Queens of crime combine: Money in the morgue

Taking over from Dame Ngaio Marsh, one of the original Queens of Crime, would be a daunting prospect for any writer, but Stella Duffy (winner of the CWA Dagger Award, and Stonewall Writer of the Year) has beautifully risen to this task in the new inspector Alleyn novel, ‘Money in the Morgue‘.

Set in New Zealand during World War Two, Marsh’s beloved detective finds himself called into a murder investigation, right in the middle of an espionage case. The novel opens when courier Mr Glossip finds himself marooned at a military hospital, thanks to a terrific storm. When the wages which Glossip has just delivered go missing, then an unexpected body turns up in the morgue, it is left to inspector Alleyn to unravel the nights mysteries. He does so with his usual charm, and perfect manners (let’s just say you wouldn’t be surprised to read that upon being asked by Alleyn to pass along the salt, a woman fainted by his feet).

His sidekick is a kind of inspector Fox substitute and cunningly, there are so many mentions of inspector Fox as Duffy talks about this man who is clearly not inspector Fox, that by the end of it you have somehow wound up concluding that this clearly not inspector Fox man, is actually Inspector Fox. There is also mention of Troy, as Alleyn tries and fails to pen a letter to her (but manages an epic three page masterwork to inspector Fox, just saying).

In many respects, Duffy is the ideal candidate to finish a novel started by Ngaio Marsh. As well as being an esteemed writer of sixteen novels (five of these being crime), like Ngaio Marsh, Duffy spent her childhood in New Zealand, moved to London, and as a producer, and scriptwriter, has had a long standing relationship with the theatre. There are some lovely references to the world of theatre, in particular Shakespeare, as Alleyn absently quotes the Bard to himself on several occasions, much to the bewilderment of the local constabulary.

As Eric Morecambe would have said to Ernie Wise you just  ‘can’t see the join’, when you read ‘Money in the Morgue’. The two writers just dovetail so perfectly. Later I learnt that Marsh wrote the first three chapters of this work, Duffy the rest, but had it not been for a sneaky look at a interview with Stella Duffy, and one tell tale passage toward the end of the novel (where Alleyn muses on New Zealand as being like a ‘living entity”, not the most 30s European attitude toward the land) I would not have picked this for myself.

There is a strong cast of characters too including shell shocked Dr Hughes, the stern yet endearing Sister Comfort, and the sparky Rosamund Farquharson. Marsh and Duffy conjure to life an intriguing array of suspects, against the dramatic backdrop of WWII New Zealand. Readers are treated to some evocative descriptions of the land, as well as some lovely insights into New Zealand culture, as seen through the eyes of a young Māori soldier, corporal Brayling. The ending is a satisfying one (all important for any mystery) and the novel is consistently packed with all the fun and endearing Alleyn moments a fan could wish for. This is a truly fantastic partnership between two queens of crime that will leave you wanting more. With any luck, another of Marsh’s unfinished works will be unearthed soon and we will be treated to another Marsh/Duffy installment in this classic series.

Money in the morgue
by Stella Duffy and Ngaio Marsh
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN:  9780008207113

Ngaio Marsh House event – Sunday 27 May 2pm

The Ngaio Marsh House and Heritage Trust is putting on an event to celebrate the Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy’s new novel “The Money in the Morgue”:

Celebrate with style and panache the publication of Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy’s new novel “The Money in the Morgue”. Be theatrical and wear your vintage clothing, fedoras or berets.
You will get to view the improvements to the Ngaio Marsh House, and then got to Cashmere Presbyterian Church for drinks, hors d’oeuvres and entertainment. Scorpio Books will have a selection of Ngaio’s book’s for purchase.

Find out more on Facebook.

Ngaio Marsh House
Ngaio Marsh House. 15 December 2015. Flickr 2015-12-15-IMG_1617

Stella Duffy at the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season

Stella Duffy: writer, playwright, actor, improviser, founder and co-director of Fun Palaces, and general multi-tasker extraordinaire. How, asks interviewer Liz Grant, does she have the energy?

I like working, and I know I’m really lucky to be able to do it — my parents both left school at 14, had very hard working lives, the only time off my dad had was when he was shot down in World War II and became a POW — so when artists talk about how it’s such hard work, and they have to suffer, it makes me want to punch them. What’s hard work is raising seven children like my mother, or being a brilliant man with no opportunities like my dad. I work really hard at my job, but it’s not hard work. I know I’m fortunate to be able to do it.

