Murder Fortissimo

Murder Fortissimo is published by Williams & Whiting Books and is available as an ebook and paperback on Amazon UK. This is the first book in my series of contemporary mysteries. This series features recently–retired headmistress, Harriet Quigley and her clergyman cousin, Canon Sam Hathaway.

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Story Outline

Cover Picture of Murder Fortissimo

When newly retired headmistress, Harriet Quigley, needs a good rest and somewhere comfortable to recover from a hospital stay, she believes Firstone Grange will be the ideal place. Upmarket and luxurious, (expensive, of course), but perfectly run by a competent and understanding Matron, Firstone Grange seems wonderful but there’s a serpent in this Paradise and Harriet soon realizes that some of the residents are very frightened.
When a particularly horrific death occurs, and Harriet finds herself in danger, she calls on her cousin, and best friend, the Rev’d Sam Hathaway, a Canon of Winchester Cathedral, and together they attempt to discover the truth.

What do other people think of it ?

Latest reviews of Murder Fortissimo.

Harriet Quigley — retired headmistress — has booked herself a few weeks convalescence in an upmarket hotel/nursing home but she doesn't want her cousin Canon Sam Hathaway to know where she is and why she is there. Sam — being an inquisitive soul — soon finds out where she is which at least means Harriet gets some visits from him.

Harriet soon decides that she does not like one of her fellow inmates — Christianne Marchant — who seems to have a hold over several of the other inmates. It soon becomes clear that several people have a reason to want her dead and no one is terribly surprised when she meets an untimely end.

I enjoyed this crime novel with its down to earth and no nonsense heroine and have already started another novel by this same author. There is no on the page violence or bad language so if you don't like those elements in your crime novels then try Nicola Slade.

Review by “Damaskcat” on

Classic crime setting here. A disparate collection of people all in one place, all with a secret and in amongst them one person who can ruin their lives. Of course, this person is murdered. The setting is Firstone Grange a newly opened rest and recuperation home, very expensive and exclusive. Harriet Quigley a recently retired headmistress goes there to recover from an operation looking forward to some peace and quiet. Into this house comes Christiane Marchant, a Frenchwoman with a malevolent nature who seems to have the dirt on practically every member of the residents. I will admit that her knowledge and the fact that all the residents are linked together in many ways is a tad far fetched and hard to swallow, but Suspension of Disbelief is sometimes essential to enjoyment and so it is in this case.

The book is witty and amusing with a list of characters such as Kieran — ‘A lumpen slowcoach’ ; Ryan — a ‘nasty little scrote’ ; Neil Slater — ‘an estate agent who sometimes wears leather shorts’ (don't ask) and other assorted personnel who all combine to make this a very enjoyable and lighthearted read. When I tell you that the nasty Christiane is killed by a euphonium falling on her head, then you get the drift.

Review by “Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover”

Not just for the convalescent

A fabulous new–to–me author and mystery. The characters of Harriet and Sam are delightful and very convincing. It reminded me of Hazel Holt’s Sheila Malory crime mysteries only Harriet is sharper and the feel is less cosy. I enjoyed the convalescent home setting — unusual but utterly believable. Nevertheless a great “comfort” read with great characters, and I look forward to more in this series.

Reviewer: ramblingfancy on

Nicola Slade offers a gentle crime novel, Murder Fortissimo, (Robert Hale £18.99) featuring newly retired headmistress Harriet Quigley — gentle, that is, until the murderer strikes in a shockingly bloody crime. Harriet’s partner in investigation is the Rev Sam Hathaway; this likeable pair sift through the evidence at Firstone Grange, a hotel–cum–nursing home that hides many secrets.

Review by Hampshire View magazine, April edition:

Harriet Quigley is usually reluctant to admit she needs help, but she is sensible enough to ensure that she gets some proper rest after her operation. Consequently she books herself into the very exclusive, and expensive, residential home, Firstone Grange, not wanting to burden anyone whilst she convalesces. It’s not long however before relaxation is the last thing on her mind as one of the other residents dies in what appears to be a tragic accident. Harriet though is sure that she smells foul play and is determined to get to the bottom of her suspicions.

‘Murder Fortissimo’ is a murder mystery in the true spirit of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. It contains a fantastic array of personalities, of all different ages and backgrounds: there’s pretty much someone for any reader to find affinity with.

Harriet made a wonderful central character: shrewd and very sharp, but extremely likeable — you can understand why the other characters turn to her for solace and advice. I liked her independent streak and the relationship with her cousin Sam was just lovely.

My favourite by far of the residents of Firstone Grange has got to be Christiane Marchant. She must be one of the best villainesses ever written; I would say she even beats Cruella de Vil! She’s so evil to her poor daughter Alice and so conniving in her tormenting of the other residents — I can’t imagine her ever doing anything that wasn’t in her own self–interest.

