An old favourite off the bookshelf

I seem to have run out of books to read… well, that’s not exactly true, I have a whole pile of books beside my bed (I only read in bed except when I’m on holiday!) but last night, nothing seemed to particularly grab me. What I wanted was something which was easy reading, intriguing, and I could enjoy without having to think too hard or concentrate..

I had a couple of popular writers which I hadn’t read before – the sort of thing you might pick up before a journey… However, they were so badly written, an exercise in how many clichés could be included on the first page, that even though they are new, they are going straight to the charity bookshop. I was tired but my head too full of stuff so  I prowled my bookshelves and took an old, very old Ngaio Marsh book and returned to bed.

Ngaio Marsh was a New Zealand author, born in 1895  who was passionate about the theatre – in fact it was probably her first love over writing novels. I’m sure she  would be delighted to know that University of Canterbury in Christchurch  named a theatre in her honour, The  Ngaio Marsh Theatre.

However she is best known, certainly in Britain as an author of crime novels, ‘starring’ Roderick ‘Rory’ Alleyn, a policeman but in fact a ‘gentleman detective’. She wrote thirty-two novels about him, and the one I picked up last night, ‘Off With His Head’, published in 1957, was the first I ever read. I’ve read many others since, and at one point I had nearly all of the Alleyn mysteries.

They are great for bedtime reading, but they are well written and with intriguing mysteries; and if these days we might be able to guess ‘who-dunnit’, that doesn’t actually spoil the pleasure of reading them! Alleyn must have been well past retirement age when the last novel was published in 1982, because the first one was published in 1934!!

She became a Dame, and died at the great age of nearly eighty seven! She may not be as popular or as widely read now, but you can still find her books in bookshops and libraries… when I finish ‘Off With His Head’, I may well look out some more for my bedtime reading!


  1. Val Mills

    I vaguely remember Dame Ngaio Marsh coming to speak to school assembly one year in the 6os. She was very inspiring. I have her autobiography, Black Beech and Honeydew staring at me from the bookshelf.Maybe it is time to reread it.

    Liked by 1 person

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