The North American edition of ‘Murder Fortissimo’ is now out, published by Harlequin’s Worldwide Mystery Library (click here to buy from Harlequin ). See end of this post for how to win a copy.
When a terrible, awful woman dies by suspicious means, is there any reason not to let sleeping killers lie? Christiane Marchant met her bloody end when a large, heavy euphonium plunged off a balcony and onto her head. Everyone at the Firstone Grange residential home agreed it was a terrible accident. But nobody was going to miss the hateful Mrs. Marchant. Not her beleaguered daughter, not the exasperated staff, nor fellow guests at the home—and especially not those she was blackmailing.
But retired headmistress Harriet Quigley, a new resident at the luxury lodgings, believes in getting to the truth, no matter how terrible. As she begins to ask questions, her sympathetic nature elicits more than a few confessions from the others—all involving shameful secrets and long-buried dark deeds that Christiane had threatened to expose. But who among them was forced to resort to murder?
If you love English village mysteries, particularly when they have a few twists and a seasoning of humour, you’ll enjoy ‘Murder Fortissimo’. Although I’m dealing with very serious crimes, the jokes turn up but I’m always careful not to be flippant. But somehow, as in real life, cheerfulness always will break in. In fact I really wanted to call this book Ding Dong Merrily You’re Dead – to reflect its Christmas–time setting, but my agent wouldn’t let me! An alternative that I liked was Deck the Halls with Blood & Bodies, but that didn’t pass either.
As I live in a beautiful part of the world it makes sense to use local places in my books. ‘Scuba Dancing ’ is set in a slightly tweaked Romsey and my Victorian heroine, Charlotte, lives in a version of Otterbourne, a few miles south of Winchester. The fictitious village of Chambers Forge shares a geographical location and a few features with the real Chandlers Ford, a couple of miles further on from Otterbourne. It amuses me to drive past the house lived in by the monstrous Christiane Marchant (or it did until it was pulled down recently!) and to work out roughly where the upmarket Firstone Grange would be, as well as the pub that Harriet visits. There really is a Waitrose supermarket and there really is an excellent independent bookshop, but the other locations are mostly composites.
However, Winchester Cathedral is entirely real and a must-see on a trip to Hampshire. Harriet’s cousin Sam is a Canon of the Cathedral and an important scene takes place when Sam escorts one of the Firstone Grange residents to visit the crypt. In the banner at the top of this blog, the Cathedral is flanked by King Alfred’s statue and, on the right is the statue (Sound II) in the crypt, by the famous sculptor Anthony Gormley. Just like Sam and his companion in that scene, I always have a catch in my throat when I see this iron man, a modern masterpiece.
I do hope you’ll enjoy reading Murder Fortissimo. The North American edition is available from Harlequin (see link right) and there is also a link to the hardback edition.
How to win a copy of Murder Fortissimo. If you’re following this blog you’re already in with a chance so you don’t need to do anything. Otherwise you can (a) simply post a comment, (b) press the Follow button, or (c) email me. I’ll put the names into a hat and let the resident moggie, Eddie, choose the winner on 5th May.
Stop Press: I’ve just heard from my agent that Robert Hale Ltd will publish A Crowded Coffin, the follow-on to ‘Murder Fortissimo’! No details yet but probably early in 2013.