books

Charlie Cochrane

Books: Mystery | Historical | LGBT

Cambridge Fellows: Lessons in Love (2008), Lessons in Desire (2009), Lessons in Desire (2009), Lessons in Discovery (2009), Lessons in Power (2009), Lessons in Temptation (2009), Lessons in Seduction (2010), Lessons in Trust (2009), All Lessons Learned (2011), Lessons for Survivors (2012), Lessons for Suspicious Minds (2013), Lessons for Idle Tongues (2015), Lessons for Sleeping Dogs (2015)

Lindenshaw Mysteries: The Best Corpse for the Job (2014), Jury of One (2016), Two Feet Under (2018), Old Sins (2019), A Carriage of Misjustice (2020), Lock, Stock and Peril (2022)

The Deadliest Fall (2023)

Cambridge Fellows

Lessons in Love (2008)

Lessons in LoveSet in England in 1905.

Jonty has returned to St Bride’s College as a fellow in English. He is immediately drawn to dark, silent, and grumpy mathematics fellow Orlando Coppersmith.

The words aren’t used (because of the setting) but Orlando is very clearly demi.

Orlando thought it strange, if other people were anything to go by, that he’d reached the age of twenty-eight without finding anybody he wanted to be close to.

Orlando is incredibly naive (perhaps sheltered is a better term) and he has absolutely no idea about much of anything except mathematics.

Peters was looking more and more uncomfortable. “But I’m not so deeply immersed in the groves of academe as some of my colleagues and I do understand the nature of the things that can go on in a single-sex society. It’s just possible that this is still a crime of passion and there be no woman involved.”

“I don’t think I understand.” Orlando looked from Jonty to Dr. Peters and back again.

“I’ll explain later.” Jonty’s voice was constrained.

The mystery was fine, but I very much enjoyed the dynamic between Jonty and Orlando. This is one of their earlier books, so in places things aren’t as polished as the series I just finish, and the story doesn’t qualify as a cozy, as there is some minor sexual content, and a disturbing scene with the killer at the end of the book, but it’s engaging, and mostly sweet and I am going to read the next book.

Perhaps right now.

Publisher: Lume Books

Rating: 7/10

Lessons in Desire (2009)

Lessons in DesireSet in England in 1906

Jonty and Orlando take a vacation! Murder ensues!

That’s the summation, but it isn’t at all the feel of the story, just so you know.

Unsurprisingly, Orlando has never taken a vacation.

“It sounds delightful, Jonty,” Orlando said, with liar written plain on his face.

He’s possibly not doing it correctly.

Orlando reclined on his front, elbows on the bed, chin in hands, reading a book on calculus which Jonty had hidden fifteen times but which had still mysteriously made its way into their luggage.

But it’s ok, because they’re spending time together, even if Orlando still constantly worries.

As to be expected with a cozy mystery, a murder happens.

“Not that I want to speak ill of the dead,” he averred, which indicated that was exactly what he intended to do.

And I appreciate that they weren’t killing off any more students, staff, or faculty at Cambridge.

I spent the story very much feeling Orlando’s point of view.

“I am a very accomplished swimmer, actually, although I’m not keen on the idea of exposing my body to either the elements or public view.”

Same.

“(I)t’s hard for me to adjust to the world at large. Please be patient with me.”

I need that on a t-shirt right now. Or at least a pin.

I am really liking this series.

Publisher: Lume Books

Rating: 8/10

Lessons in Discovery (2009)

Lessons in DiscoverySet in England in 1906

Amnesia! An historical murder! Letters hidden for centuries!

It’s been a year since Jonty and Orlando met, but they didn’t expect to spend their first anniversary in the infirmary, with Orlando suffering from a concussion and a complete loss of memory of the past year.

There are two story arcs here–one is Orlando losing his memory and how Jonty deals with it. Everyone knows they are best friends and boon companions, but they are more than that, and considering how long Orlando took to come to terms with their relationships, Jonty now has to start over from scratch.

I actually thought this was well done. Jonty is honest with Orlando, trying not to tell him more than he can handle at any one time, while Orlando trusts his past self to have know what he was doing.

