alemana, que llegó con su difunto esposo antes de la guerra. La señora Bünz tiene interés en el estudio de las manifestacione folclóricas y tiene la intención de asistir a la representación de la danza de espadas, que se interpreta anualmente el primer miércoles después del solsticio de invierno en el patio del Castillo de Mardian, el hogar de Dame Alice Mardian. Después de la introducción de los personajes involucrados, llega el día de la función. Nueve hombres tienen una participación directa en la danza: Cinco Hijos, un Violinista, Betty, un Caballo y un Loco. El Loco es interpretado por William Andersen, también conocido como el Viejo Guiser. Los Cinco Hijos son sus cinco hijos en la vida real, el Dr. Otterly toca el violín. Betty es el Sr. Stayne, un abogado de Biddlefast, sobrino nieto de Lady Mardian. Y el Caballo, llamado “Crack”, es interpretado por Simmy-Dick Begg, que tiene un garaje en Yowford. En un momento dado el Loco es decapitado por sus Cinco Hijos y se esconde detrás del dolmen de Mardian. El espectáculo termina con su resurrección. Pero en esta ocasión el Loco es encontrado muerto, ha sido asesinado en frente de la audiencia y nadie ha sido capaz de ver cómo ha sucedido. El inspector Roderick Alleyn se enfrenta a uno de los casos más difíciles de su carrera. 

Que le corten la cabeza (también conocido como La muerte de un payaso), la decimonovena novela policíaca que presenta a Roderick Alleyn, ha sido mi primer encuentro con Ngaio Marsh. Elegí este libro para participar en Crímenes del siglo, durante el mes pasado en Past Offences. Lamentablemente, no pude llegar a tiempo. En cualquier caso, me gustó mucho la experiencia y estoy deseando leer más de sus novelas. Pero a decir verdad, me encontré con algunas dificultades, aunque tal vez sólo pueden ser atribuidas a mí mismo. Primero y ante todo, he tenido que luchar con algunas palabras. Afortunadamente, lo leí en mi Kindle, que ofrece acceso inmediato a un diccionario de Inglés. En segundo lugar, también tuve que luchar con el dialecto local que, en algunos casos, me resultaba difícil de entender. Pero no me desanimé por esos obstáculos. Mi verdadera objeción es que, en mi opinión, algunos capítulos son demasiado repetitivos. En particular, cuando cada personaje cuenta su propia versión de los hechos. Aunque tal vez eso es también parte de la investigación policial. De todos modos, la narración mejora a medida que nos acercamos a los últimos capítulos y, tanto el asesinato como la solución, resultan ser muy inteligentes. También proporciona una reflexión sobre las dificultades que los soldados pueden encontrar para reincorporarse a la vida civil. No quisiera dejar de señalar que el amor de Marsh por el teatro, en general, y Shakespeare, en particular, está presente en todas sus obras, y ésta no es una excepción. En definitiva, una novela muy entretenida poblada de personajes interesantes, peculiares y pintorescos.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Dame Ngaio Marsh, una de las mujeres más notables y carismáticoas de Nueva Zelanda, fue mundialmente reconocida como una de las principales escritoras de novela negra y como eminente productora de obras de Shakespeare. Internacionalmente es más reconocida por sus 32 novelas negras protagonizadas por el detective Roderick Alleyn, publicadas entre 1934 y 1982 (el año de su muerte). Junto con Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham y Dorothy Sayers está considerada una de las auténticas “Reinas del Crimen” – las cuatro mujeres británicas ”que dominaron la edad de oro de la novela policíaca en la primera mitad del siglo XX.” (Fuente: Craig Sisterson en su blog Crime Watch ¿Ha leído a Ngaio Marsh?) Otros libros Ngaio Marsh en mi radar: Artists in Crime (1938), Death in a White Tie (1938), Overture to Death (1939), Surfeit of Lampreys (1940), Death and the Dancing Footman (1942), Opening Night (1951), Scales of Justice (1955) y False Scent (1960).

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