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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars File this under Marsh's best
I've come back to this gem at least four times -- though another reviewer says explicitly that he would not be back.

My reasons for returning?

First, the land. New Zealand is a character here, and it's delineated by Marsh with the kinds of detail that made travelogues interesting, back before television showed us everywhere all at once. The light,...
Published on March 7, 2006 by Amazon Customer

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not the worst, but not the best
What passes for mediocre Ngaio Marsh is better than the best from many mystery writers. This isn't the worst that Miss Marsh penned. (That dubious honor must go to the plodding Overture to Death.) But Colour Scheme suffers from one of the same setbacks: Inspector Alleyn isn't introduced until too late in the novel. (Actually, I didn't realize he was in the novel until...
Published on January 19, 2012 by Miss Ivonne


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars File this under Marsh's best, March 7, 2006
By 
I've come back to this gem at least four times -- though another reviewer says explicitly that he would not be back.

My reasons for returning?

First, the land. New Zealand is a character here, and it's delineated by Marsh with the kinds of detail that made travelogues interesting, back before television showed us everywhere all at once. The light, the flora, the geology... it's all like a Turner watercolor, fascinating light plays and landscapes, where the weather and warmth is pervasive.

Second, there is the humor. There are fascinating caricatures of the British 'high-toned' expatriate family in straightened means, the self-centered movie star of the 1940s, the Callow Youth (all provincial slang, worn like a flashy shirt), the Crass Businessman. Seeing much of the interplay through Dikon's down-to-earth eyes -- acting as the chorus of the play, observing and summarizing -- makes it even funnier.

The land between the Maoris and the Claires is one that you'll remember. It's as sinister as Conan Doyle's moor in Hound of the Baskervilles and equally bathed in wrenching sights and sounds.

And everything moves in and out of surrealism: a real train bears down on a fantastic landscape, Gaunt's posturing suddenly gives way to a moment of genuine generosity (or is it?), walkers fearfully pick their way along paths through dangerous hot springs... It's fun to see Barbara emerge as enticing despite her continuous mugging and 'attitudes'... doubtless derived from the kinds of movies that Gaunt makes...

A final thought: while Colour Scheme is among Marsh's best, it probably is not the best choice for a first sampling of Roderick Alleyn at work. Light Thickens would be my candidate for that -- among the last of Marsh's mysteries, it beautifully melds human motivations and actions with the theater (and within that, one of theater's most theatric of plays, Macbeth).

But, as a kind of side-note into Alleyn's life, and a commentary on World War II in the South Pacific, and a grouping of often hilarious caricatures, Colour Scheme is a worthy read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A World War II Spy Story, October 20, 2004
Knowing that Ngaio Marsh lived in New Zealand, it made sense that she would situate one of her mysteries in her beloved adopted country. In this book Inspector Alleyn is in New Zealand during World War II to do a bit of "spy busting". As in all her books, this one has a flawlessly written plot with a very tight story line. In the keeping of a "spy story", Ms. Marsh's Alleyn does not appear as himself. He appears in the story in a very clever disguise, and the reader will have the fun of figuring out who he is. It took me a little while. What Alleyn has come to the spa to investigate is the death of one of the people who had an interest in the spa. We meet some very unique characters in this book. The Colonel's family is quite wonderful actually.Ms. Marsh can tell a tale!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars neither gem nor fool's gold, June 1, 2013
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Of all the mystery-writers I've read, and I've read dozens and dozens, Ngaio Marsh is the one I come back to most often through the years. I read her with great pleasure at fifteen; I read her with great pleasure at thirty-five. Her early work is marred by a reliance on imitative tropes already extant in the genre (Alleyn's courtship of Agatha Troy is an awkward diminution of Lord Peter Wimsey's relationship with Harriet Vane, and the journalist Nigel Bathgate is Alleyn's superfluous Watson) and an overelaboration of undramatic police procedure and technical minutiae. Somewhere around book ten of thirty-two, though, she figured out that people were more interesting than the puzzle and began to craft lovely character-driven novels with mystery plots. The characters are often sympathetic and almost always interesting, Alleyn and Troy (having survived their courtship) become a winsome and much more convincing married couple, and one of the novel's perspectives is often a tentative, vulnerable, introverted outsider (notably Roberta Grey in Death of a Peer and Martyn Tarne in Night at the Vulcan)--perhaps a stand-in for Ngaio Marsh herself, certainly for me at fifteen and thirty-five, perhaps for you as well behind the bravado.

Colour Scheme is book twelve, and does suffer still from an overfondness for the puzzle. The murder setting is a Hound-of-the-Baskervilles-like New Zealand maze of treacherous pools, and which characters go where when within the maze before during and after the crucial moment is as difficult to follow conceptually as spatially. The murder strategem is to my mind contrived, risky, and a little too clever to be persuasive.

But the cast of characters is full--British, European New Zealander (native and expatriate), and Maori. World War II gives the remote setting a small degree of global urgency (it's a spy story), but the political interest of the book today lies in the clash of cultures, the fine gradations within and between the levels of colonial society. Everyone's on the margins, struggling if not for success than for stability and confidence.

The centre of consciousness is Dikon Bell, just the tentative introvert we've been talking about. He's earnest and good-hearted; he sees good in his irascible actor-employer; people trust and confide in him, seeing good in him that he humbly can't manage to see in himself. Easy to root for, this fellow, and his personal success is one of this kind of book's great pleasures, sentimental without being cheaply so.

