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Colour Scheme
Ngaio Marsh
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Colour Scheme (Roderick Alleyn #12)

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  1,985 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
Colour Scheme is a detective novel by Ngaio Marsh; it is the twelfth novel to feature Roderick Alleyn, and was first published in 1943. The novel takes place in New Zealand during World War II; the plot involves suspected Nazi activity at a hot springs resort on the New Zealand coast and a gruesome murder whose solution exposes the spies. Alleyn himself is working for mili ...more
Published 1943 by Little, Brown, & Co.
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Alison yes - it is the first one I have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a page -turner.
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Dec 20, 2016 Andree rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I'm beginning to think I'm being unfair to Ngaio Marsh. From time to time, I'm annoyed with her for not being Dorothy Sayers, but why should she be? She's a perfectly good mystery writer, even if I don't love her as I do Sayers. That's hardly her fault, given the subjective nature of story.

I told myself for the first two thirds of this, that I didn't like it very well. Except that I finished it in less than a day, and seem to be devouring this series.

Look, it's not perfect. There's the requisite
Ivonne Rovira
What passes for mediocre Ngaio Marsh is better than the best from many mystery writers. This isn't the worst that Miss Marsh penned. (That dubious honor must go to the plodding Overture To Death.) But Colour Scheme suffers from one of the same setbacks: Inspector Alleyn isn't introduced until too late in the novel. (Actually, I didn't realize he was in the novel until late in the 11th chapter!) The description of Rotorua on the North Island was enchanting; I loved learning about the Maoris and t ...more
Jan 21, 2017 Lynne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back in the day I probably read all of the Ngaio Marsh books my local library had to offer, yet this (another hospital charity table purchase) was unfamiliar.

Set in wartime New Zealand, a refreshing change from London or the traditional country house of dear old Agatha and Dorothy L, it details the suspected demise of the rather nasty Mr Questing, a slimy little chancer with his eye on bagging a thermal spa. On page 237, a character exclaims, 'Oh, just get on with it!' and I couldn't have agreed
Lady Aeval
Jul 09, 2013 Lady Aeval rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: agatha-ngaio
I am going to depart a bit from my normal template I use when reviewing so if anyone is used to my regular posts, I hope you don't mind.

This book was a surprise for me. I am a huge Ngaio Marsh fan but when I was originally reading these, I could not find this title in any of my used bookstores. A couple of decades later and I am now listening to all of the titles in order on audiobook.

Since I have started listening to these I have been biased and prefer the editions narrated by James Saxon. I h
Mar 27, 2009 Krista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another Marsh cozy. I love these things for many reasons; I enjoy mystery and WWII era behavior and mores and Brits. But the real reason I keep returning to Marsh is this; consider how she introduces the character of Maurice Questing;

"Maurice Questing was about fifty years old and so much a type that a casual observer would have found it difficult to describe him. He appeared in triplicate at private bars, hotel lounges, business meetings and race-courses. His features were blurred and thick, hi
Oct 14, 2011 Joy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the strongest of Marsh's books in terms of setting and culture. A New Zealand spa, built around a set of natural hot mud pools, is practically within shouting distance of a Maori village. The village leader, an ancient and retired Member of Parliament, is an endearing character who helps us see the endearing side of the awkward Claire family who run the spa.

Maurice Questing is so close to his goal of grabbing the spa away from the Claires that he is scouting for business. He entices Geoff

While I enjoyed the north New Zealand setting, this WW2 mystery/spy thriller struck me as more dated than some of her more traditional mysteries. Even though this came across to me as more of a spy story than a murder mystery, Marsh did 'play fair' with the clues being there for the observant reader (which wasn't me this time!)

I did appreciate how Marsh managed to get in a touch of the theater world even among the mud pots of Rotorua with visiting actor Gaunt and his entourage! :)
Mar 14, 2016 Anwen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not one of my favourites, but Marsh does a great job in misdirection here. The indicators are plain, but she still manages to deceive.
Nov 29, 2016 William rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best tribute I can pay to Alleyn #12 is I could not put it down. It's a lot of fun.

To me, Marsh is improving with each book. The writing here is often awfully good, and aside from Questing, the characters are in each case not like those in any previous book. (Questing reminds me of Samuel Ogden in "Death in Ecstasy," though there are some differences, I guess).

"Colour Scheme" to me had echoes of Conrad in setting, perspective and prose style. Very typical English folk deal with natives in a
Dec 15, 2016 Vainvt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Ngaio Marsh I've ever read and I was impressed by the excellent writing, character development, and plot.
The setting was central to the story, and March does an excellent job of describing the geysers and mud pits of Waiotapu. She definitely captures the mid-twentieth century British expats and commendably includes Maori throughout the story. The title was clever and relevant.
I enjoyed this book so much that I have another Ngaio March in hand and plan to enjoy it over the holi
Jan 09, 2017 Julie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Set during WWII, the story centers about a mudbath resort in New Zealand owned by Colonel Claire, who is about to be bought out by a singularly unpleasant fellow who some suspect of being a Nazi Spy. Inspector Alleyn goes to investigate in disguise.

