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Black As He's Painted (Roderick Alleyn #28)

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  1,005 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
Portrait of a murder...

Superintendent Roderick Alleyn's old school chum-- whom his wife Troy longs to paint-- is now President of Ng'ombwana, a brand-new African republic. This handsome, charismatic dictator has enemies of every stripe: from ruddy-faced ex-colonists to new rivals, from dispossessed businessmen to racist crackpots. But when a ceremonial spear deals death at
Published (first published 1973)
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Aug 10, 2016 Miriam rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
Sam the retired Foreign Service officer and his determinedly rescued cat were charming, but insufficient to make up for the author's and characters' racism. Marsh is considerably less simpatica towards Africans than she is to the Maori who more often appear in her novels. And don't bother jumping in with, "That's just how people were Back Then" because this book wasn't written that long ago. It reminded me a bit of another recent read, Speaker of Mandarin; both are later novels by elderly women ...more

Wanda McCaddon does a great narration & her voice for Inspector Alleyn's school friend Boomer was particularly excellent.

As for the book itself, I was surprised to find that this is a Marsh that I had not previously read. I have seen in some of the other reviews that some people had problems with this book's treatment of race. Certainly some of the characters were racist but just as clearly others were not. If you are sensitive about this issue, then it might be better to skip this one.

aPriL does feral sometimes
If it wasn't for Mr. Whipplestone and Lucy Lockett, I'd give this one in the series two stars. Given our current environment of real terrorism plots, it is an interesting book and to some degree gave me a think on what if a neighbor lived next door that showed some signs of a being part of a conspiracy to do violence.

It's a mildly patronizing plot,and some obviously dislike that tone towards the African characters; but actually, in my opinion, Marsh is consistently patronizing and ironic in eve
P.D.R. Lindsay
Jan 23, 2013 P.D.R. Lindsay rated it it was amazing
I always enjoy rereading this novel as Mr Whipplestone and Lucy are such delightful characters. The plot is a good tight one and I enjoy the usual display of Ms Marsh's writing skills.

The comments by some readers about racism are puzzling. The comments and attitudes of some of the less pleasant characters are still heard today. Just as loudly and nastily.

For Troy and Rory fans the glimpses of their relationship in the novel is another pleasure. Troy the artist is always fun to 'watch'. And Rory
Jul 18, 2012 Gerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can understand why the Daily Telegraph described this book as the best Ngaio Marsh for a long time because it probably is just that.

A quirky storyline with the President of an African country involved in the murder of one of his household ... but was he, himself, the intended victim? And who would want to kill him as he was only visiting the UK and had no known enemies.

Syuperintendent Roderick Alleyn gets the call, mainly because he was a school chum of the President, who was educated in Engla
Simon Mcleish
May 12, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in August 1999.

'The best Ngaio Marsh for a long time' is how the Daily Telegraph greeted the appearance of Black As He's Painted (according to the front cover). By 1975, she have produced quite a long string of disappointing novels, and it wouldn't have taken a great deal to deserve this tag; but in fact Black As He's Painted is one of the best of all Marsh's novels.

The story concerns a visit made by the President of the Commonwealth nation of Ng'omwana, know
Sep 21, 2012 Damaskcat rated it it was amazing
Roderick Alleyn was at school with the current president of Ng’ombwana – nicknamed The Boomer. The President is on a visit to England and staying in his country’s embassy and the powers that be consider his life is at risk. Alleyn and a colleague from Special Branch are tasked with trying to make him abide by security restrictions – which seems like a losing battle at times.

Close to the Embassy there are several suspicious characters including a brother and sister called Sanskrit who make and
Jan 17, 2011 Krista rated it liked it
My least favorite Marsh book so far. Very dated and rather offensive to modern sensibilities. That said, please don't rewrite it and remove all allusions to the negro race as Marsh describes them; that would be silly. The exploration of prejudice itself is very instructive, even if the mystery wanders over into sensationalism in a very un-Marsh-like way.

As a secondary note, I read the Jove paperback, published in the 70s. Very, very obvious what was selling then; the back cover blurb talks about
Sep 06, 2011 Elena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, mystery, series, british
Another good Inspector Alleyn mystery; this one involved an African school friend of the detective who went on to become a president/dictator of his emergent nation. I think parts of it would be considered racist by today's overly sensitive standards but Marsh clearly was trying to combat some racist attitudes of her time. Her villains were a sort of Klan group that had it in for people of this imagined African nation and one of the lesser heroes loves the nation, culture, and language. And then ...more
Nov 10, 2015 Betty rated it it was amazing
I read Dame Marsh in the 196-70's and really enjoyed them. I am reading them again from my library. This,one is a hardcover version. The Special Branch is in a panic as the President of an emerging African nation of Ng'ombwana is planning State Visit to England. He is noted for doing his own thing as he is an old school friend of Roderick Alleyn; he is asked to help them protect him. If you like twists and turns in a book read an expert does it. This changes will keep you guessing and the ending ...more
Jul 23, 2008 Anne rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, brit-lit
The plot to assassinate the president of Ng'ombwana on his visit to London doesn't go as planned--or does it?

