Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

“Parodied, pastiched, pilloried” and polished: Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham’s development of the gentleman detective

Maddalena, Hyla


Hyla Maddalena


Sabine Vanacker


This dissertation deepens and extends the modern field of study of “golden age” mystery authors Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham by closely examining the two writers’ individual development of the classical trope of the gentleman detective.
Since its inception, classical detective fiction has been considered by critics to be both formulaic and conservative. Though this limited perspective has recently been challenged and deconstructed, Marsh and Allingham are still too often sequestered by both genre and sex into a devalued class of writers; this study aims to complicate the regular framing of their work in particular as lesser, homogeneous, and stereotypical.
Each of these authors accomplished the same feat in the same genre, through different methods and in different series, centering on their unique detective protagonists. This dissertation acknowledges Marsh and Allingham’s similar achievements as well as their individuality by analyzing them in separate, parallel chapters which first examine the worlds of detection created by each author; these are followed by sections investigating their nuanced portrayals of the divided morality inherent to the figure of the gentleman detective; finally, each chapter culminates with an analysis of a novel each in which the detective in some way fails to properly detect and emerges triumphant in the narrative anyway, revealing Marsh and Allingham’s considerations of the purpose of fictional detection beyond the purely intellectual crossword-like puzzle it was often considered to be.
Through close-reading analysis spanning each author’s series supplemented by theories of performance, modernism and postmodernism, abjection, and the rich field of crime fiction scholarship, this study illuminates the breadth and the depth of both Marsh and Allingham’s development of the figure of the gentleman detective. Their explorations of the classical detective genre and its central character reveal a far more complicated consideration of class, gender, and the morally ambivalent nature of escapist fiction than that for which they have historically been given credit.


Maddalena, H. (2023). “Parodied, pastiched, pilloried” and polished: Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham’s development of the gentleman detective. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Mar 4, 2024
Publicly Available Date Mar 7, 2024
Public URL
Additional Information Department of English
University of Hull
Award Date Feb 22, 2024


You might also like

Downloadable Citations