And the book has moments of delicious prose, like this one from p. 2: "A shimmer of heat rose from the pavement outside the club and under its influence the forms of trees, hills, and bays seemed to shake a little as if indeed the strangely primitive landscape were still taking shape and were rather a half-realized idea than a concrete accomplishment of nature." That kind of subtle, unshowy nuance is wholly characteristic of Marsh's art and is a reason she's one of the most rewarding authors I've ever read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not the worst, but not the best, January 19, 2012
By 
Miss Ivonne (Louisville, KY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Colour Scheme (Hardcover)
What passes for mediocre Ngaio Marsh is better than the best from many mystery writers. This isn't the worst that Miss Marsh penned. (That dubious honor must go to the plodding Overture to Death.) But Colour Scheme suffers from one of the same setbacks: Inspector Alleyn isn't introduced until too late in the novel. (Actually, I didn't realize he was in the novel until late in the 11th chapter!) As others have mentioned, the description of Rotorua on the North Island was enchanting; I loved learning about the Maoris and the thermal springs. However, the Claires were stereotypical Poms and the resolution to the mystery wasn't very plausible. Colour Scheme simply doesn't rank with Marsh's better works, such as A Man Lay Dead: Inspector Roderick Alleyn #1 (A Felony & Mayhem Mystery), Artists in Crime or Death in a White Tie.

Most readers will prefer the very next novel Ngaio Marsh wrote, Died In The Wool (A Roderick Alleyn Mystery) by Marsh, Ngaio, which is likewise set in New Zealand. It provides a different glimpse into the country, this time at life on New Zealand's sheep stations, but the story is more absorbing and more lively, and, happily, Inspector Alleyn in introduced right from the start. The latter, by itself, is enough to make all the difference!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marsh Writing Near the Height of Her Powers, December 31, 2004
Set during World War II, the 1942 COLOUR SCHEME concerns a noted stage star, Geoffrey Gaunt, who finds himself afflicted with "fibrosistis." Electing to soak himself in the sulfurous mud baths at Wai-ata-tapu, Gaunt finds himself at an isolated and very ramshackle guest house incompetently run by the well-meaning but exceedingly provincial Claire family, who are beset by the singularly unpleasant Maurice Questing.

Questing has an unknown hold over the family--and an incredibly boorish manner to boot--but does he have anything to do with the flashing lights seen on the hillside inside the native Maori preserve? Lights that may signaled to enemy agents watching, and sinking, military ships? Certainly various members of the Claire family believe so. The speculation is enough to attract the interest of Inspector Alleyn, on wartime duty from his native England. And when murder at last rears its ugly head it proves unexpectedly horrific.

COLOUR SCHEME finds Marsh writing at full power, and it is a memorable melange of beautifully rendered characters, atmospheric setting, and intricate plot. In spite of this, however, I find it among my least favorite of her novels--for the characters are among the least likable she ever created, ranging from the downright disgusting to the tiresomely egotistical to the merely stupid. While this should not detract from a first-time reader's enjoyment, it certainly doesn't make this a novel that you will likely care to revisit--and as such I give it four instead of five stars.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At the Hot Springs, February 27, 2014
By 
LH422 (Washington, USA) - See all my reviews
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A rather suspicious and unbelievable set of circumstances finds Inspector Alleyn in New Zealand. In the midst of the thermal springs of northern New Zealand, a rather unpleasant character meets his death by drowning in a pool of boiling mud. The blundering Claire family owns the local resort, and they are well in debt to Maurice Questing, the unfortunate victim. Many wanted Questing dead.

At first I found the setting of this mystery to be quite interesting. The landscape is dramatic. That said, the solution to the mystery, the how, is deceptively simple. The who is rather unsatisfying, as the killer's character is not as developed as it could be. The side-plot about WWII spies operated at such a level of simplicity as to be somewhat absurd. A significant part of this mystery is figuring out how, exactly, Alleyn will come to be involved. I had that part figured about well before the end. This is not the best of Marsh's work. Her New Zealand mysteries never are.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder in New Zealand, July 18, 2012
This review is from: Colour Scheme (Paperback)
Set in New Zealand during World War II this is very much a crime novel of its time. Hot springs are a good place to stay to relieve muscular aches and pains and an ill assorted group of people gather in an out of the way spa to try and ease their chronic problems. But there is evil afoot and whispers of fifth columnists operating in the area and sending signals to the enemy. Then there's the obnoxious Mr Questing who has some sort of hold over the owner of the spa. When Questing disappears almost anyone could have had means motive and opportunity.

This is an interesting crime novel with plenty of clues for the observant reader. With Roderick Alleyn loosely disguised this is a book which would puzzle any reader not familiar with the series. For those who have read other books by this author he is easy to spot. I enjoyed the story and thought the plot was well constructed but I found I kept losing track of who was who. Maybe I was in the wrong mood for the book. It is an enjoyable read for Ngaio Marsh fans but it would not be the best book to start with if you are new to her books.
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4.0 out of 5 stars vintage Marsh, May 10, 2013
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Zita Denholm (WAGGA WAGGA, NSW, AU) - See all my reviews
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Ngaio Marsh belongs to the vintage era of the modern detective novel. She tries a bit hard in this one to involve 'her' detective, Alleyn. The New Zealand setting is interesting and written with authentic knowledge.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Colour Scheme, January 15, 2013
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Colour Scheme
I enjoy this sort of read and i like the way the author has written her story. She has made the people real for the time line she is writing about.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Technically flawless and a "must" for all Nagio Marsh fans, March 5, 2001
This review is from: Colour Scheme (Audio Cassette)
Nagio Marsh's Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn is one of the most popular detectives of the mystery genre. Colour Scheme found him far from home on a wartime quest for German agents and called upon to investigate the death of Maurice Questing, who was lured to his doom in a pool of boiling mud. This technically flawless, unabridged, seven cassette audiobook production is superbly narrated by Nadia May and a "must" for all Nagio Marsh fans.
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Colour Scheme
Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh (Paperback - April 19, 1999)
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