Liz Grant and Stella Duffy. WORD Christchurch Autumn Season. The Piano. Monday 15 May 2017. Flickr 2017-05-15-IMG_0166

Family

Duffy’s family history is fascinating — like all families it is complex and messy. While researching she discovered a great-grandmother who had given birth in Holloway prison. The reason for her spell inside? Manslaughter; “I didn’t realise the baby was so ill,” she said in court, “and neither did my (12-year old) daughter.” She worked from 9pm-6am every night (“charring” is the occupation given, scare quotes intentional), providing for her children so that she could be home to get them ready for school, only to lose a child and be imprisoned while pregnant with the next. It’s a far cry from Downton Abbey, that’s for sure, and can be seen in the hard working lives of the families in Duffy’s London Lies Beneath.

“There’s no place like home”

Probably the most interesting for me was the talk of home/not home, how once you move away from the place you grew up you effectively lose it — always missing home, but when you visit it has changed without you. This really resonated as someone who grew up in a small town but now lives in a city, with family across New Zealand as well as far away in Europe, who has lived overseas and now feels the tug of home/not-home wherever I am.

Christchurch in particular has that double-layered effect, walking down streets that have changed beyond measure in only a few years. In cities such as London and Rome the juxtaposition of past and present is even more noticeable, everything built on and around and between the layers of its own history. Duffy loves being swallowed up by such a vast, full and vibrant city, being “a small fish in a very big pond”, keeping the taniwha in the Thames fed with Kiwi accents and secrets:

Cover of London Lies BeneathYou know what they say about the taniwha, don’t you, girl?

She shook her head.

He smiled as he said, It’s homesick, of course, but the Thames is too busy and it can’t get by the ships for fear of being seen and lauded and brought ashore for our pleasure again. It doesn’t like to be looked at, not directly. And it’s bigger, much bigger now, grown full on the secrets we tell to the water. That taniwha lives off our whispers, eating up the fears and tears we tell over the side of a bridge. It’s grown fat on what we hide from in the dark, beneath the bedclothes. There’s no getting away from it either, it will follow you along the Effra or the Neckinger as easy as it rides the tide from Tilbury to Teddington.

— London Lies Beneath, Stella Duffy

Ngaio Marsh

When I first read about Money in the Morgue I was under the impression that Duffy was simply finishing an already mostly-completed manuscript, but no: Dame Ngaio Marsh only left three sketchy chapters with some rough notes and no ideas of whodunnit, where it was done or how. Helpful!

Duffy talked a little about how to recreate the tone of Marsh’s writing without the less desirable -isms that permeate 30s era novels (how to make it seem as if it were written in that time but not of that time, if you see what I mean). The answer? Steal a few of Marsh’s writing tics. “Alleyn rubbed his nose.” “His ascetic monk’s face.” “His long, elegant fingers.” Perhaps we’ll see some of New Zealand’s “primordial landscape”, too. All jokes aside, Duffy is careful to avoid any sense of pastiche or mockery in her writing, being an avid admirer of Marsh’s work.

I look forward to reading Money in the Morgue when it’s published in May 2018, and in the meantime reading Duffy’s recent thriller, The Hidden Room. If you’re interested in learning more about the historical setting of London Lies Beneath, Duffy recommends Round About a Pound a Week, written in 1913 by the trade unionist, Fabian and feminist Maud Pember Reeves. If you’re new to Ngaio Marsh’s writing then she recommends starting with Died in the Wool, a country house mystery set on a high country sheep station in New Zealand.

Cover of The Hidden RoomCover of Round About a Pound a WeekCover of Died in the Wool

Ngaio Marsh and Shakespeare

There’s a Ngaio Marsh birthday party event at Christ’s College Old Boys Theatre this Sunday 24 April. The event is a fundraiser for the Ngaio Marsh House and Heritage Trust, and includes wine, nibbles, and a talk on crime fiction by Professor Ken Strongman. Find out more on the Ngaio Marsh birthday event on Facebook.

