Marsh, Ngaio (1895–1982)

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Marsh, Ngaio (1895–1982)

New Zealandborn novelist. Name variations: Ngaio Edith Marsh; Edith Marsh; Dame Ngaio Marsh. Pronunciation: 1st name is pronounced "nye-o." Born Edith Ngaio Marsh, April 23, 1895, in Merivale, Christchurch, New Zealand; died Feb 18, 1982, in Canterbury, New Zealand; dau. of Henry Edmund Marsh (a bank clerk) and Rose Elizabeth (Seager) Marsh; attended Canterbury University College School of Art (1915–20).

One of 20th-century–s foremost writers of detective fiction, began career as an actress, appearing on stage in Australia and New Zealand for several years; also wrote or co-wrote plays; was a producer and director of stage dramas in New Zealand, many of them classics from the Shakespearean repertoire, and often incorporated the world of actors, rehearsals, and curtain calls into her plots; published A Man Lay Dead (1934), introducing the urbane Detective Roderick Alleyn, who would reappear in much of her work; set most of her novels—such as Death in a White Tie (1938), Final Curtain (1947), Spinsters in Jeopardy (1953), Clutch of Constables (1968), and Grave Mistake (1978)—on the playgrounds of the rich and idle: English country house parties or the French Riviera; wrote over 30 books and consistently won critical acclaim for her prose, characterizations, and insight into social mores; spent much of her adult life divided between homes in her native land and London. Named a Dame Commander of the British Empire (1966).

See also autobiography, Black Beech and Honeydew (1965); B.J. Rahn, Ngaio Marsh: The Woman and Her Work (Scarecrow Press, 1995); and Women in World History.