Discovering Ngaio Marsh

One of the best things about synod meetings is chatting with old or new friends over meals or on walks between buildings. And one of the most interesting conversations for me this year at Synod Nyack 2012 was a brief discussion about writers with Rev. Leo DeVos, the fraternal delegate from the Reformed Churches of New Zealand (RCNZed).

He and I had each recently visited Wheaton College, and I talked about the fascinating objects and books housed in the Marion E. Wade Center (including the desks of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers’ eyeglasses, and much more).

Dame Ngaio Marsh, 1895-1982
from the Dame Ngaio Marsh’s Home website

Sayers is probably my favorite mystery author. In fact, I would have said “favorite” without any qualifiers a week ago, but that was before I read my first book by Ngaio Marsh, recommended by Rev. DeVos. Now I’m not so sure; Marsh’s literary quality equals Sayers and surpasses Agatha Christie’s, while her writing seems more accessible than either.

Since I’ve read only one of Marsh’s books, Died in the Wool, my opinion may change. But I’m eager to discover if my first impressions are confirmed by further reading.

Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, as Edith Ngaio Marsh, she chose to write as “Ngaio,” a Maori word that means “light reflecting on water.” With Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, and Margery Allingham, she’s know as one of the “Queens of Crime.” The home in Christchurch were she lived for 77 years survived recent earthquakes and remains open to visitors.

Summer is prime time for mystery reading in my mind. I’ve long been a big fan of British cozies. Ever since I was in high school, I’ve used the summer months for light reading, primarily mysteries. My definition of summer vacation is reading a mystery while sitting on the front porch swing, as its gentle motion matches an undulating breeze and white clouds float in a bright blue sky above vivid green grass.

What’s your favorite summer reading? When and where do you like to read mysteries?


4 thoughts on “Discovering Ngaio Marsh

  1. Summer reading? For me, it’s usually anything I don’t have time for during the school year. I like a good mystery/adventure novel now and then, but one of my all-time favorites is the memoirs of the Yorkshire vet James Herriot. They’re readable, they’re funny, and they’re such an apt picture of human nature in so many ways.


    1. Herriot’s books have long been among my favorites as well. We have the BBC production of All Creatures Great and Small (series 1), featuring the talented trio of Christopher Timothy, Robert Hardy, and Peter Davison. They are, definitely, fun!

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