The Murders At Fleat House by Lucinda Riley

In a boarding school in Norfolk, UK, the wealthy son of local gentry, who also happens to be the school bully, is murdered. The school hopes it will all blow over, a young boy fears for his safety, and others are hiding secrets that will soon come to light. On the case is a detective from London, who was on sabbatical after her divorce, and is trying to find a new path for her life as well as the killer.

This is the final book from Lucinda Riley. Well known for her beloved and acclaimed Seven Sisters series, this is her only crime novel. Written in 2006, she put it aside to be published after completion of her other series, this would have made quite an interesting police procedural or mystery series in it’s own right. Sadly, Riley died in 2021, and this volume is published posthumously, with some small editing done by her son.

Because her son didn’t want to mess around with his mother’s work too much and lose her unique voice or style, there are a few scenes where I think you can tell she might have done a re-write or two, later on. This is more in the line of particular passages, not plot points or character development, which all feel very well handled and complete. On the whole, it’s a very solid story and a very good mystery, a smooth read. I feel quite sad that there won’t be more from her and this detective.

The school itself is a great setting for a mystery. The smell of the dorms and the sinister bullying, the teachers who have their own pasts and who aren’t always aware of what’s going on under their noses. Then there’s the lives and personal dramas of the parents, too. All of which are woven into the plotting. The book has a great sense of place and atmosphere, and the semi-incestuous lives of small communities.

My only gripe is with the main character’s ex-husband. It feels like the author may have chosen to chop or change his role in the story had she been able to edit. His past misdeeds and attitude work well, but when he is in the present of the story, his behaviour and the way our heroine allows him to manipulate her, feel like they belong in one of the more silly romance novels. Not a mystery.

Read It If: A nice entry in the mystery genre, and one I recommend, especially if you like UK set mysteries or crime stories. Very sad that there won’t be more like this from the author.

Thank you to the publisher for the copy of this book for review.

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