Among my collection of mystery novels by my most venerated mystery novel writers (Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), Marsh’s titles are the ones that I am able to find every so often. I guess it’s because among the three, she is the most unheard of.
So once again, I’ve come over another Marsh novel: Hand in Glove. The story tells of a murder that happened while a social party was ongoing. The victim, Mr. Harold Cartell, a well-known barrister, fell into an excavation hole filled with muddy water; then, somebody let loose an 850-pound drainage pipe over his head. Of course, instant death was inevitable. But who wanted to kill him so badly …and brutally?
I have read my seventh Ngaio Marsh mystery, 12th in Marsh’s bibliographical chronology.
First published in 1943, this October 1984 edition features Inspector Roderick Alleyn in a mediocre spa-slash-hot spring-slash-resort (Wai-ata-tapu Hot Springs) in war-infested New Zealand. He is submerged in an irritating but small number of “patriots” where speculation of an enemy agent is amongst them. At first, everything is tolerable: the Claire family’s (owners of the spa) imbecility, Mr. Maurice Questing’s taking-over the spa as owner and manager, Herbert Smith’s near brush with death, the unsatisfying treatment of Geoffrey Gaunt (a world-famous theater actor), the impending theft of a cultural heritage, a torpedoed ship of relief goods, and the arrival of a mysterious Septimus Falls. Then, a suspected nauseating murder surfaces.
One of my favorite murder mystery novel writers is Edith Ngaio Marsh/Dame Ngaio Marsh DBE (1895-1982) of New Zealand. She is the author of 32 murder mystery novels–all whodunits–featuring the gentleman detective, Roderick Alleyn. She is one-fourth of the “Queens of Crime” of the golden age of the detective fiction era (the others being Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, and Dorothy L. Sayers). Her name means “flowering tree.”
Born at Christchurch, she was educated at Saint Margaret’s College, Christchurch; and at the Canterbury University School of Art. She went on to become a theater actress with the Allan Wilkie company in New Zealand for two years. Afterwards, in 1928, she supervised a house-decorating business in London. Accordingly, it was during this time that she conceptualized and wrote her first novel, A Man Lay Dead (1934). She returned to New Zealand in 1932 and gave the manuscript for A Man Lay Dead to a publishing agent. It was then published two years later. From then on, she wrote her 31 other mystery novels: