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False Scent (Roderick Alleyn, #21)
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False Scent (Roderick Alleyn #21)

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  639 ratings  ·  38 reviews
In a poisonous cloud of spray, the curtain falls on a drama queen.

Little did beloved British actress Mary Bellamy know that she would be done in at her own birthday party-choked by toxic mist from the bottle of "Slaypest," a deadly insecticide. Basking in the glow of her most adoring fans-who all happened to be her most duplicitous enemies-Mary would make her final perform
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 15th 1999 by St. Martin's Dead Letter (first published January 1st 1959)
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(showing 1-30 of 994)
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Monica Akinyi Odhiambo
I didn't like Mary Bellamy at all,She was so controlling.Just because you are the face of one of the biggest theatrical companies,doesn't mean you be rude to almost everyone,even friends.As much as she was great in what she did,I just couldn't believe how mad she got when she heard that that Bertie would help Pinky in an upcoming play she was to feature yet for almost 25 years they were all loyal to her,and the fact she was jealous of upcoming talent was just not right.She felt that everyone owe ...more
Kevin Shoop
It's such a shame that Ngaio Marsh and Agatha Christie never collaborated together to write mysteries. Christie was a master at plotting and misdirection; Marsh far surpassed Christie in prose and character development. False Scent is a perfect example of Marsh's strengths and weaknesses on display: an immensely enjoyable novel, with uproariously over-the-top characters, but with a plot/mystery that has much potential but is ultimately mishandled with too many points being withheld from readers ...more
Britni Patterson
Of all the Ngaio Marsh books I've read so far, (and I have struggled through six), this one haunts me. Weirdly enough, the best part of the book is every other character but the detective. Roderick Alleyn is almost peripheral to the meaty wonderfulness that is the character descriptions, actions, and portrayals, sketched out with devastatingly chosen lines, which, honestly, is where I prefer him.

But the other characters! Amazing! I read it over and over again, to try and see how she did it, but
Mary Bellamy is the stereotypical aging actress, wealthy and famous and jealous of every fresh young face, and seeing conspiracy and treachery around every corner. It all comes to a head at her 50th birthday party, when it seems that one after another of all those close to her--protege, best friends, director, manager, dresser--have betrayed her in some way, and she lets them feel her wrath. Then someone lets her feel his or hers, and she is found dead in her room in the middle of the party, bro ...more
Ivonne Rovira
As with so many of Ngaio Marsh's novels, False Scent is set in the world of the theater. (Marsh was herself a theater director.) The novel centers on the murder of Mary Bellamy, a gifted but aging and volatile stage actress.

Ngaio Marsh, while generous to the ingenues who pepper her mystery novels, is as bad as any 19th century misogynist when it comes to middle-aged women. While she spares the titular creatures in Spinsters In Jeopardy, she depicts the elderly ladies in Overture To Death as har
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in February 1999.

This is one of the most theatrical of all Marsh's novels, being both about the stage and also very stagy in its setting, mostly taking place in a few rooms like a stage play. Oddly, it is missing a theatrical feature common to most (if not all) of her other novels: there is no "Cast of Characters" at the beginning.

Mary Bellamy, for thirty years the leading lady of the London stage, is about to hold a magnificent party to celebrate her fiftiet
False Scent is a well-paced mystery where none of the characters are particularly likeable, and where everybody looks suspect.

This being my fourth venture into books by Ngaio Marsh, I'm just beginning to get to know Inspector Alleyn. I must say I'm enjoying the experience; while he doesn't seem to have as much personality and unique quirks as a few of his fictional detective contemporaries, he's certainly quite a likeable chap. If you're a mystery reader that gets attached to the detective figur
Rog Harrison
I am not sure how many times I have read this book over the last forty years but this could be the fifth time I have read it. The book concerns a temperamental actress on her fiftieth birthday (not that she would admit to anyone that she was even close to being fifty!) falling out with friends and family and finally dying in the middle of her birthday party. Alleyn arrives and suspects foul play and successfully identifies the culprit within hours. An interesting cast of characters, many from th ...more
I like Marsh when she sticks with small settings, and a limited cast. Here, all the action takes place in one day, and really only occurs in about three rooms in Mary's home and one room in the neighboring bookstore. It's almost claustrophobic, with the people being held in the home while Alleyn does his questioning. I can imagine sitting with all the others, not sure what's going on, suspecting one of them is the murderer. By the end of the evening, Alleyn has his murderer.

We've got suspects a
Kathleen Hagen

At the center of this narrative is an aging actress, Mary Bellamy. She is used to adoration from friends and family, and she can be unbelievably vengeful if she doesn’t get this adoration. On the day of her birthday, as she is receiving presents from all the people who allegedly loved her, and who she allegedly loved, she had two “temperaments”, as she called them-temper tantrums-in which she denounced and promised to avenge herself on most of the important friends. So, when she turns up dead du
Sep 04, 2011 Laurie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers
Recommended to Laurie by: my mom!
Shelves: mysteries
I'm tempted to give this a 5 out of 5 for what it is. The New York Times says Ngaio Marsh was better than Agatha Christie and based on this book, I might agree. Ngaio Marsh wrote the same kind of books in the same time period - British cozy mysteries - light on violence, heavy on wit.

