Margery Allingham-Campion Book Titles

Below is a list of Margery Allingham-Albert Campion book titles. As always look for the capital letters in the puzzle. Solution will follow in a separate post.

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Edith Ngaio Marsh

Many of you have heard about the Golden Age of Mysteries. It was introduced in the 1920’s and reached a peak in the 1930’s, and perhaps lasted as long as the authors who wrote in this style. The Golden Age of Mysteries had specific rules that mystery authors were expected to follow. (Note: check my The Golden Age of Mysteries blog from September, 2012)

Agatha Christie for her entire body of work is called the “Queen of Crime.” However, during this same period there were four writers who were designated as the “Queens of Mystery.” The title belongs to Christie and Dorothy Sayers who were discussed in previous blogs, but there are two other women who share this honor. They are Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. This blog is about Ngaio Marsh with Allingham being discussed at a later time.

Edith Ngaio Marsh

Edith Ngaio (pronounced Nigh-oh) Marsh was born in April of 1895 and was the only child of her mother, Rose and her bank clerk father, Henry Marsh.  There is some doubt about her actual birth date because her father did not register her birth until 1900. She lived at the same address for 76 years and died in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand in February, 1982.

Marsh-A Prolific Writer

Marsh wrote 32 mystery novels between 1934 and 1982 featuring her gentleman detective Roderick Alleyn. Although Marsh was a New Zealander, only four of her novels were set in her home country. While known for her Alleyn mystery novels, she also published short stories, numerous plays and three non-fiction books including her autobiography, Black Beech and Honeydew. Over the years March valued and protected her privacy. Thus, many were surprised when she wrote her autobiography which gave readers an insight to not only her writings but her private life.

Marsh was an Avid Researcher

Marsh thoroughly researched her stories and plays. For example, for medical knowledge, she relied on doctors who were family friends and had operated on her. She kept a chart of the command hierarchy for New Scotland Yard. Aside from her own observations, she constantly researched other information for her stories at the library. She kept notebook after notebook of her research work. Marsh -young woman

Marsh as Artist, Actresses and Writer 

March was always interested in the arts. She attended St. Margaret’s College from 1910-14, where she showed a talent for writing poetry, prose and plays as well as acting. In 1913, she attended Canterbury College of Art and when she left in 1919 she had her sights set on becoming a professional painter. However, when she was given the opportunity to tour with a Shakespeare company she delayed her painting plans.

Interest in Theater

While Marsh was known for her creation of mystery stories, she also maintained a life-long passion for the theater. At home her parents followed strict Victorian standards, but they took their young daughter to many theater performances. Her parents also performed as amateur actors. Marsh felt her mother had a creative side that was never fully realized and her mother even performed in one of her plays.

One of the early theater performances Marsh attended was Christie’s Alibi. Charles Laughton played the brilliant detective Poirot.

Ngaio Marsh

Awards for Marsh

Marsh received several awards including Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1966 and the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement as a detective novelist from the Mystery Writers of America in 1978.

March Visits England

In 1928, Marsh made her first trip to England. She enjoyed London life and worked in theatre, interior design and continued to paint. She stayed with her friends Helen and Tahu Rhodes and their five children and the two women remained lifelong friends. She was an avid people watcher and an observer of events. While staying in England, she earned money by sending travel logs back to New Zealand.

While in England in 1931, Marsh purchase some pencils and several notebooks and started writing her first mystery. She would introduce the world to Detective Chief-Inspector  Roderick Alleyn in 1934.

The Golden Age of Mysteries

Ngaio Marsh was the last to join the other ladies as a Queen of Mystery during the Golden Age. At the time Marsh entered the field, the other writers, Christie, Sayers and Allingham were at their prime and perhaps paved the way for Marsh. In 1934 when Marsh published her first book, the others all added to their list of titles.

1934

Christie’s— Murder on the Orient Express

Marsh—first book A Man Lay Dead

Sayers — Nine Taylors

Allingham—Death of a Ghost

 

The Detection Club

On one of Marsh’s visits to England she was invited to attend a monthly dinner of the Detection Club at Grosvenor House. After dinner, the group retired to a drawing room to watch the induction ceremony for E.C. Bentley. Christie was not at the ceremony, but Marsh meet her later that evening.

Dorothy Sayers was the mistress of ceremonies for this induction. Sayers was an imposing figure who towered over her fellow members. The lights went out, the door opened and Sayers wearing her academic robes, holding a single candle lead the procession into the room. Hidden in her gown was a revolver. In fact, all members had a weapon. The last member of the procession carried a skull named “Eric” on a cushion. Sayers with Eric

While Marsh followed the principles of the Detection Club, she was unable to officially join the group. The club required that members attend five to six dinners per year and with March splitting her time between New Zealand and England she was unable to meet this requirement.

Writing Becomes a Career

Marsh was still torn between her desire to develop her skill as a painter. However, her writing career took off with the publication of Enter a Murderer (1935) and The Nursing Home Murder (1936). These two novels established her place as a leading crime writer.

