Here’s one of Auntie M’s reviews for a book that’s both older and non-fiction: the autobiography Dame Ngaio Marsh wrote of her life, titled Black Beech and Honeydew.

Readers expecting to read a primer on how Marsh wrote her famous series, starring Detective Roderick Alleyn, might be disappointed to find that the books are almost an aside to Marsh.

Her real love was the theatre, acting early on and then directing and producing plays, often her beloved Shakespeare, in her native New Zealand and in the UK.

There are lots of references to her family and its friends who people her life, as well as her travels. There is a center section with a host of photos from various stages of her life.

She admits to feeling somewhat as a poser at times when at literary events, as to her mind the books were a means to an end. Her income allowed her to direct the next play. She was fond of Alleyn, and didn’t take him for granted, but nevertheless was astounded at how popular the books became, for which she grateful.

Her love of the arts also explains why she set so many of the book in theatre settings. It was one she knew well and loved. Her choice of his wife to be a portrait painter was deliberate, too.

It’s a fascinating look at one of the Golden Age authors whose mysteries still serve as a primer for crime writers interested in writing an endearing series. While styles change, and the emphasis on psychology is more modern, the books hold up well in terms of plot and story.