Interesting with a bit of history of New Zealand mixed in. A good classic mystery, but not spectacular.
Mar 09, 2011 Bev rated it it was ok
Colour Scheme (1943) is one of the smaller number of detective novels that Ngaio Marsh set in her home country, New Zealand. Most of her books, which feature Roderick Alleyn as her detective, are set in England. But a few, including Colour Scheme and Died in the Wool, take Inspector Alleyn away from his accustomed haunts.

This one is set during WW II at a small, privately owned health spa located on the coast of New Zealand's North Island. The spa features warm to hot mud and steam baths. Unfortu
Sep 22, 2011 rabbitprincess rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of WW2 mysteries, NZ and/or the author
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is one of 4 by Ngaio Marsh set in New Zealand. This one is set in the northern part, in a small resort near the sulphurous mud springs where people come to heal.
The owners are somewhat ineffectual ex British colonials from India. They have a teenage daughter and son. Other characters are visiting the resort and their interactions and opinions are part of the plot. There is a small romance going on. It takes a long time for someone to die. The book was a good read, if sometimes slow. Marsh d
New Zealand, like the world around it, has been turned topsy-turvy by World War II. Suspicions about enemy agents and plots to infiltrate the country are rife, including at the thermal spa Wai-ata-Tapu Springs, a retreat that espouses the healing nature of the mud springs. Unfortunately, the spa is run by the inept Clare family, who are in very real danger of losing ownership to one of their few guests, the unsavory and much disliked Maurice Questing. Questing has some undisclosed hold on the fa ...more
Dec 02, 2016 C.J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating armchair journey to wartime (1943) New Zealand. The setting is a low-end spa on the north island, surrounded by sulfurous bubbling mud and just over the hill from a Maori village. The proprietors might have wandered in from an Agatha Christie -- or did Britain actually produce a whole class of hapless, feckless expats wandering from colony to colony in search of post-military careers? Most of the characters are a bit miffed to be so far from the action in Europe, & eager to bel ...more
Simon Mcleish
Mar 09, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on my blog here in July 1998.

This novel marks something of a return to form for Ngaio Marsh. After a sequence with hackneyed plots and stereotyped settings (mainly upper-class house-parties), she comes up with something rather different. This is reflected in the title of the novel; instead of the word "death" being prominent in a phrase with little to do with the plot, we have a subtle hint toward what's actually going on.

Although there must be about five earlier Alleyn nove
I read in the synopsis on this site that this was Ngaio Marsh favorite of her books, I can understand her choice... This is Inspector Alleyn reinvented without England, recurring characters or even Alleyn! I really liked the setting in New Zealand and I appreciated the internet on my ipod and having a Maori-English dictionary, I enjoyed translating the little Maori peppered throughout this book; it isn't a culture I know a lot about, but I kind of made the link with my native american ancestors ...more
Feb 16, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh is a great little mystery. Set at a resort build around natural hot mud pools in New Zealand, the setting is unique, at least in my experience, and the characters range from quirky to downright sleazy.

This is a murder mystery, and by the time the murder occurs I was more than ready for it. The victim is an absolute jerk, but the murder doesn’t happen until over halfway through the story. I guess the plot does move rather slowly in that way, but the characters kept m
This is a Roderick Alleyn book in which we never see Alleyn. Or do we? At any rate, it's not one to recommend to those who want to see more of the series detective. Still, it's always been on of my favorites.

The Clair family owns a natural sulphur mud springs spa in New Zealand, set right against sacred Maori burial grounds. How's that for a unique setting? Taking place during WWII, the destruction of several Naval vessels in the harbor have them suspecting a possible spy within their midst. And
Rog Harrison
Feb 09, 2016 Rog Harrison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually read this as part of an omnibus which also contained "Surfeit of Lampreys" and "Death and the dancing footman". I first started reading the author's books in the 1960s and over the years I think I have read all her books and some of them many times. However I have only read this one once before back in the early 1980s. This book was first published in 1943 and is set in New Zealand against the background of World War 2.

