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‘Lessons in Following a Poisonous Trail’ by Charlie Cochrane
Published by The Right
Chair Press, 6 April 2020. ASIN: B08596ZPXL. Kindle Edition
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
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
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 Cochranecouldn'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 Westronis 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.