Colour Scheme

This classic puzzle mystery (312 pages) was published in March of 2013 by Felony & Mayhem Press. The book takes you to a hot springs resort in New Zealand. Melissa read Colour Scheme and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

buy is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.


Colour Scheme

Inspector Roderick Alleyn Series

Ngaio Marsh

Ah, the resort area of Wai-ata-tapu in New Zealand. Mud baths, hot springs, the majesty of volcanic Rangi’s Peak, a Māori village, and… oops! murder. Welcome to the irresistibly sinister world of Ngaio Marsh, the Kiwi Queen of Crime.

It’s 1942, and the War has made its way south to the waters around New Zealand. Retired Colonel Claire, a nice fellow (and terrible businessman), runs a hot springs spa with his wife with little enthusiasm and not much more success. The resort is on the verge of being taken over by Maurice Questing, a pushy gasbag who offends just about everyone he meets — and who may or may not be a Nazi spy.

Despite its less-than-stellar reputation, the spa is at maximum capacity with a Shakespearean actor (with his personal valet and secretary along for the adventure) and, Mr. Septimus Falls, a mysterious last-minute guest and lumbago sufferer. The cast is rounded out by a ne’er-do-well handyman, the Colonel’s adult (and floundering) children, and a Māori chief.

Between soaks in the mud baths and uncomfortable family meals, we get to know the characters in all their flawed and suspicious glory. Because this is a Golden Age crime story, it’s not long before there are mysterious happenings in this previously soothing patch of New Zealand real estate, including a ship torpedoed in the bay, mysterious flashing lights, unexplained absences, and a disagreement about sacred Māori artifacts.

The drama reaches its peak at a concert held at the community hall of the Te Rarawa community. Before the show has concluded, outbursts and insults fly, everyone disperses, and someone ends up dead — in the boiling mud bath of Taupo-tapu. Detective Roderick Alleyn is on the case to find the culprit and save the day.

This is the twelfth novel to feature the intrepid detective, and one of four that Ngaio Marsh set in her homeland of New Zealand. Marsh considered this to be her best-written novel; it’s much beloved for its rich setting, well-drawn characters, and notes of authenticity regarding life during wartime.

The road corkscrewed its way in and out of a gully and along a barren stretch of downland. On its left the coast ran freely northwards in a chain of scrolls, last interruptions in its firm line before it tightened into the Ninety Mile Beach. The thunder of the Tasman Sea hung like a vast rumour on the freshening air, and above the margin of the downs Rangi’s Peak was slowly erected. ‘That’s an ominous-looking affair,’ said Gaunt. ‘What is it about these hills that gives them an air of the fabulous? They are not so very odd in shape, not incredible like the Dolomites or imposing like the Rockies — not, as you point out in your superior way, Dikon, really mountains at all. Yet they seem to be pregnant with some tiresome secret. What is it?’ — Ngaio Marsh

keep reading

Cozy murders, procedurals, historical novels, spy thrillers, domestic noir, family crime — we've collected our favorite mysteries and thrillers to take you on a world tour of action, adventure, and danger. Buckle up.
If you feel like you need a big adventure, New Zealand is a pretty fantastic place to get started. There are volcanoes and fjords, mountains and meadows, Māori mythology and gold rush history. And fairy bread.
She wrote crime novels with well-drawn characters, sharp prose, and twisty plots — plus put her own spin on 'Hamlet,' drove an ambulance during WWI, and was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
There are so many things to love about hotels: Bellhops! Room service! Tighter-than-a-drum sheets! Lobby bars! Plus the intriguing possibilities of all those strangers inside the same walls, together but separate.
New Zealand is an enchanting blend of colonial and Māori culture — against the prettiest green-and-blue backdrop of mountains and sea you could imagine. It's a place for exploration, all good vibes, and meat pies.
A room service menu and stocked mini-bar, five-star service, a posh guest room, perhaps even a swim-up bar; these are things of which dream vacations are made. But it's so much fun when fictional holidays go awry.

sharing is caring!

Wanna help us spread the word? If you like this page, please share with your friends.

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter

Join our Substack to get our FREE newsletter with podcast updates and behind-the-scenes info join in fun chats about books and travel.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
Sign up for our free Substack!
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.