Reviewed by Gail McDonald
The author, Lucinda Riley, authored this book in 2006 but it was not published until after her death in 2021, by her son Harry Whittaker. Lucinda wrote the successful series of books called the Seven Sisters based on the story of adopted sisters inspired by the mythology of famous star clusters. The series is a number one bestseller across the world and is currently in development with a major TV production company.
The Murders at Fleat House was such an exceptional story with intrigue and interest created from the start with the mysterious death of one of the students who attends Fleat House, a private boarding school set in the isolated area of Norfolk.
This death appears to have been because of the accidental consumption of aspirin by a student, Charlie Cavendish, who was highly allergic to the substance. Initially the death did not appear suspicious, but the local police would not rule out foul play and Detective Inspector Jazmin “Jazz” Hunter was tasked to front the investigation as a favour to her old boss.
The question was, did someone swap Charlie’s daily medication to control his epilepsy knowing that he would have an anaphylactic reaction to the aspirin? Charlie was well-known as the school bully, so the people who may have had a motive to do it were in the spotlight.
Charlie’s death was closely followed by the suicide of Hugh Daneman, one of the teachers on the campus, and it is Detective Inspector Hunter’s task to determine how, and if, the deaths are linked.
Central to the story was Rory Millar. Rory was one of the students who was subjected to Charlie’s bullying – could he have been the murderer? He had plenty of reason to do it and even the opportunity. So too did Rory’s father who Rory had told of how unhappy he was at Fleat House and, in a drunken state, had been at the school around the time that Charlie died.
As the story progresses, numerous other suspects come to the fore – who else had motive and opportunity?
And then there was another body. This one was clearly a murder of a former student and well-known bully in his time at the school and Jazz has to determine if this murder relates to the other deaths at the school.
As part of her investigation, Jazz has found another problem to solve which may provide the link to some of the happenings at the school – just who is the heir to the Conaught Estate? This part of the story provides an interesting diversion from the main plot but eventually she discovers the link between Rory Millar and why one of the deaths occurred.
The plot is strengthened by Jazz’s own story of betrayal by her husband who was a Detective who had previously worked alongside her prior to their divorce following his affair with a colleague and while supporting her mother in coping with her father’s illness.
The Murders at Fleat House is a totally engaging story from beginning to end. I thoroughly recommend it to the reader.
The Murders at Fleat House
by Lucinda Riley
ISBN: 978 152909 496 1
$32.99; 480 pp