I'm enjoying Ngaio Marsh's books, but I was pretty much able to guess where this one was going pretty early on. Still, the story itself was enjoyable so I listened through till the end.

Mar 22, 2009 Monica rated it it was ok
Ngaio Marsh is no Dorothy Sayers or Agatha Christie, but for classic British murder mystery addicts, she will do in a pinch. This particular book reflects the racial attitudes and stereotypes of the era during which it was written and may offend modern sensibilities.
Sep 04, 2012 JZ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, own
It's still hard to believe that this was written in the 70's, because it still feels like the 40's, but other than that, it was good. I enjoyed the characters, and the ending reminded me of an Agatha Christie short story I read recently.

It sure left me wanting to see Troy's paintings.
May 30, 2011 Elaine rated it liked it
Listened to well-narrated audio recording. Very British, very literate, very enjoyable---rather a jolly mystery. Recommend to fans of spirited but civilized whodoneits.
Apr 11, 2008 Gjmegjake rated it really liked it
Another used bookshop purchase to fill in the collection. I enjoyed this one in particular probably because I couldn't figure out who done it!
Nov 22, 2008 Marleen rated it really liked it
I did in fact listen to this book on audio Cd's but couldn't find the right picture for that one.
Feb 14, 2012 Leyla rated it it was amazing
One of my absolute favorite Inspector Alleyn's. Great characterization, plot and setting!
Sep 20, 2012 Lesley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another one of the better Marshes
Susan B.
Jun 15, 2011 Susan B. rated it really liked it
A good old-fashioned murder mystery. Just like I like them.
Nov 06, 2008 Susan rated it it was amazing
Like all of Dame Marsh's books, always literate.
Apr 03, 2012 Kelly rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I'm liking Ngaio Marsh quite a bit- I even find myself confusing her stuff with Josephine Tey's!
Jul 19, 2012 Lesley rated it really liked it
Another great one in the series
Mar 26, 2014 Polly rated it it was amazing
A very fine book.
Katie Bee
Dec 07, 2016 Katie Bee rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-books-read
Okay, so I'm in two minds about this book.

It was written in the 1970s, and it shows. It's dated badly, with Marsh balancing her own paternalistic condescending attitudes towards non-white people against the stronger, virulent anti-black hatred of some of her characters. She writes as if Alleyn, Troy, et al. are supposed to be paragons of tolerance, and yet from today's perspective we can see that they're still mired in the racist paradigm of their age, even if their racism is more paternalistic
Dec 18, 2016 Pragyam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Between plot and language, and characters and their inter-relationships, not to mention the heartwarming chemistry between Mr. and Mrs. Alleyn, the book made for really enjoyable reading, even though it reflected the prejudices of its times.
Sep 23, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing
Another trip down memory lane. The Lawrenceville library only had a few Ngaio Marsh books, but I loved them all. This was a new one for me.
Mar 27, 2012 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
The plot is well-done, with the over-arching mystery appropriately tangled and clues doled out that I mostly missed. There's also a quick mystery, too, that helps wrap the whole thing up. As always, it's interesting to see the different viewpoints and cultural norms of the time.

For me though, Marsh 's strength here is the characters. Inspector Alleyn is as intelligent and polite as always. He is a gentleman, a member of the upper class, as this episode reminds us. I like that his wife, Troy, who
DH Hanni
Sep 12, 2016 DH Hanni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read probably close to 10, maybe more of her Roderick Alleyn books and I think this has to be one of my favorites so far. I think it's also her most strongly written of the books I've read. Perhaps because this one was written later on in Marsh's life. Love the evolution of Alleyn and the development of supporting character Fox. I thought the plot was a great way to do social commentary on racial issues as they were perceived in 1970s UK and I could see a lot of how some attitudes haven't c ...more
Apr 29, 2013 Mandolin rated it it was amazing

Ngaio Marsh is one of the great dames of mystery for two very good reasons: her uncanny ability to create full-bodied portraits of her characters and imbue them with personality and life that rings ever true and her skill with complex, engaging plots that end in satisfying conclusions. In Black as He's Painted, both of those aspects of her writing are at displayed at their best. One of the more delightful of the Alleyn mysteries, the book revolves around the thwarted murder of the Ng'ombwana pre
Jan 14, 2016 Teri-k rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good entry in the series. We get to see Alleyn and Troy together in "normal" circumstances, and Mr Whipplestone and Lucy are delightful. I also think the mystery is well-done, with several possibilities being uncovered and some suspects I wanted to be innocent.

Unlike a few reviewers, I didn't think this showed the author as particularly bigoted, only that the secondary characters are stereotypes. But they're all stereotypes - they always are in this type of novel. The story is abo
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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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