The second arc was the mystery of the missing Woodville Ward, that Orlando and Jonty are given, in part because of their helping to solve two murders previously, but also to give Orlando something to do while he is not allowed to work.

I adore Jonty and Orlando’s relationship, and the patience they have with each other. I was particularly struck by one passage.

En route from his pigeonhole to his rooms, he stopped in at the chapel, found it mercifully empty and said a silent prayer. I know I don’t believe so I guess this doesn’t count, but he believes. Wanted to say I’m grateful.

And I really liked this mystery–both how it was unraveled as well as hit the whole thing unraveled in ways I wasn’t expecting.

Publisher: Lume Books

Rating: 8/10

Lessons in Power (2009)

Lessons in PowerSet in England in 1907

Orlando is not best pleased when Matthew Ainslie visits–he and Jonty are settling into their new home–but is willing to listen to what the man wants.

What he wants is for Orlando and Jonty to look into the murder of which his ex was accused–and the murdered man was one of Jonty’s boarding school abusers.

CW/TW: There are multiple references to Jonty’s rape by two older boys and the collusion of the house master in the repeated assaults.

Also, the death of a teenager in suspicious circumstances.

Nothing suspicious in it at all. Such a terrible tragedy, Nicholls falling onto such a sharp blade.

One of the interesting things about the story and characters is that Jonty wants to take on the case, regardless of how much trauma the victim had caused him in the past–and how much of an unsavory character the accused was.

The truth must be served, Helena, whether it leads to pain or gain.”

Parts of the story are difficult to read, but we do see Jonty continuing to (slowly) deal with his past.

Publisher: Lume Books

Rating: 7/10

Lessons in Temptation (2009)

Lessons in TemptationSet in England in 1907

Orlando is sent off to see if any of a collection of books being sold in Bath would be worth purchasing. Jonty takes the time as a vacation, and becomes involved in a production of Macbeth with an old friend.

“I’ll definitely come and see it if you’re a tree. In fact, if they give you any part that means you can’t speak for two hours that would be an absolute bonus.”

Unfortunately, the old friend is a cad.

“And yes, I do tend to get what I want, especially if I want it a lot.” He cast his gaze around the dining room, as if looking for something he might take a shine to, let his glance alight on Jonty, linger and then sweep on.

I had several problems with this story. First, I really didn’t like Jimmy trying to seduce Jonty–and Jonty actually thinking about it. I just… it struck me as extremely illogical considering what we’ve learned about Jonty in the past. The fact there was any doubt of Jonty’s fidelity just seemed out of character.

Secondly, there is a lot of discussion about abortion–and there are a lot of opinions about it, almost all of which are made by men. It’s an important part of the story, but I feel like both Jonty and Orlando both should have been more incensed by women needing to turn to prostitution rather than getting rid of an unwanted baby.

It’s clear now Orlando is demisexual.

It made him feel physically sick, as always happened when he contemplated sexual activity that wasn’t within the context of a loving relationship. Bodies bought and sold like meat, pleasure and intimacy shared for the exchange of coin, simply scandalised him.

“It’s not about love and if it’s not about love than what’s the point of…” Orlando stopped short of saying the word sex.

This story just was just a little too problematic for me, on several levels.

Publisher: Lume Books

Rating: 6/10

Lessons in Seduction (2010)

Lessons in SeductionSet in England in 1907.

Jonty and Orlando go undercover to investigate a possible murder!

Jonty has to go as himself, since he and his family are too prominent for him to be unrecognized, but few people know Orlando on sight.

“We thought the role of professional dancing partner would be an ideal one.” Mr. Wilson addressed a spot just behind Orlando’s left ear. “For accessing confidential information. His Majesty is relying on us. On you.”

The door bursting open forestalled Orlando’s disgruntled reply.

“Is it settled then?” The Master’s sister swept into the room, grinning broadly. “Dr. Coppersmith’s off to be a gigolo?”

The woman in question had been a mistress when the king had been prince, so there is a push to make sure her death was not murder.

