Sunday, 13 February 2011
Murder Fortissimo by Nicola Slade
Harriet is a really likeable and convincing protagonist, not rashly rushing in, but considering eventualities carefully. Her (and the reader’s) sympathies are engaged by the plight of some of her fellow residents, and she’s quite clear – as we are – about the people she doesn’t want to be responsible if the death of the most unpopular resident really turns out to be murder. Her clear-sightedness makes her cautious (welcome in a genre populated by women given to the let’s-split-up-and-go-into-this-dark-building school of investigation), and her experience of handling people is evident, and believable, as is her cousin Sam’s. She’s obviously used to being the sort of person who is confided in, someone generally respected and trusted by her fellows. Altogether, Harriet is admirable, rather the sort Miss Read would have been if she’d found herself caught up in a murder mystery, if perhaps a little sharper – even a little vainer – and more prone to seeing the funny side of things. Because, as usual with Nicola Slade’s books, her obviously irrepressible sense of humour is firmly there.
There’s a nice sowing of doubt about the other residents – plenty of motive and grounds for suspicion, as well as the persistent uncertainty that there has really been a murder at all. It has, after all, been filed under “accidental death” pretty rapidly. Perhaps, Harriet wonders, she has been just a little over-confident in her conviction that all is not what it seems? Perhaps, after all, it will turn out to have been a grisly accident? However, I think the reader can be fairly confident that a book called Murder Fortissimo isn’t going to lead us down any psychological blind alleys, that sooner or later Harriet will be on the track of a murderer and we can sit back and enjoy ourselves.
I did wonder at how quickly Harriet is whizzing about after her operation – I know she’s a determined lady but I think I’d have wanted to put my feet up a bit longer. On the other hand, one has to applaud her decision to go to a convalescent home in the first place – how eminently sensible. Again, in her place I think I’d have stayed at home and lived on beans on toast and whisky, but she’s clearly a woman of much more fortitude than me. Mind you, she has excellent taste in whisky, so of course I approve of her.
Harriet and Sam make an attractive pair of sleuths – they ought to have a long career of stumbling into nasty happenings ahead of them, it’s perfect Miss Marple territory. More, please!