Marsh’s Detective– Roderick Alleyn

When we meet Roderick Alleyn, in the first book, A Man Lay Dead, he’s 40 years old, but already a Detective Chief-Inspector at Scotland Yard. We learn that Alleyn is a member of the gentry, with an older brother, Sir George, who’s a baronet. He was raised in Buckinghamshire where his mother Lady Alleyn continues to live. He graduated from Oxford, served in army for three years during World War I, spent a year in the foreign service and then joined the police department as a constable.

The first Alleyn Mystery –A Man Lay Dead

A Man Lay Dead is the first novel featuring Alleyn and as mentioned above was published in 1934. The plot concerns a murder committed during a weekend party in a country house where the guests were playing a murder game. This was a popular activity at weekend parties and especially with Sir Hubert. A Man Lay Dead 2

The murder itself concerns a small group of guests staying at Sir Hubert Handesley’s estate. The guests include Sir Hubert’s niece (Angela North), Charles Rankin (a man about town), Nigel Bathgate (Charles’s cousin and a gossip reporter), Rosamund Grant, and Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Wilde. Also in attendance are an art expert and a Russian butler.

During the game, one of the guests is secretly selected to be the murderer. The murderer gets to select the victim. At some point, the murderer taps the selected guest on the shoulder, indicating that they are the victim.  Once the victim is selected, the lights go out, a gong rings, and then everyone assembles to determine who did it. It is all intended to be light-hearted fun. Except at this party, the corpse is for real.

Unlike later novels, this first novel is focused more on Nigel Bathgate and less on Alleyn. However, Alleyn is tasked with uncovering the culprit even though all seven suspects have alibis. He brings it to a successful conclusion while being distracted by sub-plots focused on the Russians and secret societies.

The Marsh Contribution to Mysteries

Marsh is sometimes hidden behind the works of Christie and Sayers, but stands just as tall in following the principles that make a good mystery. There’s a murder, with a substantial list of suspects and many clues. There are sub-plots and of course, red herrings. Then enters Detective Chief-Inspector Alleyn who interviews the suspects and follows the clues until a solution begins to emerge. And if the reader is paying close attention they have an equal opportunity, along with Alleyn, to solve the crime. Ngaio Marsh provides the reader with a good mystery.

One last thought. Now that Hercule Poirot has finished all of his stories on PBS, how about a series featuring Detective Chief-Inspector Roderick Alleyn. There are thirty-two stories just waiting for the opportunity. I do love watching a good mystery on PBS, don’t you?

 

PD James Comments about Marsh

  • “Death is never glamorized nor trivialized in Ngaio Marsh.”
  • “Readers in the golden years demanded not only that the victim be murdered, but that he or she be, intriguingly and bizarrely murdered…the method of murder in a Ngaio Marsh novel tends to linger in the memory.”

 

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Ngaio Marsh-Roderick Alleyn Word Search -Solution

Were you able to find the key words from the 32 novels featuring Marsh’s gentleman detective, Roderick Alleyn? Just in case you have any questions,  here’s the solution to the puzzle.

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Ngaio Marsh-Roderick Alleyn Titles Word Search

Ngaio Marsh wrote 32 novels featuring her gentleman detective, Roderick Alleyn. Listed below are the titles and the date they were published. Look for the capitalized words in puzzle.

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TV Mystery Shows #4 Word Search -Solution

Just in case you want to double check your answers to see if you captured all the latest mystery shows, here is the solution. Although, I’ll bet you found them all.

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TV Mystery Shows #4

There are so many wonderful television shows available to watch. Here are a few more to add to your list. Look for the words in capital letters.

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Agatha Raisin Titles Word Search Solution

I know you found them all. However, just in case you want to double check your answers, here is the solution for the Agatha Raisin word search titles.

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Agatha Raisin Book Titles

As mentioned in the blog on M.C. Beaton and Agatha Raisin, there are many more books for creating PBS shows. From the list of book titles below, look for the words in capital letters. Solution to follow at a later date.

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M.C. Beaton and Agatha Raisin

As many of you would agree, British television does a marvelous job with developing and presenting mystery shows. And fortunately for us, PBS brings many of these shows to this country.

After watching hundreds of episodes of the various British series, I’ve come to the conclusion that these mystery shows fall into three categories. There are the dark story lines like, Sherlock, Vera, Case Histories or Jack Taylor. There is the cozy type of mysteries like all the Christie stories with Poirot and Miss Marple or Midsomer Murders. Then there is the last category which I classify as the lighthearted mysteries. The lighthearted mystery shows definitely investigate murder but are sprinkled with a heavy amount of humor and social behaviors. Examples of these shows include Murder in Suburbia, Father Brown and one of the latest entries Agatha Raisin.

Marion Chesney and M.C. Beaton MC Beaton 1

Agatha Raisin is a series based on the books by British writer Marion Chesney under her pseudonym M.C. Beaton.