Mr. Stewart had always taken a pretty dim view of the morals of royalty. Jonty remembered seeing some lady at a function wearing a huge brooch which she’d been given for services rendered. Papa had muttered under his breath that it would probably be easier to give some sort of a badge to those women who hadn’t rendered services to His Royal Highness.

There are plenty of amusing bits, with Orlando being “undercover” at the hotel.

“He’s never a Nancy boy.” Christine at last found her voice, after a bout of spluttering. “I won’t hear him besmirched in that way, even if he never wants his name on my card. We girls can always tell, can’t we, Paula?” She suddenly wanted to promote feminine solidarity and all bitching was temporarily forgotten.

“Oh yes. Like the chap you’re replacing, Oliver. Mr. Ashton-Hall. He’s, well, he’s a wonderful dancer and very popular with the ladies, but none of the husbands need to worry about him running off with their wives. That wouldn’t apply to Dr. Stewart, of that I’m certain.”

“I’m pleased to hear it.” Orlando stuck his nose in his brandy and finished it off.

Despite all the twists and turns, I was pretty sure who the murderer was, once we reached that point of the story. Which is fine, since I don’t mind guessing before the detectives.

It’s another fun story, but I do need to take a break and read something else for a bit.

Publisher: Lume Books

Rating: 7.5/10

Lessons in Trust (2010)

Lessons in TrustSet in England in 1908.

It’s been a year since Jonty and Orlando were involved in a mystery, and Orlando wishes just a little they’d fine one Instead, they’re in London and–worse–got their in Jonty’s new prized possession.

Jonty’s brand new Lagonda, or, as he told people interminably, his six-cylinder, twenty- horsepower Torpedo. It was black, sleek, shiny, beautiful, and Orlando hated it.

He knew it was stupid, feeling so jealous of a car, but jealous he was.

Within days, the two have two separated mysteries to unravel–the dead man at The White City, and the mystery Orlando’s grandmother had left for him after her death.

(T)he rector at the time had been an understanding soul and that the infant only having one parent instead of the requisite two would have been ignored. In old Mr. Jackson’s day there’d been some latitude in the use of the term widow.

They mystery of the murdered man is very much secondary in this story, but it did serve to portend the upcoming events that would soon throw the world into turmoil.

Also, the issue of Jonty’s sister seems to be resolved, in a sweet and compassionate way.

I had such a fright, you see, that first night. He was naked and I had no idea that men were made in such a peculiar way.

It’s another nice escape.

Publisher: Lume Books

Rating: 7.5/10

All Lessons Learned (2011)

All Lessons LearnedSet in England and France in 1919.

The war they said would end all conflicts.

Only time would tell if that were true, that never again would Europe march into battle, but plenty of lives had been invested in trying to test the supposition, young men laid to rest among the poppies and mud. A generation blighted as surely as if the horsemen of the apocalypse had passed through. Maybe they had.

As much as I had been enjoying this series, I stopped cold at this book.

Orlando is back and Cambridge, but alone. Jonty was killed in the war, Mr and Mrs Stewart died of the fly and Orlando is existing, but not much more than that.

I knew that since the series continued that Jonty wasn’t really dead, but Orlando believed it, and I just have not wanted to read about that much grief. (Especially since so few people knew just how deeply Orlando was mourning.)

So, I sat down and skimmed much of the first part of the book.

Orlando is asked by a mother to determine if her son actually died in the war, or is somewhere on the continent, injured–or perhaps in a new life after having fled the battlefield.

This story deals not just with grief, but with just how ugly so many aspects of the Great War were–including deserters being shot to keep others from running away from the battle.

It was a brutal war–something that I think can be glossed over when we consider it from 100 years out. The tools of war had changed, but the ways wars were fought had not caught up, and that created an absolute horror for the men who fought–and the men and women who treated their many injuries.

It was not a bad book, but it was one I might never been in the mood for, so I read it so I can move on.

Publisher: Lume Books

Rating: 6/10

Lessons for Survivors (2012)

Lessons for SurvivorsSet in England in 1919.

Jonty and Orlando both survived the war–although not without scars.

