It is 1911 and the Cambridge Fellows, Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart, are happily settled and content with their positions at St Bride’s College, Cambridge, their fame as amateur sleuths, and their lives together. Although they are constantly aware that they must keep their love for each other secret or face imprisonment and ruin. All that Orlando and Jonty need to make life perfect is a new case to investigate. However, when a case is offered, Orlando is far from happy. The person wishing to employ their detective skills is the Warden of Gabriel College, the Oxford college where Orlando studied before he came to Cambridge and met Jonty. The thought of returning to Oxford brings back all Orlando’s feelings of insecurity and fear of failure.
To add to Orlando’s confusion, it is unclear whether Jonty and Orlando are being asked to investigate one case or two. A potentially valuable violin has been left in the Old Quad at Gabriel College, in mysterious circumstances, and nobody has claimed it, but the Warden is convinced that it is connected to the death of a friend of his, a talented violinist, Peter Dennison. The police accepted the doctor’s verdict that Dennison had died of natural causes, heart failure, but the Warden still suspects foul play.
Despite Orlando’s secret hope that the Master of St Bride’s will forbid them to go to the assistance of their rival university, everyone is eager for them to accept this new challenge. Once in Oxford, Jonty and Orlando have to disentangle the threads of the two cases and discover whether they are linked in any way. Despite the evidence that Peter Dennison died of natural causes, they continue to probe into a tangled web of intrigue, resulting in the discovery of a complex and deeply rooted conspiracy.
This novella is part of the long running Cambridge Fellows series and is a gentle, pleasant read. Jonty and Orlando are engaging protagonists and their relationship is the central driving force of the stories featuring them. The descriptions of Edwardian Oxford are delightful and it is fun to see it through the eyes of Jonty and Orlando. Lessons in Playing a Murderous Tune is an enjoyable book, which I would recommend.
Reviewer: Carol Westron