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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
‘Lessons for Suspicious Minds’ by Charlie Cochrane
The year is 1909 and Cambridge dons, Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith are looking forward to a summer free of students. Jonty had been thinking they should take a trip to Italy, to try and discover more about Orlando's unknown grandfather but, even as Orlando flinches from the idea, they receive an invitation to visit a spectacular country house called Fyfield. The invitation comes from Alexandra Temple, the dowager duchess, who is Jonty's mother's godmother. Mr and Mrs Stewart, Jonty's parents, are also invited to Fyfield. It is clear that Jonty and Orlando are required not merely for their charm, good looks and wit but because of their renown as amateur detectives.
Even before they reach Fyfield the two sleuths are asked to consider a case of untimely death. The coroner has ruled that Charles Livingstone committed suicide by drowning, but the young man who found him doubts this. At Fyfield they are confronted by another case of apparent suicide. This time it is Reggie Tuffnell, a lifelong friend of the present Duke, who had hanged himself from the top of his four-poster bed. Alexandra Temple does not believe that this was suicide and, despite the disapproval of her son and daughter-in-law, she wants Orlando and Jonty to investigate.
This is the start of a complex case for the two sleuths, which grows even more complicated when they realise that the two apparent suicides are linked. It brings back cruel memories for them both, especially for Orlando, whose own father committed suicide. Even the farcical trips between their two bedrooms at night is spiced with tension, for if their relationship was revealed it would mean not only disgrace but penal servitude. The whole investigation is riddled with the late-Victorian, early Edwardian gentleman's arrogance and sense of entitlement, which Orlando and the whole Stewart family find repugnant, and when the truth is discovered, there is little they can do than attempt to salvage those innocent victims left.
In Lessons for Suspicious Minds, Jonty and Orlando are charming and witty heroes and their relationship is warm and lively, with the occasional barb of suspicion when Orlando thinks Jonty is paying too much attention to a personable young servant. Allowing Jonty's delightful parents to participate in the investigation adds a great deal to the fun. However, at its core, the book is about a dark and serious crime, the result of a warped and malicious personality. Nevertheless, Jonty and Orlando emerge with both their moral values and their records as detectives intact. It is an excellent read.
Reviewer by Carol Westron
Charlie Cochrane couldn't be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team— so she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, predominantly historical romances/mysteries. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie's Cambridge Fellows Series, set in Edwardian England, was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name.
Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher. She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames. Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times. The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, published July 2013.