“It would prove to me that everything was back to normal. That the last five years hadn’t spoiled the world forever.”

They walked on in silence, each with his thoughts.

“Do you really think that the world’s been spoiled?” Orlando hated to hear his friend so glum.

But despite needing to write the acceptance lecture for his professorship, Orlando is quietly wishing for a little more excitement–another mystery.

Possibly so he doesn’t have to write his lecture.

“You have no idea how hard I’m finding it.”

“Of course I do.” Jonty would have thrown up his hands if it wouldn’t have sent all the papers flying. “I have to live with you, don’t forget,”

The mystery seemed to wander all over the place–or possibly it was just my attention. Regardless, what kept me reading is simply that I like Jonty and Orlando so much.

Publisher: Lume Books

Rating: 6/10

Lessons for Suspicious Minds (2013)

Lessons for Suspicious MindsSet in England in 1909.

NOTE: This story goes back in time, probably set after Lessons in Trust (book 7) and is set before the war–and all the changes that caused to the characters and the world.

Jonty and Orlando go with Jonty’s parents to visit Mrs. Stewart’s godmother, who has a mystery she would like resolved. On the way, they come across a separate mystery (their reputation having proceeded them) that soon appears tied into the other mystery, but not in any clear way.

“We can’t leave your mother out. Maybe she could tackle Goode?”

“Mama?” Jonty shrieked. “But . . . but wouldn’t she be a loose cannon?”

“Shall I tell her you said that?”

This is such a fascinating time, the years leading up to The Great War and the years immediately following the war. Society had been slowly changing until the war completely upended everything.

“(T)he brother made it plain that he hadn’t been the marrying type.” Strevens glanced sidelong at Orlando. “Not in that way. No touch of the Oscar Wilde. Rather, one would have described him as a ladies’ man.”

The story is a bit dark, as it deals with suicide and mental illness. It also has (for a cozy) a but of a not completely resolved ending, in that we know everything, but the characters aren’t necessarily happy with the outcome.

I actually like mysteries that do that–give you a complicated situation where there isn’t a good solution.

Publisher: Lume Books

Rating: 7/10

Lessons for Idle Tongues (2015)

Lessons for Idle TonguesSet in England in 1910.

Jonty and Orlando are given another case to solve when Adriene’s cousin asks them to look into a matter for a friend. An unexpected and possibly suspicious death.

When they go to investigate they find a lord shut away from society, and seemingly guarded by his staff.

“Lord Toothill isn’t at all like they say, but he suffers terribly from his nerves. He served in the war against the Boers and he’s never been the same since.” The gamekeeper had turned ashen-faced, just two spots of red standing out on his cheeks.

“Did you serve with him?” Orlando was genuinely touched by the loyalty and depth of well-hidden feeling in the man’s voice. It could have been him talking about things Jonty had endured. Unless the gamekeeper was a brilliant actor, he was speaking the truth. Heartfelt truth, at that.

“I did. And we saw some things I’ll never forget. Terrible things. Terrible suffering. Can anyone grudge his lordship wanting to shut himself off from the world?”

Some foreshadowing there of what Jonty & Orlando (and there rest of the world) will see in the coming years, as well as how what we today call PTSD was viewed.

There is also a character who seems to suffer from what was likely epilepsy, and he too is viewed with suspicion.

This was one of the weakest mysteries in the series so far. I’d guessed what was going on, but the why didn’t make a lot of sense. Yes, they explained it, but… it was very unsatisfying all around.

There were also some passages that seemed confusing, and I wasn’t sure if it was poor editing or confusing British-isms.

The only positive was I do like spending time with Jonty and Orlando, but I would have preferred to do so in a stronger story.

Publisher: Lume Books

Rating: 5.5/10

Lessons for Sleeping Dogs (2015)

Lessons for Sleeping DogsSet in England in 1921

Jonty and Orlando are asked to look into what seems to have been a double suicide–a man who suffered debilitating paralysis and the doctor who treated him.

The case touches on two things neither much wants to discuss: the war, and their relationship.

