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

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  1,008 Ratings  ·  62 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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Simon Mcleish
Apr 07, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
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
May 03, 2012 Sharla rated it really liked it
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
Monica Akinyi Odhiambo
Aug 21, 2013 Monica Akinyi Odhiambo rated it really liked it
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
Mar 19, 2016 E.L. added it
Shelves: new-for-me-2016
I always feel so smug when I figure out the murderer ahead of time. In this case, I had said murderer pegged from first appearance -"he (or she - no spoilers here!) is going to do it!" And I guessed why and even how. Well done, self.
Suzie Grogan
May 29, 2015 Suzie Grogan rated it really liked it
Re reading after 25 years and Ngaio Marsh still seems a genius and Alleyn the perfect detective...
Jun 16, 2017 William rated it liked it
This is not Marsh at her best, though it is still kinda fun to read.

The plot is okay and there are an appropriate number of twists and an ending I did not predict. That alone makes the read worthwhile.

But this is far from her best writing, and the characters (aside from Mary Bellamy) are less vivid and distinctive than usual.

There are a lot of small things which put me off. I get a bit tired of the upper crust social scene where fifty people "is not an enormous party" and people are called "Pin
Feb 27, 2017 Beverly rated it liked it
Shelves: detective
Too much perfume.
Nancy Butts
Jan 05, 2017 Nancy Butts rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
#21 in the series, and although it takes place entirely in a private home in London, this is another of Marsh's theatrical mysteries. This one centers on an "aging" actress who throws two massive temperaments on the occasion of her 50th birthday and enrages all the important people in her life—leading to her murder by a method that is reflected in the title [and foreshadowed by what we might call a Chekhovian spray gun of pesticide].

Marsh herself was active in the theater her entire life; she w
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
Feb 28, 2013 Rebecca rated it really liked it
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
Sep 23, 2009 Hannah rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
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
Katie Bee
Nov 30, 2016 Katie Bee rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-books-read
This is one of Marsh's theater books, although this one is set in the home of an aging actress, not in the theatre itself. I generally enjoy the theater mysteries - Marsh's familiarity with the theater means that she can paint a convincing and intriguing picture. This one isn't quite as successful as previous forays; perhaps it's the remove of the action from the theater to a private home, and perhaps it's the uncompromisingly harsh light Marsh turns on the victim, who has been charming and belo ...more
Rog Harrison
Jul 29, 2014 Rog Harrison rated it really liked it
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
Kevin Shoop
Mar 27, 2015 Kevin Shoop rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Grade: B

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
Carol Evans
Jul 14, 2012 Carol Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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
False Scent by Ngaio Marsh.

The theatrics begins at the beginning and it is over the top theatrics. The people involved are all wrapped up in the London stage with this gala celebration for Mary Bellamy's 50th birthday bash. The well wishers are as superficially thrilled with Mary as she is with each one of her so-called admirers.

Then someone substitutes poison for Mary's favorite azalea spray and she ends up murdered... but by who and why? That's for Inspector Roderick Alleyn to deduce.

I loved t
Gillian Kevern
Finished this during naptime, babysitting day one. The baby was sleeping and I got the murder method, so I was feeling pretty good about myself, this book and life in general.

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 23, 2012 Knitme23 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 26, 2012 Kelly rated it it was amazing
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
Alaina Sloo
I'm a big fan of Ngaio Marsh's mysteries. This is not my favorite of her books, but it's fine. If this is your first Ngaio Marsh, I suggest you read another one first. There are lots of great ones to choose from.
Britni Patterson
Dec 22, 2014 Britni Patterson rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 04, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 03, 2012 Miriam rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, mystery, series
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.
Oct 29, 2007 amy rated it liked it
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...
Dec 17, 2011 Leah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, mystery
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.
Sep 10, 2008 Patty rated it liked it
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.
Renee Wallace
Jun 07, 2016 Renee Wallace rated it it was amazing
This is Marsh at her best, describing the world and the people of the theater. Her character development always does ring true, but especially here, and especially in the case of the victim. If you love the grand dames of British mystery, you will want this one. If you have never read a Ngaio Marsh, you could not start with a better one than this.
Sep 22, 2016 Linda rated it it was amazing
One of my new-found favorite Marsh's. The aging actress and the fawning friends have a blowout birthday party. An adopted child finds out he's not so adopted after all - and Alleyn and Fox manage to get through many rollicking emotions with their hair intact. I actually quite like the murderer, more's the pity!
aPriL does feral sometimes
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.
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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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