The death being investigated is brilliantly gruesome, but as the deceased character was so horrible, the reader can enjoy the blood and gore without any of those annoying twinges of sadness which can sometimes get in the way of enjoying a good murder! You could see motives for so many of the characters to get rid of her, that I honestly had no idea who’d ‘dunnit’ until it was revealed.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when discovering the identity of the murderer, and there was a point in the book when I thought it improbable that so many characters would confess their sins to Harriet and her cousin in so short a time, but these minor niggles didn’t hamper my overall enjoyment of what was a very good book.

‘Murder Fortissimo’ is my idea of a really gripping yarn: the reader is kept intrigued right until the end and is entertained throughout by some great characters in a setting just ripe for a decent murder. Thoroughly enjoyable!

Reviewer: Laura at girlyscribbles

Kept me guessing until the end.

I grew up with Agatha Christie, and have always enjoyed a good murder mystery, which Murder Fortissimo definately is. As I was reading along I could imagine the book being dramatised, with the scenes being played out in a BBC production. However, although the interesting character portrayal, and unusual setting make this a familiar murder mystery style, Nicola Slade brings something new and refreshing to this genre.

There is a mixture of sadness and comedy running through the book, and the characters seem more real, more believable. I could imagine meeting many of them in my day to day life.

And of course the murder itself is totally unique.

The plot kept me guessing right until the end, and although the suspects were all there from the beginning I continually changed my mind about the murderer.

Great setting, great characters, great story. What more can I say.

I am really looking forward to the next book, and hope some of the characters from Murder Fortissimo will return, I grew quite attached to them!

Reviewer: ‘Jane Austin Fan’ on

Recently retired headmistress Harriet Quigley needs a place to recuperate following an operation and chooses Firstone Grange. This is a home for short stay older people who need a place for some rest and relaxation, perhaps while families or caretakers get a break. It all seems very pleasant and ordinary, but one guest is determined to upset things. Elderly wheelchair–bound Frenchwoman Christiane Marchant looks like everybody’s idea of a sweet old lady, but is anything but. Things are surely going to come to a head, and they do in a surprising way. Cue Harriet and her clergymen cousin Sam Hathaway to investigate.

This author has previously penned two excellent Victorian whodunits Murder Most Welcome and Death is the Cure (also reviewed on this site), and although I hope she will be returning to this series, here is something different. Modern social satire rubs shoulders with a traditional mystery and delivers some surprises, somewhat in the way of Caroline Graham or Lis Howell. Characters can appear at times to be stock, but this is all part of the satire and makes for an enjoyable tale. Parts of the dénouement are powerful enough to shock, and it is a testament to the author’s skill that this book manages to run the gamut from being amusing to moments of horror. If this is the first in a new series I will be wanting to read more.

Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde at

Retired headmistress Harriet Quigley decides to take advantage of recently opened, upmarket convalescent home, Firstone Grange, while she recovers from an operation. Plenty of time to recuperate without relying in help from her neighbours, she thinks, and at first she’s very pleased with her decision, if slightly disconcerted by the number of acquaintances who also seem to be frequenting the home. Rather more perturbing, though, is the sudden and shocking death of another resident, a thoroughly unlovely woman who seems to delight in needling others and taking advantage of their frailties.

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!

Reviewer: Book blogger, Geranium Cat at Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf

Watch out, Miss Marple. Harriet Quigley, fearless retired headmistress, is right behind you! Taking advantage of the four star delights of Firstone Grange, a newly opened respite/convalescent home to recover after an operation, Miss Quigley soon discovers that its peace and tranquillity has been severely ruffled by the arrival of a new resident. Christine Marchant may be elderly and wheelchair–bound but she is a nasty piece of work who seems to know everyone’s dark secrets and delights in taunting them. And what a lot of secrets the residents have between them. When she is killed by a falling euphonium (don’t ask) during an evening’s entertainment, it is seen as a most unfortunate accident. Harriet, however,is not so sure. Too many people wanted her dead. So, with the help of her beloved reverend cousin, Sam, she gets to the bottom of all the secrets and lies that dwell within Firstone’s plushly–furnished premises.

Although full of irrepressible humour and perhaps just a little too neatly concluded, Murder Fortissimo is not always an easy read. Human frailty and cruelty do not lie too deeply under the surface. But good will triumph and Harriet is a worthy successor to Miss Marple whom she would emulate, were it not for the inconvenient fact that, as the author wittily tells us, she never learned to knit. I don’t think this will hold her back and I look forward to more of her crime-solving adventures in future books.

Reviewer: S. Zigmund of Yorkshire

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