“You said that your brother was nice enough, on the surface. What lay beneath?”

“An unhealthy interest in men. Especially in young men.” Charles made a face, a clear expression of disgust.

So the conversation had arrived there; the place he and Jonty always wanted to avoid. Orlando took a deep breath before firing off his next question. “An unhealthy interest in young men? A romantic interest?”

“Precisely that. If grown men want to indulge in that vile stuff in the privacy of their own homes, that’s up to them, but when it involves those of a younger age, it’s nothing more than coercion as far as I’m concerned.”

“I was told he came home from France with neurasthenia.”

“You don’t need to use that term, Orlando.”

Orlando winced.

“We both know you mean shell shock. He returned home with it four years ago. He got better, but he was never the same as he’d been back in 1914, even though he’d not taken part in the fighting. He saw enough carnage in the field hospitals to upset the strongest stomach, doctor or not. That’s why he hated to see any suffering. He’d seen too much of it, knew too well what some of his patients went through.”

This story was a bit all over the place, and pulled in all kinds of elements, and it mostly left me confused.

Publisher: Lume Books

Rating: 6/10

Lindenshaw Mysteries

The Best Corpse for the Job (2014)

The Best Corpse for the JobAdam Matthews is on the committee to help select the new headteacher for the school, and nothing is as easy as it should be. First one of the candidates called in sick, and then another candidate is found dead in the children’s kitchen. (Luckily the kids were all outside at the time.)

Inspector Robin Bright went to St Crispin’s and had a miserable time of it, so coming to the school to investigate a murder is causing him a bit of conflict. More conflict comes from the fact that he finds himself attracted to one of the possible suspects.

This book was fine.

The characters were fine. The mystery was fine. The romances was fine (although points for all the boinking being off page).

“I knew that,” Anderson clearly lied.

It just never really pulled me in (which you can tell by the fact it took me five days to read this relatively short novel.

How can you bear to do it?”

“I was going to say you get hardened to it, but I suspect if you did, you’d be no use at it.”

I wouldn’t be opposed to reading another book in this series, but only if I could borrow it from the library.

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Rating: 6/10

Reread: March 2023 | Rating: 7/10

Jury of One (2016)

Jury of OneInspector Robin Bright had been meant to be enjoying the weekend with his partner Adam Matthews, but a murder has him and his team called in while the Abbotston team tries to deal with a serial killer.

It’s a cozy mystery, and just what I was in the mood for.

Robin and Adam are cute and fun and although they are still working out the kinks in their relationship, they do talk to each other.

Plus, they still seem to be having fun.

“I promise not to make a target of myself. I won’t act like some stupid tart in a bad American thriller, putting on high heels and an evening dress so that if I have to make a getaway, I’ll be in as impractical an outfit as possible.”

Definitely what I am in the mood for.

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Rating: 8/10

Reread: March 2023 | Rating: 7.5/10

Two Feet Under (2018)

Two Feet UnderAdam Matthews and Robin Bright are settling into their new jobs: Adam is deputy headmaster at a new school and Robin is Chief Inspector at Abbotston (the nick that had all the issues in the last book).

When Robin is called out to a body found at an archeological site, he firmly hopes that this case will not involve Adam.

It’s not one of those routine ‘found a body; we’re pretty sure it’s from the time of Cromwell, but we have to call it in just in case’ things?”

“Looks unlikely. They’ve had the doctor in.” Pru’s eyebrows shot up. “To declare that this poor soul really is dead despite it being obvious she must have been there months.”

Unfortunately, Anderson–Robin’s old sergeant–calls begging a place to stay after his girlfriend chucks him out.

“She says he can pack a bag and hit the road.”

“But surely she gave some sort of explanation?”

“Apparently, she said that if he didn’t know what he’d done, she wasn’t going to tell him.”

“Ouch.”

One thing this story does is reinforce the notion that just because the police know who committed a crime, it doesn’t mean anything if they don’t have evidence for a conviction–which is something that is sometimes glossed over in mysteries.