Crime writer and theatre director Ngaio Marsh’s actual birth date is 23 April, and she shared a birthday with Shakespeare. It’s doubly appropriate – as her production of Shakespeare’s plays were widely acclaimed. This is Ngaio as Hamlet …

Baverstock, William Sykes, 1893-1975. Ngaio Marsh - Photograph taken by W S Baverstock. Dacres-Mannings, J :Photographs relating to Dame Ngaio Marsh. Ref: PAColl-0326-09. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23167157

If you want to find out more about Ngaio and Shakespeare, I recommend the splendid Inaugural Ngaio Marsh lecture – it was given on 22 April 2012 by Elric J. Hooper, MBE who appeared in several of Dame Ngaio Marsh’s acclaimed Shakespeare shows. He explains how they met (pages 10 and 11):

Three years later, in 1956, I was appearing in a student revue in the Civic Theatre and Gerald Lascelles told me that Ngaio Marsh and Charles Brash wanted to meet me. I went up to the empty stage after the performance. Two figures were standing there. The man was reticent. The woman was flamboyant. She was dressed in a handsome, three-quarter length seal skincoat. She was wearing a grey woollen skirt – not trousers. Her hair was wildly dressed. She smoked a cigarette. She asked me what I had been doing. Said Macbeth.
“Not the thane!” she said in alarm.
“No, A lord. Lennox.” I said putting her at her ease.
She mentioned that she was about to direct Lear.
A few weeks later, I auditioned for Ngaio. I was chosen to play the Fool in King Lear.
It was a memorable production with Mervyn Glue as the King, salivating so copiously that looking up into the lights one did not have to imagine the rain and storm. The costumes and set were blue grey. The set was a curved podium which a descending ramp on one side and steps down the other. In the centre was a kind of shelter for hovel. It worked extremely well.

Cast of Hamlet. Marsh, Ngaio :Photographs of theatrical productions. Ref: PA1-q-173-73-2. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23074208

His summary of Ngaio as Shakespearean director is a good one (page 10):

One of the great features of Ngaio’s Shakespeare were the moments that can only be described as “Theatrical.” Hamlet, at the end of the speech which concluded the first part, “The play’s the thing whereby I’ll catch the conscience of the King,” threw the loose sheets of the play in the air and stood there while the leaves descended around him. In Julius Caesar, hands were bathed in blood. In Lear, the eyes were ripped out.

Hamlet, produced by the University of Canterbury Drama Society and performed at the Civic Theatre [11 July 1958] CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0039
Hamlet, produced by the University of Canterbury Drama Society and performed at the Civic Theatre [11 July 1958] CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0039

More about Ngaio Marsh

Three New Zealanders: Ngaio Marsh

#shakespeare400 tweets

Ngaio Marsh – Crime writer now in eBooks

Ngaio Marsh was so much more than a crime writer. But remember we have over 30 of her crime novels as eBooks.

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Happy birthday, Ngaio Marsh!

Ngaio Marsh would have been 120 today. This world renowned crime writer and theatre director was born Edith Ngaio Marsh in Fendalton on 23 April 1895. Her father, a clerk, built Marton Cottage at Cashmere in 1906. This was her home for the rest of her life, although she spent significant periods in England.

Ngaio Marsh photographed during the 1940s

Ngaio Marsh photographed during the 1940s : “Ngaio in the spotlight” [194-], CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0038

Today there is a lovely little Google image celebrating her.

Many people know of Ngaio Marsh as the crime writer. But she also enriched the cultural life of Christchurch with her devotion to theatre production and mentored young people with dramatic aspirations. Ngaio made a huge contribution to the community, and it seems appropriate her name lives on  –

For more on Ngaio Marsh:

Early New Zealand Women Writers. Some of their work described as racy and corrupting!

Check out some of our pioneer women writers. Some wrote very controversial books; many were published overseas and became hugely popular.

The Butcher Shop by Jean Devanny 
Cover of The Butcher ShopSet on a King Country Station, Jean Devanny’s  The Butcher Shop is about adultery and murder. It was described as disgusting, polemic and ahead of its time. It was banned on publication in New Zealand and in many other countries due to the violence, open sexuality and feminism portrayed within its pages.

The Story of a New Zealand River by Jane Mander
Jane Mander’s The Story of a New Zealand River is set in Northland and describes the issues faced when a local sawmill boss marries a cultured, piano-playing Englishwoman, who brings with her to the bush her children from a previous marriage. It has been suggested that this novel provided inspiration for elements in Jane Campion’s film The Piano.

Isabel Maude Peacocke 
Cover of The Story of a New Zealand RiverIsabel Maude Peacocke wrote children’s books and light romances set in Auckland. Although not well known in New Zealand, she had a large readership in England, where her work was published.

Nelle (Ellen) M. Scanlan
Nelle Scanlan wrote four family-sagas set in New Zealand. The novels in the ‘Pencarrow’ series (Pencarrow, Tides of Youth, Winds of Heaven, and Kelly Pencarrow) published between 1932 and 1939, portrayed early New Zealand as a prosperous thriving country. They were very popular and considered to have created an interest for New Zealand fiction in that era. Nelle also published many novels in England before writing the ‘Pencarrow’ sagas. She was the most popular New Zealand novelist of her generation.

