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Uncovering the secrets of Christchurch's Queen of Crime

Tuesday, August 30, 2022   Posted in: Signatory Notice Board By: Administrator With tags: reading, exhibition, history

Christchurch City Council Newsline: 29th August 2022

Dame Ngaio Marsh’s life was almost as much of a mystery as her famous detective novels.

She lived a completely private life, despite being dubbed one of the “Queens of Crime” alongside names like Agatha Christie and selling more than two million copies of her novels.

And was also full of dualities.

When Dame Ngaio was not walking down the streets of London in her most extravagant fashion, she was rehearsing a play with students in a cold, old brewery in Christchurch, smoking cigarettes and eating chicken sandwiches for lunch.

Living independently and providing for herself all her life, she did not fit the norm and was pretty unconventional for the times – an enigma. 

Her home - Marton Cottage on the Port Hills - has been turned into a museum and is preserved by the Ngaio Marsh House and Heritage Trust volunteers.

This year marks 40 years since Dame Ngaio passed away. It was all of this that inspired the Christchurch City Libraries to go 'In Search of Ngaio' for its latest exhibition.

The exhibition at Tūranga runs from Saturday 27th August to 27th November 2022, and uncovers her work and life as a crime writer, theatre director, painter and mentor.

“Amongst the material, a keen detective eye will be able to find rare manuscripts and writing notes (she burnt most of them), play production books, her own artwork and even a beret – her signature style accessory,” Exhibitions Project Manager Louisa Vowles said.

“We’re really excited for people to come, learn more about and celebrate this Christchurch icon.”

One of the highlights will be the Murder in the Library event running on Saturday 12th November from 2pm.

“We’ll be hosting a two-hour fun-filled detective experience at Tūranga where you’ll be able to search the library for clues and solve a Ngaio Marsh murder,” Ms Vowles said.

Throughout September, October and November there will also be guest readers reading Dame Ngaio short stories, as well as a panel discussion with crime writers Val McDermid, Michael Robotham and J.P. Pomore before they present the 2022 Ngaio March Awards for Best Novel and Best First Novel.

The exhibition includes material from Ngaio Marsh House and Heritage Trust, St Margaret’s College, Alexander Turnbull Library, Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision and Christchurch City Libraries.

Ngaio Marsh House and Heritage Trust Chair Jessica Petersen said: "We are delighted to partner with Christchurch City Libraries in this fascinating exhibition. Dame Ngaio was a trailblazer who shaped the development of the crime fiction genre and the theatre scene New Zealanders enjoy today.  We hope the exhibition will help more people uncover the incredible story of the city’s most famous grand dame."

Find out more about the In Search of Ngaio exhibition at Tūranga.

Learn the history of Ōtautahi’s Queen of Crime, Dame Ngaio Marsh, including how you can also book a tour of Ngaio Marsh House - her Christchurch home for more than 70 years.