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Photo Finish (Roderick Alleyn, #31)
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Photo Finish (Roderick Alleyn #31)

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,292 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
A persistent paparazzi has hounded operatic soprano Isabella Sommita until her nerves are at the breaking point. Now her millionaire boyfriend has whisked her to a New Zealand island to recover. There she plans a performance of an aria written just for her-- by her secret young lover, who, along with a bevy of envious celebrities, is also on the island.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 15th 2000 by Minotaur Books (first published 1980)
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Simon Mcleish
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in October 1999.

Right at the end of her career, Marsh took her detective Alleyn back to her beloved New Zealand, scene of some of his earlier successes. It was almost forty years after her previous novel set outside Europe. Photo Finish also features a flamboyant, larger than life stage personality, the soprano Isabella Sommita. Emotionally exhausted after attacks on her by a photographer naming himself Strix, who pursued her across the world, surprising her
A decent mystery, quite well-supplied with appropriate levels of fair clues and false trails, and some rather good descriptive passages capturing Westland in New Zealand, and some nice local flavour cameos - I quite liked Bert, the chauffeur, with his unmistakeable (and unending) flow of kiwiisms - right on the nose, and just the right side of caricature. Also, the NZ detective inspector and his 'status quow'.

But on the whole, I think for future silly holiday reading, I'll be going back to Georg
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite detective series. I recently re read them all starting at #1 and only have one more to go.
Gillian Kevern
I ... literally just got the title now.

Despite being written in the 1980s, this feels a lot earlier. In a way, the vague setting works well. The isolated setting was a lot more believable when I believed the story was set earlier--though I should have wondered about the helicopter.
Nov 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love this genre and even though Ngaio Marsh is generally considered one of the Queens of Crime, I have to (embarrassingly) admit that this is my first book by her. Perhaps its because she doesn’t seem to be very popular in India, atleast to the extent that Agatha Christie & even Dorothy Sayers are. Perhaps its also that she hasn’t written very many novels and has only the one detective creation – the likeable Roderick “Rory” Alleyn, the supposedly Handsome Sleuth.

Being a New Zealander, man
Richard Stueber
Aug 03, 2013 rated it liked it
This book concerns an internationally famous exceedingly temperamental operatic prima donna named Isabella Sommita (Italian for summit). She has acquired a boy toy named Rupert Bartholomew who has written a short opera which Isabella wants to perform. This performance will be held at a fabulous mansion on a secluded island in a lake in New Zealand.
Meanwhile Isabella has hired the well known artist Agatha Troy to paint her portrait, Troy being the wife of Chief Superintendent Roderick Alleyn. Rod
Feb 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, own
I've read an analysis of the books of Agatha Christie, which counted the length of the words in the books, and the syllabic content dropped over the years, and the language became simpler. I got that same feeling from this book.