The story concerns the people in a rundown health spa where people
Sep 15, 2011 Brett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ngaio-marsh
Alleyn returns to New Zealand under an alias, to spend World War II hunting for traitors & spies in the unlikely setting of a therapeutic thermal spa in the furthest reaches of Empire. Wai-ata-Tapu Springs is run (badly) by a retired Anglo-Indian colonel & his endearingly bumbling family. Unfortunately, they are under a financial obligation to the most objectionable of their guests, & he's threatening to call in his loan & take control of the Springs. At the same time, the Colone ...more
Apr 28, 2010 Miriam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
If I had not know going in that this was a murder mystery, I wouldn't have guessed it in the first half of the book. We meet various colorful characters at a spa in New Zealand, where they mostly bicker. Also there are some descriptions of the traditions of the local Maoris. The only hint of mystery is the conviction of some members of the family that owns the spa that someone, perhaps their unpleasant guest Questing, is an enemy spy and gave information leading to the recent torpedoing of a shi ...more
Jul 04, 2012 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1943 and set on the coast of New Zealand's North Island, Colour Scheme highlights the impact that World War II had on the entire British Commonwealth. Colonel and Mrs. Claire run a shabby spa, Wai-ata-Tupu Springs, where they advertise the healing properties of the sulphur springs mud for a variety of medical complaints. One of their guests is Maurice Questing, who is suspected of being a Nazi spy, and who is attempting to take control of Wai-ata-Tupu Springs from the Claire family. ...more
Nov 29, 2016 Lara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
In this book it takes a while before Alleyn shows up. It's New Zealand during the war. The action takes place at a hot spring and mud pool "spa" in a rural area, near a Maori reserve. The residents and staff are frequently at odds with each other. There is one man who is pretty much universally disliked. A famous actor comes to stay with his secretary and brings his over-emoting along. The narrator did a great job with the variety of voices and the dramatizing of the actor's remarks.

At the end,
Katie Bee
The intro says that this was Marsh's favorite of her own books. I can see that. It has a strong sense of place (an out-of-the-way spa in New Zealand, on the edge of Maori territory), and some good characters (as always in Marsh's books). I loved the viperous, crochety doctor, and was benevolently disposed to the actor's secretary. Even the actor appealed to me, despite his warty elements.

What keeps this book from getting a higher star rating from me is that I simply didn't enjoy it as much as ot
Jun 19, 2016 Kristel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii, mystery
A mystery set in New Zealand during WWII written by Ngaio Marsh, a mystery writer from the Golden Age and one of the Queen's of Crime. I've read three of the four authors and have Margery Allingham left. This was an okay story. I read it for the GeoCAT. The story is in New Zealand area of thermal activity and close to Maoris reserve. Ms Marsh is also a theater director and there is a bit of Shakespeare to the whole as well. I read a library copy printed in 1943 (I am surprised it was still on th ...more
Mar 29, 2014 Hope rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. Marsh's familiarity with the theater makes actor Geoffrey Gaunt (a kind of Laurence Olivier-type--half vain, half tender, always posing, but also feeling things) and his personal secretary, Dixon Bell, and dresser, Mr. Colly, very lively and fascinating characters in their own right. They're travelers at a failing and shabby hot springs resort that is threatened by blackmail and wartime espionage (the novel is set during WWII). Then there is the beauty and ominousness of the Ne ...more
Aug 09, 2013 Carly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This only my second Ngaio Marsh mystery - the first was over long and I gave up. As an Agatha Christie fan I find any other detective writers to be lacking her concise and tidy style - not a word is unnecessary. The scene setting in this story was too long - the murder didn't occur until three quarters into the book. It did occur in a boiling mud pool - very original! Like an Agatha story there was a sudden and strange proposal, lots of dated racism and sexism and seemingly unrealistic dialogue, ...more
Apr 30, 2010 Mmyoung rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I found most of the book plodding and by the numbers. As a novel set in New Zealand in the early years of WWII it was interesting; as a murder mystery it needed to be no more than a novella. Almost all the cast of characters are little more than caricatures. I found myself uninterested in or impatient with most of them. The book would probably have been less tortuous to read had Marsh not felt a need to shoehorn Alleyn into an environment where one would not expect him to be given the state of t ...more
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Dame Ngaio Marsh, born Edith Ngaio Marsh, was a New Zealand crime writer and theatre director. There is some uncertainty over her birth date as her father neglected to register her birth until 1900, but she was born in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand.

Of all the "Great Ladies" of the English mystery's golden age, including Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh
More about Ngaio Marsh...

Other Books in the Series

Roderick Alleyn (1 - 10 of 32 books)
  • A Man Lay Dead (Roderick Alleyn, #1)
  • Enter a Murderer (Roderick Alleyn, #2)
  • The Nursing Home Murder (Roderick Alleyn, #3)
  • Death in Ecstasy (Roderick Alleyn, #4)
  • Vintage Murder (Roderick Alleyn, #5)
  • Artists in Crime (Roderick Alleyn, #6)
  • Death in a White Tie (Roderick Alleyn, #7)
  • Overture to Death (Roderick Alleyn, #8)
  • Death at the Bar (Roderick Alleyn, #9)
  • Death of a Peer (Roderick Alleyn, #10)

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