There is something ineffable about the English mysteries by women from the Golden Age, the 1920s and 30s. The plots are mostly predictable and the characters are seldom real. The setting and the wardrobe contribute, but the reader has to provide the details because the books don't go on much about Art Deco architecture or the fact that the ladies are wearing furs and cloche hats.
Published in 1934, this first of Ngaio Marsh's Detective Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn mysteries, A Man Lay Dead, offers many of the ingredients that we love. A house party, an antique weapons collection, a secret society, a detectiive game where the lights go out, an unexpected body when they come up again, a suspicious butler, a little international intrigue, and Inspector Alleyn, the gentleman detective, to solve the crime. It is in this mystery that we are introduced to Nigel Bathgate, a gossip reporter who becomes friends with Alleyn and appears in later mysteries.
Marsh is considered one of the queens of crime, along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, and Margery Allingham. She was an interesting woman. Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, she studied art and then became an actress, accounting for the art and theater themes in her detective stories and the four that are set in New Zealand. She was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire but I don't know whether we should refer to her as Dame Ngaio (NI-o) or Dame Edith, as that was her first name, although she used Ngaio for her fiction.
Note: A New Zealander has corrected the pronunciation of the author's name. It should be NI-o. Thank you, Barbara.