The Murders at Fleat House by Lucinda Riley

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

Having read so many detective stories that had their origin in the USA, I was not keen to comment on this one. What gained my interest was the report of the author’s tragic ending and the gumption her children had displayed in seeing the book through to publication. The fact that it was not set in the USA certainly helped.

The plot did not treat the reader as someone unintelligent. While a death of a boarder in an English school appears at first glance to have been an accident, sufficient grounds are established to support a diagnosis of murder. Inspector Jazmine ‘Jazz’ Hunter is charged with fronting the investigation. She has more than adequate reason to refuse the commission but accepts the task as a favour to her old boss. The victim is not well liked. In life he was a bully, just the sort of person to persuade students around him to change his medication

The plot is more complicated than this summary suggests. Another pupil disappears and an elderly man commits suicide. Jazz is faced with her personal demons…and yet another suspect goes missing. Meanwhile, the secrets of Fleat House do not lie quiescent.

This is the plot so loved by Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, a plot that the maestro of detective fiction Elizabeth George refined and presented. It is told with a precision reminiscent of these master craftsmen. Sufficient detail is provided to keep the story flowing without clutter from extraneous material. No padding exists. The result is a sleek product aimed at reader enjoyment.

The characters are well written. The lead detective has her problems relating to her work and her recently divorced husband. His character is not forgotten, his weaknesses brought into the light in the context of hers. For a brief moment I thought she might have been able to save him but it soon becomes clear that he has no interest in changing his ways. Even the minor characters are drawn true to life. Sebastian Faulkner is so representative of the independent school master that is wedded to the job that I had no difficulty identifying him with any number of teachers I have known.

The school is representative of independent schools I have known in various parts of Australia. The internal settings of the school, its timetabling arrangements, prep and so on, match reality. Even the character of the headmaster is not far removed from real life. While the police seem very confident in making judgments on the character of the representative school teachers, it is unlikely that they would be as astute in real life.

The story is very carefully constructed. Pacing is governed by the plot and events of significance are released at appropriate times. There is no over-indulgence in victims and, while I was fortunate enough to identify the real killer, I can make no claim to having derived the slick solution the author derived.

I found this book very satisfying.

The Murders at Fleat House


By Lucinda Riley


ISBN: 978 152909 496 1

$32.99; 480 pp


🤞 Want to get the latest book reviews in your inbox?

🤞 Want to get the latest book reviews in your inbox?

Scroll to Top