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“Detective Inspector January David has always put his professional before his private life, but the two worlds are about to clash horrifically as he visits his latest crime scene. He is confronted by a lifeless figure suspended ten feet above a theatre stage, blood pouring from her face into a coffin below. This gruesome execution is the work of an elusive serial killer.

Three women from three different London suburbs, each murdered with elaborate and chilling precision. And as January stares at the most beautiful corpse he’s ever seen, he detects the killer’s hallmark.

But Girl 4 is different: she is alive – barely. And January recognises her…”

Detective Inspector January David (Jan to his friends) has never stopped trying to solve the mystery of his little sister’s disappearance. The only thing that really takes his mind off the terrible day she vanished is his work – currently a series of female murders he’s in charge of investigating. Jan dreams of each of the homicides before they’re reported, but hasn’t been able to use the visions to solve the murders. When a fourth woman is attacked, Jan hurries to the scene where he finds that the barely alive victim is none other than his own wife.

Carver writes in the first person, with different characters alternating for centre stage – the name of the current ‘speaker’ being advertised at the beginning of each chapter. None of the characters were very likable so I didn’t have much sympathy for any of them, but I felt that the use of the first person was a good way to get the reader connected with the murdered women quickly, and we learn from the killer’s thoughts what he thinks of his victims. It also meant that Carver could show each side of the relationship between Jan and his wife, by having them both describe various events we can see how differently they react to them.

The descriptions of how Jan feels when his insomnia kicks in were very well done, however I couldn’t help but feel that his constant drinking became a little silly at times: I very much doubt he’d be able to function, let alone drive, if he consumed the amount of alcohol he seems to. Also, for someone who’s obsessed with his sister’s disappearance he doesn’t do a lot about it other than morbidly opening up her police file again and again. When he does finally get something that could help, he decides not to deal with it.

For me, the psychic link which Jan appears to have with the killer let the book down: it took away the realism from the tale which, in turn, diluted the horror of it. I think it would have made a better story if Jan had solved the murders using only his intellect.

But all in all, I imagine my husband must be pretty grateful to Will Carver – this book afforded him several hours’ peace from my usual constant chatter. My silence was caused by some truly inspired twists in the tale which had me hooked. I was completely surprised by the conclusion, but once I thought about it realised that it fitted very well, and the way the story was left open for a sequel was clever. This isn’t the sort of novel I would usually choose to read, but I did find myself becoming engrossed in it: trying to work out the mystery even when I wasn’t actually reading the novel; I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

3 and a half stars

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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