For those of us who have read mysteries all our lives—I started as a child—those early queens of mysteries probably were our first introduction to the genre.
I cut my reading teeth on Hammett, Chandler, and Stout, but it was the stories of Josephine Tey, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Margery Allingham that I most gravitated toward.
And, Ngaio Marsh.
Ngaio Marsh was a New Zealand crime writer and theater director who is known primarily for her Inspector Roderick Alleyn, a gentleman detective who works for the Metropolitan Police in London.
If you have never read her Alleyn series, I highly recommend these 32 novels.
But they still hold up. Nine of these novels were adapted as The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries and aired by the BBC in 1993 and 1994 with Patrick Malahide as Alleyn. You can still find these DVDs as The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, put out by Acorn Media.
Marsh has been cited by several contemporary women mystery writers as their inspiration, among these Val McDermid and Catriona McPherson.
Marsh also is the namesake of the Ngaio Marsh Award that honor the best in crime writing. The New Zealand award is now in its eighth year.
And finally, a woman has been awarded the prize for best crime novel.
Fiona Sussman became the first female author to win the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, for The Last Time We Spoke. The international judging panel praised the winning novel for being "laden with empathy and insight.... A challenging, emotional read, harrowing yet touching, this is brave and sophisticated storytelling,” Booksellers New Zealand reported.
The Last Time We Spoke, published by Allison & Busby, is described as a survivor and a perpetrator of a brutal home invasion try to come to terms with their altered lives.
Self-published e-book author Finn Bell won the best first novel category, for Dead Lemons. The judges called him "a wonderful new voice in crime writing" who "delivers a tense, compelling tale centered on an original, genuine, and vulnerable character."
Michael Bennett won the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Nonfiction, for In Dark Places, which the judges called "a scintillating, expertly balanced account of one of the most grievous miscarriages of justice in New Zealand history."