The dialogue is so well done, the characters felt real to me, I could see the scenes clearly in my mind, and I could hardly put the book down. As an added bonus, I was actually surprised by whodunit (though not shoc
Katie Hilton
Love Ngaio Marsh. This is another good one, set around a group of theater people. Ngaio Marsh, like Agatha Christie, loved the theater, and it shows. Her characterizations of actors and directors are very amusing. Oh, and a murder gets solved by Inspector Alleyn, too.
Always love Ngaio Marsh books and this one was no exception. Like most cozy mysteries, this one features a murder victiom you love to hate. I like the way the book begins with an imagined funeral for Mary Bellamy and ends with the actual funeral. Inspector Roderick Alleyn and his Sgt. Fox work together, Alleyn working the upper class while Fox works the servants. These books take place during the 1930s and 40s so class distinctions are very evident. I like the colorful characters that give the b ...more
Yet ANOTHER reread, for a reason: due to various Board-related tensions in the Library at the moment, I've been avoiding it, so I'm digging into the tried and true piles around home. One year I set out and read all the Ngaio Marsh books I could find: I think I got them all. She is a fantastic, detailed, interesting, creative writer, and she never fails to please, so False Scent was a pleasure! It's funny--I visualize the setting as the house from Bringing Up Baby, which also featured in "The Wom ...more
The promise of the first Marsh novel pays off here. The author is clearly in her element with a theatre setting - the other novel of hers I'm reading concurrently (Vintage Murder) is also a stage setting - and the little quips and digs amongst the players are all bang-on. In fact that may be what I like best, the colloquialisms and people getting "tight" instead of drunk, though I don't agree with the enormous quote on the cover that "she writes better than Christie" (NY Times Book Review). In f ...more
I spent Sunday afternoon reading False Scent when I ought to have been working because I really had to find out how it ended. I don't know that the mystery is all that mysterious -- I figured out who did it and how. But the writing is amazing and the characters are wonderful and terrible and painful -- just so well-crafted. It's one of those stories that makes you want to look away so you don't have to watch people put their foibles on display, expose themselves so dreadfully, but that's also wh ...more
I own every single book ever published by Agatha Christie (including two copies of her autobiography), but after a while reading the same books over and over started to get boring. One remembers the plots quite easily. Ngaio Marsh is more in the same vein, but with snappier dialogue and without the irritating love of ellipses that tends to overwhelm a few of Ms. Christie's more disturbing murder mysteries. Great fun all around, although neither has anything on Dorothy Sayers...
Seriously, seriously boring book.
The characters are caricatures, the relationships aren't worked through very well, the motives are sketchy and the final reasoning is just plain odd.
Marsh seems to have been a very sub-standard Christie: Alleyn is a forgettable detective and her grasp of human relationships and intricacies was clearly slippery at best.
I persisted because I hate leaving mysteries unsolved, even if they're not particularly interesting ones.
This one was interesting in part because of the pace; practically the entire book takes place in 1 day, including Alleyn solving the mystery. Marsh writes about "theater people" in a way that makes the characters funny, yet individual. They are all certain "types," but not caricatures. A comment made in passing at the beginning of the book hinted who the murderer might be, but the resolution was still interesting.
It had been a long time since I listened to an Inspector Alleyn mystery. Ngaio Marsh rates right up there with the other great women of mystery - Christie and Allingham.

It took me awhile to get into this book - there was a long lead in to the mystery, but Alleyn came through and solved the crime. I will be getting another audiobook by Marsh soon.
Nancy Wilson
Excellent read obvious but unexpected murderer.
One thing Marsh does well is awful social embarrassment. The famous actress whose temperament has become unmanageable, whose selfishness is unchecked, is the focus of "False Scent". There is not enough here to make me love the story, but it is a strongly carried mystery.
aPriL eVoLvEs
I was very very amused by this one. It was classic on EVERY level. There was nothing missed or left out to the point of utter silly giggling over it. I suspect Marsh of giggling herself when writing it.
I honestly did not figure this one out until the very end. I did wonder why Mary was so popular because the picture painted of her was not very flattering in my opinion.
Mary Kathryn
Still reading my way through the Inspector Alleyn Books - I think this is the 19th one I've read, this one isn't among my favorites but still very good.
Peter Nye
Enjoyable murder mystery. It is always interesting to see how an author can arrange for someone to be murdered almost in public.
Thought this one was superb. The theatrical characters are cruelly observed and it makes for a delightful yet poignant read.
Maureen E
I really like some of the minor characters in this one, especially Octavius Browne. (Jan 2008)
Feb 02, 2012 Ange rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: audio
It was in a 3-in-Book so I didn't know I had read it till I started listening. Good to repeat.
Matthew Mitchell
Fun escape on a Sunday afternoon, but fairly easy to figure out "whodunit" early on.
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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 44 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)
A Man Lay Dead (Roderick Alleyn, #1) Death in a White Tie (Roderick Alleyn, #7) Death of a Peer (Roderick Alleyn, #10) Artists in Crime (Roderick Alleyn, #6) Clutch of Constables (Roderick Alleyn, #25)

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