New Zealand Holiday by Rosemary Rees
Rosemary Rees could be described as the pioneer ‘chick lit’ writer! She wrote racy romance novels, some of which were set on back blocks farms in the North Island. Her 84 novels became so popular that some were serialised in papers in America and Britain.

Breakfast At Six by Mary Scott
Mary Scott made international success with the writing of her rural domestic comedies which began with the publication of her ‘Barbara’ newspaper sketches in 1936. One of her most popular novels was Breakfast at Six about newlyweds and their life on a back-blocks farm and the problems and pleasures faced by a rural community in New Zealand. It was followed by the sequel Dinner Doesn’t Matter.

Ngaio Marsh
If you haven’t already, do try a Ngaio Marsh mystery. Described as one of the Queens of Crime Fiction of the 1920s and 1930s, she is probably best known for her wonderful detective novels featuring Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn; four of these (Vintage Murder, Died in the Wool, Colour Scheme and Photo-Finish) are set in New Zealand. You might also enjoy reading our blog posts about Ngaio Marsh.

Cover of Vintage Murder Cover of Died in the Wool  Cover of Colour Scheme Cover of Photo-finish

Please note that some of these books are only available at our Store. There is no public access to this collection, but you can place holds on most Store titles for borrowing. Reference only items held at Store can be sent to Central Library Manchester for viewing – please ask a librarian to arrange this for you.

Happy birthday, Ngaio Marsh

Ngaio Marsh would have been 119 today. This world renowned crime writer and theatre director was born Edith Ngaio Marsh in Fendalton on 23 April 1895. Her father, a clerk, built Marton Cottage at Cashmere in 1906. This was her home for the rest of her life, although she spent significant periods in England.

Ngaio Marsh photographed during the 1940s

Ngaio Marsh photographed during the 1940s : “Ngaio in the spotlight” [194-], CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0038

Many people know of Ngaio Marsh as the crime writer. But she also enriched the cultural life of Christchurch with her devotion to theatre production and mentored young people with dramatic aspirations.

Ngaio made a huge contribution to the community, and it seems appropriate her name lives on in a theatre – the Ngaio Marsh Theatre at the University of Canterbury (sadly closed due to earthquake damage), as well as in the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel.

For more:

Fiona Farrell talks about adapting Ngaio Marsh to the stage

Inside the Ngaio Marsh houseFiona Farrell has been adapting the Ngaio Marsh novel Photo Finish into a stage play SNAP! which is coming soon to the Court Theatre. She will talk about her task at the Elmwood Bowling Clubrooms, Heaton Street, Merivale on Sunday 15 September from 5pm to 7pm.

Photo Finish was one of the four Ngaio Marsh novels set in New Zealand. ( I seem to remember another involved someone crushed in a wool press and another offed in a mud pool – both truly Enzed ends). This one was written when she was over 80 years old, was well received and sold well. It was her second to last detective novel. It follows the traditional convention of a house party trapped in a storm except the venue was not a country house but a South Island luxury lodge.

The talk is a fund raiser for the Friends of Ngaio Marsh House. To book tickets, which are $25.00,  contact Philippa Bates philbates@paradise.net.nz The price includes wine or fruit juice, nibbles and a social half hour.

Ngaio Marsh House is a great cause to support. It is currently undergoing earthquake repairs and should reopen in September. It is well worth a visit. We have some photos which will give you a taster of what to expect when you visit.

Ngaio Marsh wanted to be a painter

Hamlet, produced by the University of Canterbury Drama Society and performed at the Civic Theatre 11 July 1958

The 2013 Ngaio Marsh Memorial Lecture “Painting in a Writer’s Landscape” takes place on Sunday April 28, 5–6 pm, Christ’s College Old Boys’ Theatre. Ngaio is well-known as a writer of detective fiction and nationally respected as a director of Shakespearean theatre, but her early ambition was to be a painter. Christchurch art historian Julie King will discuss how Ngaio Marsh’s work as an artist found expression in her novels.

Tickets $15 from Philippa Bates, 16 Hounslow St, Ilamphilbates@paradise.net.nz
Please pay by cheque made out to The Friends of Ngaio Marsh, and enclose a stamp-addressed envelope for delivery of your tickets.

Information from The Press Christchurch Writers Festival.

Find out more about the fabulous Dame and view our photos.

Ngaio Marsh: Picturing Canterbury

Ngaio Marsh

Ngaio Marsh photographed during the 1940s: “Ngaio in the spotlight” [194-]