NOTE: I was given early access to this manuscript in exchange for writing an impartial review. Publication Date: May 26, 2022.
I have been a fan of the late author Lucinda Riley (1965-2021) for some time so I was eager to get my hands on this novel. Though released for the first time this year, Riley actually wrote this book in 2006. And, as her son explains in an opening letter to readers, this is Riley’s manuscript from that time. Her family did not alter or revise it.
Having read many of her other novels, I did get the sense this was a less polished manuscript. It’s a straightforward mystery, the only mystery I think she ever wrote. But only some characters feel fully developed. And I felt there was a bit of superficiality that I haven’t found in her other books. Awarded four stars on Goodreads but that may be a little bit of a gift. What can I say? I’m loyal.
The book’s setting is St. Stephen’s boys school in England, where the apparent accidental death of a student brings talented Detective Jasmine “Jazz” Hunter to the campus. Jazz has been on leave for seven months — questioning her career choices — following a bitter divorce. And the request to return to verify the accidental nature of this death is a thinly veiled effort by her supervisor to get her back to work.
Naturally, the more Jazz investigates, the more questions arise. And shortly after her arrival, a well-respected older teacher commits suicide. Could the deaths be related?
The theme of bullying and its potentially tragic consequences runs throughout. There are lots of characters to track. The headmaster and his secretary, the dorm master and matron, parents of several students and the students themselves. As well as other police investigators. Hidden love affairs are discovered, marriages end, and of course the ex-husband must make an appearance.
The momentum of the “who done it” builds throughout the book and the pace of the last third is quite dazzling. But much like Agatha Christie, the solution to this mystery is not one a reader is likely to figure out. There are simply two many hidden connections between characters that we aren’t privy to until the very end of the book.
It’s a fast-paced read. Quite enjoyable. Just not my favorite by this author.
More about the author, Lucinda Riley.
You may be interested in other reviews of novels I’ve read by Riley: