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Thursday 21 September 2017

‘Lessons in Loving thy Murderous Neighbour’ by Charlie Cochrane

Published by The Right Chair Press,
14 August 2017.

It is 1922 and Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith have settled back into their academic lives at St Bride’s College, Cambridge. Scarred both physically and emotionally by the Great War, Jonty and Orlando have reached the security of middle-age and a stable relationship, although they are still passionate about their love for each other and about investigating any intriguing crimes that come their way.

However, they do have their doubts about taking on the latest investigation offered to them. There has always been a bitter dislike and rivalry between St Bride’s and the despised ‘college next door.’ This loathing is particularly intense when it comes to the college’s master, Dr Owens, a man who once tried to blackmail Orlando and Jonty by threatening to reveal their relationship to the world. Owens had also attempted to molest the deeply respected Ariadne Sheridan, before she became the wife of St Bride’s master. Now Owens has been arrested for the murder of one of his students and, to Orlando and Jonty’s surprise, it is Ariadne Sheridan who is advocating that they investigate the crime to establish whether Owens is guilty or not.

Jonty and Orlando agree to look into the case, partly to oblige Ariadne and her husband, partly to defend the honour of the university, but mainly because they cannot resist a mystery. With the help of Dr Sheridan and the delightful inventor, Dr Panesar, the basic facts are soon uncovered.

The victim, Olivier Seymour, was an unlikeable young man, whose family had bad back-history with Owens’ family. Because of this, Owens had gone out of his way to avoid accusations of victimisation and had given Seymour more warnings than he deserved before sending him down from the university. On the day of Seymour’s death he had gone too far and Owens had resolved to dismiss him. A noisy quarrel had ensued. A short while afterwards, Seymour was found dead, his head staved in by a knobkerrie, a heavy weapon that Seymour kept on his wall for display. Owens’ fingerprints were found on the weapon.

The sleuths soon discover that Seymour enjoyed upsetting people and had given many people in his college good reason to wish him harm. Faced with ‘a locked college mystery’ they have a race against time to establish whether their old enemy is innocent and to prove it before his career is destroyed and the reputation of the university is tarnished.

This novella follows ten full-length novels featuring Jonty and Orlando and, as a fan, I read their return story with great pleasure. It is a neat story, cleverly plotted, with a remarkable number of red herrings. Jonty and Orlando are delightful protagonists, as are their allies in investigation. I especially like the eccentric but brilliant Dr Panesar. There are many deft touches of humour, as when Orlando and Jonty individually experience the salutary realisation that the members of ‘the college next door’ are, in the main, pleasant and intelligent people, and that many of them regard St Bride’s with the same degree of disdain as the St Brides’ Fellows have always felt for them.

Lessons in Loving thy Murderous Neighbour is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Reviewer: 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, was published July 2013. Her latest book The Fragility of Poppies was published 10 June 2016.

Read a review of Carol’s latest book
The Fragility of Poppies

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