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Friday 10 April 2020

‘Lessons in Following a Poisonous Trail’ by Charlie Cochrane

Published by The Right Chair Press,
6 April 2020.
ASIN: B08596ZPXL. Kindle Edition

The story is set at Cambridge University in October 1911, opening at a rugby match in which Jonty Stewart falls while taking evasive action to avoid being kicked in the head and ends up in his college infirmary with an injured leg. Warned that he will be confined to his infirmary sick bed for several days, Jonty is resigned to boredom, but his frustration intensifies when he hears that, soon after the match, a member of the other team was discovered unconscious, apparently poisoned. The victim is a young Maths Fellow, Dr Threlfall, and he was the rugby player whose wild kick had caused Jonty to fall and injure himself. Spectators who know Threlfall comment that he was behaving erratically before and during the match.

As Threlfall lies in a coma, fighting for his life, the police investigate how he was poisoned. Chief Inspector Wilson and Sergeant Cohen have worked on cases with Jonty and Orlando many times before and are happy to collaborate with the renowned amateur sleuths. Jonty’s discontent at being bound to his bed is exacerbated by his conviction that he heard a strange cracking noise as he and Threlfall collided. At first, he feared that this meant that he had broken a bone but when his injury proves to be a sprain, he suspects that the sound was connected to Threlfall’s illness and perhaps the poison entered his body through his skin. However, none of his fellow detectives, not even Orlando, believe that the sound Jonty heard is relevant.

While people visit Jonty to offer him insights, Orlando and their friend, Dr Panesar, do the legwork, travelling round the Cambridge colleges interviewing not merely people who have been in contact with Threlfall but also others who have been victims of food poisoning incidents. The case grows more complicated as the sleuths struggle to disentangle accidental and irrelevant incidents of food poisoning from the potentially lethal attack on Threlfall and begin to wonder if he was the intended victim or if there is another motive behind the attack. The confusion increases and so does the number of suspects as the most trivial of motives for murder are magnified and Jonty and Orlando are well aware that the poisoner could strike again.

Lessons in Following a Poisonous Trail is the latest in the series of novels and novellas featuring the Cambridge Fellows, and it is set at a time when Jonty and Orlando’s relationship is well established, as is their reputation as amateur detectives. Although the detective story stands very well alone, it may be better to start the series earlier in the chronicles of the adventures of the Cambridge Fellows because of the number of returning characters and the intricacies of their relationships and back stories. Lessons in Following a Poisonous Trail has an interesting plot and likeable protagonists in Orlando and Jonty and also in the friends that make up the community in which they live, who rally round to help in the investigation. It is great fun to see the delightful and unpredictable Dr Panesar being awarded a more central role. Lessons in Following a Poisonous Trail is a very 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 the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.

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