I think that this is the last book Ms. Marsh wrote, even though there's one more in the canon. I think that "Light Thickens" was written before this one, because "Photo Finish" is too simple, and too obvious, where the other is very complicated and erudite. It seems to me
Jul 25, 2013 rated it liked it
I managed to complete this book during the periods of wakefulness in a day of naps recovering from jet lag. I am a fan of this series and was excited to read one set in New Zealand. This was a variation of a locked room mystery -- a murder occurs during an event at a posh private lodge on an island in the middle of a lake during a massive storm. All contact with the outside world is temporarily cut off and Alleyn must try to preserve the integrity of the crime scene and investigate the dramatic ...more
Nancy Butts
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
#31 in the series, and another home run as Marsh sends Alleyn back to New Zealand—this time with his wife Troy—as she is commissioned to paint the portrait of a larger-than-life opera diva at the fabulously expensive retreat of her millionaire boyfriend on an island in a lake in the West Country. [I think that’s what it’s called.] Marsh can’t seem to resist bringing hints of the international drug trade again. And her depiction of both gay men and Italians by today’s standards seems to perpetuat ...more
Kate  K. F.
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was one of Ngaio Marsh's last mysteries and is one of her most atmospheric as Alleyn and Troy are whisked off to an island in the South Island of New Zealand, so that Troy can paint a famous Italian soprano. The descriptions of New Zealand show Marsh's love for her home and numerous touches make this rather formulaic mystery about a diva opera star a beautiful way to visit New Zealand. In terms of the mystery, the main character has a tabloid photographer taking awful pictures of her and se ...more
Rog Harrison
Aug 04, 2013 rated it liked it
This was actually part of an omnibus edition which also contains "Light thickens", "Black beech & honeydew" and a short story "Morepork". I first came across Ngaio Marsh's books in the 1960s and over the years I have read most of her books. I have read "Photo finish" at least three times before and I actually own a copy! This is one of the last books in the series and is a bit far fetched but it is still a good read. I like Roderick Alleyn and his wife, Troy. I also read the short story "Mor ...more
Not bad as these things go: deducting points for the camp secretary to the tycoon but remarking that the tycoon himself seems to be coded gay but deeply closeted (in fact there's a hint from the devious valet that they may, in fact, be an item), whatever his peculiar relationship with the diva. Also, I thought, but this may be One of Those Myths, that the Mafia did not kill women, though as what is at stake is a familial vendetta over a bygone crime of passion against a woman, something rather d ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Nov 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another winner in the Roderick Alleyn series. Alleyn's wife,Troy has been commissioned to paint the portrait of a famous and temperamental opera star, Isabella Sommita and Alleyn tags along. The star and her protector, the fabulously wealthy Mr. Reece, are ensconced on a private island in New Zealand along with a host of musical guests. Sommita's "protege", Rupert, has written an opera just for her and she is determined to stage it for those assembled. Those who have seen/heard the score are hor ...more
Dec 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
Marsh's penultimate book, set in her home country, New Zealand. A persistent paparazzi, Strix, is annoying the diva, Sommitta (highest). She demands police protection; they agree because they think there Are drugs involved in her entourage but they dont tell her; then she invites Roderick Alleyn's wife to paint her at a remote retreat where a new opera by Sommita's lover will be performed. So...everybody's on a remote island, power is lost because of a storm and... Guess what? There's a murder! ...more
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned-books
I found this book really heavy going, which is rather sad since I usually like reading Ngaio Marsh. However, although I love many of the titles, there are some I really haven't enjoyed and this was one of them.
The main character is an opera singer, not a likeable person - very flamboyant. I found myself relieved when the murder happened, but completely lost interest in the plot after that. I skipped to the end and found out "whodunnit" and din't feel I had lost anything by not reading the remain
Apr 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This reminded me a bit of Spinsters in Jeopardy. Apparently, when Marsh wants to have a ridiculous cult/drug/organized crime type story line, it requires a foreign setting and foreigners. Those things don't happen in Britain, and they certainly aren't the work of citizens of the Commonwealth.
Hilarious, though probably not entirely intentionally, and, as usual with Marsh, the lead up to the murder is the best part.
John Carter
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If it were possible for Marsh to get a mere three stars from me, this would probably be a candidate. The mechanics of achieving isolation to limit suspects seem a little forced, and I find the motive weak in light of the situation. Still; what can you say? Marsh is a master and writes well.
R.E. Conary
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
I find I like the film versions of the Inspector Allen mysteries better than reading them. They don't wear well on the long haul. This one in particular seemed dated and dull. Which is a shame really as I picked it up at Friends of the Library book sale hoping for something classic. This one wasn't. Should have saved my 25 cents for something else.
Charlene Vickers
Jun 25, 2010 rated it liked it
All right but not one of her best: the identity of the killer is obvious too soon and there's some glaring racism (foreigners bad: Commonwealth types of British origin good). The victim is a bad caricature as well. Given that it was written in 1980, I would have expected a little more open-mindedness.
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'd put this somewhere between Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, though honestly not as good as either. Nevertheless, it was a good old fashioned locked-room murder mystery, taking place on an island in New Zealand. It involved a lot of aristocrats and opera singers and various intrigues, including a gay character. I figured out whodunnit before the end, though.
Feb 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
Oh, those New Zealand mafiosi and their constant predation of opera singers.

Despite the title, this has nothing to do with horse racing.
Feb 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: murdermostfoul
Marsh's penultimate mystery, set in New Zealand. Excellent descriptions of the country; an okay mystery; spoiled a little by Marsh's anti-gay bias. She always writes gay characters as unpleasantly mincing, puzzling in someone so involved in the theatre. Ah well.
Katie Hilton
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Alleyns travel to New Zealand, where Troy hopes to paint a world-famous soprano in a beautiful island setting. Unfortunately, the singer is murdered before Troy can begin. Then a tropical storm traps guests, including the murderer, on the island and Alleyn has to investigate in a hurry.
 Northern Light
Jan 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
This was a light weight easy to read book. In a wonderful settting the murder takes place but who dunnit. Inspector Alleyn is forced to act alone as the island is cut off by a storm. I enjoyed this book as it didn't ask too much of the reader. Fairly obvious ending but great characterisation
Maureen E
Nov 08, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
The next-to-last and last in the Inspector Alleyn series. They were….alright. Quite honestly, they made me glad that there were no more because Alleyn didn’t have the charm and interest which makes the earlier books so readable. Black as He’s Painted and Last Ditch were much better.
Jan 05, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gentle_mysteries
confusing and confused
The Badger
Jul 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Ngaio Marsh helped me curb my grandma's "true crime" addiction. As a consequence, I became addicted to Ngaio Marsh cozies.
Tessa in Mid-Michigan
One of her best, very atmospheric with lots of suspense.
Mar 01, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
And this one was beyond silly. Clearly the first Marsh I read was an exception.
George Reilly
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great House mystery written in 1980, long past the heyday of the subgenre. Moderately entertaining whodunnit.
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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)
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  • 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)