M.C. Beaton/Chesney was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1936. Her first job was in the fiction department of booksellers, John Smith & Sons Ltd.  While working for Smith she received a job offer from the Scottish Daily Mail where she was a reviewer of variety shows and then advanced to the job of theater critic. She left Smith when she took on the duties of fashion editor with Scottish Field magazine. Her next job was at Scottish Daily Express where she was a crime reporter. Once more she made a move to the Daily Express where she became the chief woman reporter. All these reporting jobs provided her with a variety of writing experiences.

She married Harry Scott Gibbons and had a son, Charles. Harry took a job as editor of the Oyster Bay Guardian and the family moved to the United States. This job did not work out and they moved to Virginia where Marion actually worked as a waitress. Finally, they both found jobs in New York on Rupert Murdock’s new tabloid, The Star. However, Marion wanted to spend more time with her son and her husband agreed.

She left her reporting career and switched to writing Regency romances under her maiden name of Marion Chesney. After authoring over 100 romances, she eventually tired of writing about the limited period between 1811 to 1820. She turned to writing detectives stories using the pseudonym M.C. Beaton.

The family eventually returned to England. Marion continued writing while Harry raised black sheep in Scotland. However, it was a long commute from London to Scotland. When their son finished school, they moved to the Cotswolds which also happens to be the home of the Agatha Raisin series.

Agatha Raisin-the Early Years

We learn from the short story Agatha’s First Case that Agatha Raisin is a 26-year-old woman working at a public relations firm. She is doing all the work and receiving little reward for her effort. She’s willing to do this because she is trying to better herself from her humble beginnings in a block slum in Birmingham.

Raisins 1st case

When Sir Bryce Teller is charged with murder Agatha is sent to break the news that the firm will no longer keep him as a client. However, during the interview Agatha decides to help with the press. Once he sees her ability at handling the press, he sets Agatha up in her own PR firm.

While establishing her PR firm, Agatha also proves that Sir Teller didn’t kill his wife and thus, establishes her detective credentials.

Her understanding of people, in addition to her PR skills over the years helps Agatha grow her business into one of the most successful agencies in London.

Agatha Raisin Retires to the Cotswolds

Now we jump ahead in time with the first book Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death. This is also the first episode in the PBS series. Agatha is now 53 and owns a highly successful PR agency with top clients. She has made her fortune and has also made the decision to retire while she can still enjoy life.

Based on a childhood memory of a camping trip she decides to leave London and retire to the fictional village of Carsely in the Cotswold. She is ready for a quiet retirement by enjoying life in a quaint village. And village life and all it has to offer would be perfect if it wasn’t for the murders.

Agatha decides the best way to fit into village life is to participate in the various activities. Her first attempt at blending in is by entering the local contest for baking the best quiche. There’s only one problem−Agatha doesn’t cook. Her cooking is limited to having a selection of prepared and frozen food items that she microwaves for most of her personal meals. For her entry in the baking competition, Agatha purchases a quiche from “The Quichery,” a top delicatessen in London. However, even with a professional entry, Agatha doesn’t win.

After the contest, the judge, Mr. Cummings-Browne takes home Agatha’s left-over quiche. The next day he is found dead after eating a second slice of the spinach quiche. However, this slice of quiche was laced with cowbane and Agatha quickly becomes the top suspect.

In order to help her defense as the potential murderer, she is forced to admit that her quiche was store bought. This faux pas immediately reduces her standing in the village to that of a cheater. In order to get back in the good graces of the villagers, she decides she must solve the crime.

Agatha Raisin on PBS 

Agatha Raisin Season 1

In the television series, the story lines tend to follow the original plots of the books. However, there are several character modifications from those in the books. However, the changes seem to add to the television drama.

Agatha, played by Ashley Jensen is clearly not 53, but an active forty something This age difference is reinforced when Bill Wong, the local constable, fills out his on-line dating profile and lists he is interested in women 40-50. He’s hoping to attract Agatha.

In addition to Bill, Agatha relies on an eclectic group of helpers including Roy Silver from her PR days in London and her house cleaner, Gemma Simpson and her daughter.  James Lacey, Agatha’s good-looking neighbor, is introduced early in the first television episode and plays a role in saving Agatha from danger. To make your own character comparisons be sure to check out the books as well as the PBS series.

This crew of amateur detectives under Agatha’s guidance plow through the list of suspects who can be just as eclectic as her helpers. Sometimes they stumble into misadventures but at the end of the day, they uncover the killer of quiche judge Cummings-Browne.

And so, life in the village continues with a sprinkling of murders to keep it from becoming too complacent or dull for the dynamic Agatha Raisin.

This is only one example from the first season of the television series. There are many more adventures based on the books to entertain PBS viewers. In fact, there are many more books available beyond those represented in this first season. To date there is only one season of this delightful series. Hopefully, with the added interest from American PBS audiences, producers will be persuaded to film several more seasons of Agatha Raisin.

Note: Marion Chesney is the author of the Hamish Macbeth detective series, which she also writes under the pseudonym M.C. Beaton. Perhaps in a future blog we will discuss this series.

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Methods of Murder #3 Word Search- Solution

Here are the answers for the latest Methods of Murder Word Search. How did you do? Did you find all the dastardly ways to commit murder?
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