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Colour Scheme (1943)

by Ngaio Marsh

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Roderick Alleyn (12)

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7311521,408 (3.54)43
Often regarded as her most interesting book and set on New Zealand's North Island, Ngaio Marsh herself considered this to be her best-written novel. It was a horrible death - Maurice Questing was lured into a pool of boiling mud and left there to die. Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn, far from home on a wartime quest for German agents, knew that any number of people could have killed him: the English exiles he'd hated, the New Zealanders he'd despised or the Maoris he'd insulted. Even the spies he'd thwarted - if he wasn't a spy himself...… (more)



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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
This book is full of disagreeable people and hardly features Mr. Alleyn at all. It's extremely dated and hardly worthy of Ms. Marsh. It's got a dreadful attitude to the native New Zealand population, a hearty disrespect for the transplanted Britishers who one supposes are the protagonists, and the murder victim is a disgusting lecherous creep. Even the romance doesn't quite come off. The only saving grace is that I borrowed the audiobook from the library and so don't have to own it.

I continued to listen to the end because I am reading all of the Alleyn books in order, but I have to say you could totally skip this one. It doesn't further Roderick or Troy's story at all, except to tell one that Roderick is in NZ as part of his foreign office war work.

( )
  mirihawk | May 21, 2020 |
This is set in New Zealand during WWII. Alleyn has been sent to New Zealand to hunt fifth columnists. As with the above novel, he is working undercover, but in this novel he only makes an appearance part way through. The story focuses on the Claire family, owners of the thermal resort Wai-ata-tapu, their guests, and their dependents and their Māori neighbours. Staying at the resort are Maurice Questing, a vulgar businessman, and Geoffrey Gaunt, a celebrity actor, and his entourage.

The Claires are a somewhat dysfunctional family, consisting of Colonel and Mrs Claire, their children Barbara and Simon, and Mrs Claire's brother, Dr James Accrington who has retired to the resort to write a book on anatomy. Colonel Claire was formerly in the Indian Army, and is by no stretch of the imagination a businessman - by the time the story opens, he is in debt to Maurice Questing and is about to lose control of the resort (which is shabby and run down). Part of the problem as well is the Claire's Edwardian attitudes - they only want guests of the right sort. On the other hand, they enjoy good relations with their Māori neighbours; actually treating them decently. Also resident at the resort is Herbert Smith, a remittance man, who theoretically is the resort's odd job man, but in fact does as little work as possible and gets blotto monthly when his allowance arrives.

Maurice Questing is now the de-facto owner of the resort as Colonel Claire is behind on the interest on the loan, and the term of the loan is up; and Colonel Claire is in no position to repay the principal. Questing has plans to modernise the resort, and will be kicking out the Claires, with the exception of Barbara Claire (to whom he has proposed marriage) and her uncle, Dr Accrington, who he plans to retain as an on-site doctor. Geoffrey Gaunt has been recommended to the resort by an acquaintance of Dr Accrington; he didn't want to go to Rotorua because he would be disturbed by people after autographs and the like. He is accompanied by his secretary, Dickon Bell, and his manservant, Colly.

The story opens following the sinking of a ship, the Hippolyte, by what is thought to be a Japanese submarine (this would be around 1942). Dr Accrington believes there to be a fifth columnist in operation in the area as lights have been seen at night on Rangi's Peak, a coastal extinct volcano on the Māori reserve which was a burial ground and hence off-limits to all and especially paheka. Simon Claire has also seen the lights. It's also possible that the lights are from curio hunters, operating at night. Accrington has communicated with the authorities, and apparently got nowhere. Into this mix, Gaunt and his entourage arrive. Cue a rather explosive mix of personalities, another ship sinking (probably based on the sinking of the RMS Niagara in 1940), culminating in Questing's disappearance while crossing the thermal reserve at night (it being a short-cut to and from the Māori village).

I preferred this to Money in the Morgue, reading the two back-to-back showed Marsh's hand to be much better than Duffy's (almost certainly because of the generational and background differences). Marsh herself was also a theatrical director (this is why she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) and the theatrical references in this are handled much better. It was also adapted for New Zealand television - I seem to recall seeing it in the 1980s.

  Maddz | Apr 16, 2020 |
I disliked almost every character in this book, especially Geoffrey Gaunt and Simon Claire. The native characters are sympathetically portrayed, but the tinge of racism never entirely leaves the narrative. The plot does have some redeeming points, such as the method of the murder. But there is an overall unevenness here (the randomness of the motive(s) and the identity of the perpetrator, for example) which makes liking this book rather impossible. A so-so read for me. ( )
  Porua | Jan 6, 2019 |
I haven't read any Ngaio Marsh for ages - I'd forgotten how much I enjoy her writing. This is a good who done it, and she had me completely fooled on the murderer. It is brought to life by interesting characters and a great setting: mist shrouded hot springs and mud pots. Some are therapeutic, some are deadly. I particularly liked her description of the local Maoris and their uneasy relationship with the transplanted British culture. ( )
  JanetNoRules | Sep 17, 2018 |
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 the shelf) with a back cover "This book, like all books, is a symbol of the liberty and the freedom for which we fight. You as a reader of books, can do your share in the desperate battle to protect those liberties--Buy War Bonds. ( )
  Kristelh | Jun 27, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ngaio Marshprimary authorall editionscalculated
may, nadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the family at Tauranga
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When Dr James Ackrington limped into the Harpoon Club on the afternoon of Monday, January the thirteenth, he was in a poisonous temper.
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Seething Springs
The bizarre assortment of people living at a health spa in New Zealand during World War II could set off almost anything - and they do.

Colonel Claire and his wife live with their two children an awkward daughter and a son studying Morse code - and Mrs. Claire's brother, a hot-tempered physician. Into their midst come a seedy inebriate named Smith and an unscrupulous businessman named Questing, who all suspect to be an enemy agent.

Questing suddenly dies under violent and macabre circumstances, and takes to his death a secret that promises far-reaching effects on each of his accusers...
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