Saturday, February 18, 2012

ngaio marsh

Many newcomers to mysteries might look at the title of this post and wonder "who is this?" Ngaio Marsh (pronounced "Nyow" ) was a mystery and crime writer from New Zealand. She was born in 1895 and died in 1982. She is widely compared to Agatha Christie. In addition to her mysteries, she was an actress and theater director. Consequently, many of her novels are set in the theatrical world. Her detective, Roderick Alleyn, is a member of the British CID, and is a gentleman. At the beginning of the series, he is forty years old and unmarried. In the sixth novel Artists in Crime, he meets Agatha Troy, an artist. The two later marry and have a son.
     Unlike Christie's Poirot or Sherlock Holmes, Alleyn does not have any particular quirks or trademarks. He gets his results by simple dogged police work and intelligence.
     Nine of Marsh's novels have been adapted to the small screen.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Types of mysteries

Mystery lovers have a wide variety to choose from. There are period mysteries, set in a different time and place. There are "hard boiled" mysteries, which are characterized by a gritty, street wise, usually male detective. He is usually a loner, without family or many friends. He lives in a world of violence and corruption, and if there is a woman involved, she is usually a vixen. Raymond Chandler's detective Philip Marlowe is one example of the hard boiled detective. Dashiell Hammet created the famous Sam Spade character, who is featured in the equally famous novel "The Maltese Falcon."   This type of mystery was born in the 1920s, when cheap magazines, also known as pulp magazines, were popular. A more modern hard boiled detective can be found in Sara Paretsky's female PI V.I. Warshowski.
       Another type of mystery is the "cozy" mystery. In cozy mysteries, the protagonist is an amateur citizen caught up against their will in an extraordinary situation. It is usually a woman, and usually takes place in a small town or village. You might say the Agatha Christie's Miss Marple is the classic example of the cosy mystery heroine. There is never a lot of violence or overt sex in a cosy mystery. There is usually not a lot of bad language either, and there is often a bit of humor thrown in to liven up the situation. A romantic angle is usually a part of it too. Women tend to be the main target audience of cosy mysteries.
          There is a tendency in some circles to think that cosy mysteries means that the plot is somehow simplified. However, that is not the case. The pace of many of these cosy mysteries is fast paced and the plot is rife with red herrings and didn't -see- that -coming twists.
          There are many people who prefer one type of mystery over the other. Personally, I prefer the cosy mysteries, which is the type I will be primarily featuring on this blog. However, if anyone wants to discuss hard boiled mysteries, I am always willing to learn more.

What's your favorite type of mystery?