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27 June 1991
Ngaio MarshA Life 
by Margaret Lewis.
Chatto, 276 pp., £18, April 1991, 0 7011 3389 9
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... Of the four Queens of Crime who dominated the 1930s – Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, NgaioMarsh and Dorothy L. Sayers – NgaioMarsh reigns supreme for excellence of style and characterisation,’ writes Margaret Lewis in her introduction. The proposition could be contested; it could be maintained that Christie is more ingenious ...

Great Tradition

Robert Barnard

18 December 1980
Plaster Sinners 
by Colin Watson.
Eyre Methuen, 160 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 413 39040 3
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Photo-Finish 
by Ngaio Marsh.
Collins, 262 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 00 231857 1
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The Predator 
by Russell Braddon.
Joseph, 192 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7181 1958 4
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... to quibble. The Flaxborough Chronicles (or ‘novels’, as they now seem to be called, which is surely unwise) sit comfortably, invitingly on our shelves, demanding periodic rereading. The list of NgaioMarsh’s works at the beginning of Photo-Finish omits several books published in the mid-Thirties, which are still in print and are far from shame-making. Miss Marsh must by now have written ...

Gangsters in Hats

Richard Mayne

17 May 1984
Essays on Detective Fiction 
edited by Bernard Benstock.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £20, February 1984, 0 333 32195 2
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Dashiell Hammett: A Life at the Edge 
by William Nolan.
Arthur Barker, 276 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 213 16886 3
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The Life of Dashiell Hammett 
by Diane Johnson.
Chatto, 344 pp., £12.95, January 1984, 9780701127664
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Hellman in Hollywood 
by Bernard Dick.
Associated University Presses, 183 pp., £14.95, September 1983, 0 8386 3140 1
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... That sounded like infatuation. Chandler was much tougher when confronting the genteel concoctions of ‘golden age’ detective novelists. Three of them – Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and NgaioMarsh – come before members of Professor Benstock’s syndicate. Bibliographically, the results are useful: critically, they’re not. All are pleasant to read, like souvenir brochures; but all ...

Lizzy with the Candlestick

Joanna Biggs: P.D. James’s Austen

5 January 2012
Death Comes to Pemberley 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 310 pp., £18.99, November 2011, 978 0 571 28357 6
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... is to work out which of them are relevant. But the sorts of detail James includes also amount to a criticism of Austen. James has talked of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and NgaioMarsh as ‘historians of their age’, meaning that they can often capture society as it is with more accuracy than people writing in less workaday genres. So she has Lizzy dealing with Mrs Reynolds ...

Toxic Lozenges

Jenny Diski: Arsenic

8 July 2010
The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain Was Poisoned at Home, Work and Play 
by James Whorton.
Oxford, 412 pp., £16.99, January 2010, 978 0 19 957470 4
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... the English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers.’ He’s specifically referring to crime novelists – the likes of Dorothy L. Sayers, NgaioMarsh, Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie – in an attempt to wrest the detective story away from the English suburbs and towards the grittier (and far more romantic) novels written by himself and ...

How did she get those feet?

Alice Spawls: The Female Detective

20 February 2014
The Notting Hill Mystery: The First Detective Novel 
by Charles Warren Adams.
British Library, 312 pp., £8.99, February 2012, 978 0 7123 5859 0
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The Female Detective: The Original Lady Detective 
by Andrew Forrester.
British Library, 328 pp., £8.99, October 2012, 978 0 7123 5878 1
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Revelations of a Lady Detective 
by William Stephens Hayward.
British Library, 278 pp., £8.99, February 2013, 978 0 7123 5896 5
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... collection of detective stories by women, Sisters in Crime,3 though both books bring to light some very good stories by long-languishing authors. Alongside, if not quite equal to, Agatha Christie, NgaioMarsh, Dorothy Sayers and Josephine Tey, we now have Anna Katharine Green, C.L. Pirkis, Mary Wilkins and Lucy Moberly. It seems a shame now that so many of the authors of female detective stories ...

Mother One, Mother Two

Jeremy Harding: A memoir

31 March 2005
... species. There is courage and sorrow, loyalty and heartbreak: all animal life is there. Scattered about the house – we never quite got round to bookshelves – there were a couple of titles by NgaioMarsh, a batch of paperbacks by Dennis Wheatley and Ian Fleming and an incomplete, untouched set of Dickens in pale blue cloth bindings. Nobody went near the Dickens – Colin, a reader of ...

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