Review: Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh

Colour Scheme

Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh is a great little mystery. Set at a resort build around natural hot mud pools in New Zealand, the setting is unique, at least in my experience, and the characters range from quirky to downright sleazy. I listened to this one on audio, by the way, so can’t really share any quotes.

First published in 1943, Colour Scheme takes place right in the midst of WW2. An odd collection of people are gathered at the poorly managed Wai-ata-Tapu spa. The spa is owned by a retired British colonel who is rather bumbling and hard of hearing. His family is made up of his gentler demure wife, ne’er-do-well son and the daughter, Barbara, who is sweet, but seems fairly stuck in her life. The problem is the Colonel owes money to Questing, a shady business man who is confident that he is about to seize control of the resort. Enter the famous Shakespearean actor who is lured to the spa along with his secretary and dresser, with promises of healing baths and relaxation. Let’s add in a wayward youth, a drunk handyman, and a local Maori village with a marvelous elder, who is grand and untamed at the same time, and another intelligent guest with sharp eyes. Oh, and I forgot to mention the Colonel’s brother-in-law who is sure Questing is a spy.

This is a murder mystery, and by the time the murder occurs I was more than ready for it. The victim is an absolute jerk, but the murder doesn’t happen until over halfway through the story. I guess the plot does move rather slowly in that way, but the characters kept me more than entertained with their squabbling and scenes. I was just wondering who was going to end up dead and when.

I missed the big clue, by the way, so had no idea about the whudunnit until the grand reveal. Which is not surprising really, I never know who the killer is.

For me this was one of the better Marsh mysteries I’ve listened to. The setting and characters stole the show, but the mystery was still solid. She does a great job with these mysteries in a contained space. We never leave the resort and village area. All our suspects are stuck together. However, I would not suggest it as a first introduction to Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn series. The series doesn’t need to be read in order, but although Alleyn is in this one, he’s in disguise for almost the entire time, a secret the reader is not let in on. If you’re familiar with the series, you’ll realize who he is. If you’re not though, you may wait the whole time for him to show up and feel rather tricked in the last chapter.

4 out of 5 stars

Category: Mystery

Amazon | IndieBound

Roderick Alleyn #12
First published 1943
9 hours 44 minutes
Narrated by Nadia May

Book source: Library

Roderick Alleyn Series

  1. A Man Lay Dead
  2. Enter a Murderer
  3. The Nursing-Home Murder
  4. Death in Ecstasy
  5. Vintage Murder
  6. Artists in Crime
  7. Death in a White Tie
  8. Overture to Death
  9. Death at the Bar
  10. Death of a Peer (APA: Surfeit of Lampreys )
  11. Death and the Dancing Footman
  12. Colour Scheme
  13. Died in the Wool
  14. Final Curtain
  15. A Wreath for Rivera (APA: Swing, Brother, Swing)
  16. Night at the Vulcan (APA: Opening Night)
  17. Spinsters in Jeopardy (APA: The Bride of Death )
  18. Scales of Justice
  19. Death of a Fool (APA: Off with His Head)
  20. Singing in the Shrouds
  21. False Scent
  22. Hand in Glove
  23. Dead Water
  24. Killer Dolphin (APA: Death at the Dolphin)
  25. Clutch of Constables
  26. When in Rome
  27. Tied Up in Tinsel
  28. Black as He’s Painted
  29. Last Ditch
  30. Grave Mistake
  31. Photo Finish
  32. Light Thickens

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