When newly retired headmistress, Harriet Quigley, needs a good rest and somewhere comfortable to recover from a hospital stay, she believes Firstone Grange will be the ideal place. Luxurious and perfectly run by a competent and understanding matron, it seems wonderful at first glance. However, there is a serpent in this paradise and Harriet soon realizes that some of the residents are very frightened. When a particularly horrific death occurs and Harriet finds herself in danger, she calls on her cousin and best friend, the Rev’d Sam Hathaway, and together they attempt to discover the terrible truth…

Harriet Quigley is usually reluctant to admit she needs help, but she is sensible enough to ensure that she gets some proper rest after her operation. Consequently she books herself into the very exclusive, and expensive, residential home, Firstone Grange, not wanting to burden anyone whilst she convalesces. It’s not long however before relaxation is the last thing on her mind as one of the other residents dies in what appears to be a tragic accident. Harriet though is sure that she smells foul play and is determined to get to the bottom of her suspicions.

‘Murder Fortissimo’ is a murder mystery in the true spirit of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. It contains a fantastic array of personalities, of all different ages and backgrounds: there’s pretty much someone for any reader to find affinity with.

Harriet made a wonderful central character: shrewd and very sharp, but extremely likeable – you can understand why the other characters turn to her for solace and advice. I liked her independent streak and the relationship with her cousin Sam was just lovely.

My favourite by far of the residents of Firstone Grange has got to be Christiane Marchant. She must be one of the best villainesses ever written; I would say she even beats Cruella de Vil! She’s so evil to her poor daughter Alice and so conniving in her tormenting of the other residents – I can’t imagine her ever doing anything that wasn’t in her own self-interest.

The death being investigated is brilliantly gruesome, but as the deceased character was so horrible, the reader can enjoy the blood and gore without any of those annoying twinges of sadness which can sometimes get in the way of enjoying a good murder! You could see motives for so many of the characters to get rid of her, that I honestly had no idea who’d ‘dunnit’ until it was revealed.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when discovering the identity of the murderer, and there was a point in the book when I thought it improbable that so many characters would confess their sins to Harriet and her cousin in so short a time, but these minor niggles didn’t hamper my overall enjoyment of what was a very good book.

‘Murder Fortissimo’ is my idea of a really gripping yarn: the reader is kept intrigued right until the end and is entertained throughout by some great characters in a setting just ripe for a decent murder. Thoroughly enjoyable!

4 stars

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