Dame Ngaio Marsh DBE (April 23, 1895 - February 18, 1982), born Edith Ngaio Marsh was an author and theatre director from New Zealand. There is some uncertainty over her birth date as her father neglected to register her birth until 1900, but she is believed to have been born in Christchurch on 23 April 1899. Marsh worked as an actress, theatrical producer and interior decorator before publishing her first novel, A Man Lay Dead, in 1934. This, and all subsequent novels, featured her series character Chief-Inspector Roderick Alleyn.
A touring theatre company in New Zealand forms the basis of one of Marsh's most ambitious and innovative novels. New Zealand theatrical manager Alfred Meyer wanted to celebrate his wife's birthday in style. The piece de resistance would be the jeroboam of champagne which would descend gently into a nest of fern and coloured lights on the table, set up on stage after the performance. But something went horribly wrong. Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn witnessed it himself. Was Meyer's death the product of Maori superstitions? Or something much more down to earth?