B: Apr. 23, 1895 Christchurch, New Zealand - D: Feb. 18, 1982 Christchurch, New Zealand
Artist & Actor
While Marsh is best known for her Detective Roderick Alleyn series, her talent wasn't contained to just the single discipline! Her original ambition was to be a painter, which is what she originally studied while in college (and evidently she was pretty talented). While she was pursuing a career as a professional painter, she had an opportunity to tour with the Allan Wilkie Shakespeare Company which she did for about a year, then followed up with another tour by a comedy company. This cemented Marsh's love of theater which continued through the rest of her life.
Throughout all of her other artistic adventures Marsh was writing; articles for papers, poetry and stories - culminating in the invention of her sleuth Roderick Alleyn. Marsh followed the old chestnut of "write what you know" so Alleyn found many of his investigations in and around (though not exclusively) the theater, actors or artists. Even in his private life Alleyn couldn't escape the artistic influence; early on in the series he dated an actress and later married a famous painter (who was most active in helping her husband solve mysteries).
This balance between writing and the theater continued throughout the rest of her life and she was the the primary force behind the establishment of New Zealand's theater scene. In fact the University of Canterbury named their theater after her to pay homage to her tireless efforts and support of the stage. Marsh never married or had children - I suspect she may simply have been too busy!
“There are people to whom one need not show off. It’s a great comfort sometimes.” - Vintage Murder
Main Detective: Roderick Alleyn
1st in Series: A Man Lay Dead (1934) Last: Light Thickens (1982)
No. of Books In Series: 32 Setting: England primarily
Queens of Crime
Marsh is considered one of the four original Queens of Crime (Allingham, Christie & Sayers were the others) during the Golden Age of Detective fiction in the 1920's and 1930's. While the other three were British, Marsh divided her time between England and New Zealand and Alleyn solved the bulk of his mysteries there as well.
What typifies these fine ladies is the fact they codified detective fiction; violent murders take place off stage, no hard boiled characters, harsh language is a no-no and the people involved are generally somewhere among the well-to-do or aristocracy (the middle class & poor were occasionally used for plot devices but not generally featured). In addition, the ladies generally followed the Rule of Fair Play, rules written up by the Detection Club which allowed the audience a fair chance of solving the mystery (there are exceptions to these rules with startling results like Christie's Endless Night, Crooked House or And Then There Were None but generally these ladies followed the rules).