The other thing this story does is have twists and turns, but they are logical within the story, and neither Adam nor Robin does anything to put themselves in danger, which I appreciate. (I tend to dislike “Hollywood endings” in books, where there has to be a showdown with Danger.

Very enjoyable, and I look forward to the next story.

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Rating: 8/10

Reread: March 2023 | Rating: 7.5/10

Old Sins (2019)

Old SinsI am thoroughly enjoying this cozy series.

After a vacation, Robin and Adam are (mostly) ready to jump back into their jobs for the fall. Even if they keep putting off making definite plans for getting hitched.

The real reason they were making no progress was the simple, prosaic one that they were struggling to sort out what type of do they wanted and who they’d invite.

But their last days of relaxation are shattered when a shooting on the common leads to a dead dog.

Adam’s school year starts smoothly, but things for Robin are less calm as his first day back has them called out to a murder–at the house of the owner of the dog that was killed.

One of the things I am enjoying about this is that although much of the focus is on Robin (as the police officer) Adam does keep getting pulled into the periphery–but not in stupid dangerous ways.

In this story, one of the suspects had been a teacher at Adam’s old school, so it wasn’t unreasonable for Adam to listen for gossip.

I also think it’s interesting how cases get moved from one jurisdiction to another. That’s something I’ve read about frequently in Italian police mysteries, but not so much in American ones (except when perhaps the FBI comes in to take over a case, which is not the same thing here at all).

There were some weak spots to the story, but I’m finding the books and characters so enjoyable, it’s pretty easy to overlook the weaknesses.

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Rating: 7.5/10

Reread: March 2023 | Rating: 8/10

A Carriage of Misjustice (2020)

A Carriage of MisjusticeAlas, I am now all caught up with this series.

Robin and Adam are newlyweds, but since it’s midterm, it’s back to work for both of them until they can take a proper honeymoon over summer break.

Unfortunately, Robin is seconded to Hartwood to lead up a murder investigation there as the prior lead is out on emergency medical leave, so Adam and Campbell are left alone.

As in previous books, the story doesn’t take itself too seriously.

While matters hadn’t quite become as bad as one of those television series where the amateur detective was dealing with death in their vicinity on a weekly basis, it did feel like the universe was having a laugh.

And although Adam isn’t involved in the investigation, we still get to spend time with him and Campbell.

Adam lingered to help put everything away, as they didn’t want to incur the wrath of the flower ladies who’d expect the church to be left spick-and-span.

No high speed chases. No Hollywood bits. Just a newly married detective sent off to try and catch a murderer through a lot of legwork and interviews.

And I really like that about this series.

Hopefully there will be more books forthcoming.

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Rating: 8/10

Reread: March 2023 | Rating: 7.5/10

Lock, Stock and Peril (2022)

Lock, Stock and PerilSet in early 2021 during the pandemic.

What a year 2020 had been, and the start of 2021 wasn’t shaping up that great, either.

The pandemic is a part of the story, because it was part of the world at the time, but it is not the focus of the story. Just for those who don’t want to read about it just yet.

Robin and Adam are settled into life during the pandemic.

“Is it wicked to hope that if you do have a major case to deal with soon, then it happens during this lockdown period, where it can’t get in the way of anything else?”

As much as one can settle in, anyway.

Campbell had never been so fit and healthy as over the past year. They’d walked miles with him, singly or together, and when they’d been able to form a bubble with Adam’s mum, she’d volunteered to take him out.

One thing I particularly liked about this story is how the pandemic was worked into it: if everyone is on lockdown, then there should (theoretically) be people noticing if someone hasn’t left their house for several weeks.

But with some people hiding in their houses and others who are possibly breaking lockdown rules, the answer to when the murdered woman was killed is surprisingly complex.

I also like how the author tries very hard to be correct in police procedures, from how much paperwork there is (tons) to how careful they need to be in suspect interviews.

They rarely tackled a case where a statement had to be taken from a child or other vulnerable person, so reading through all the legal guidance on interviewing in such a situation would be vital before putting together a plan of action.

I am enjoying this series, and look forward to the next book whenever it comes out.

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Rating: 8/10

 

The Deadliest Fall (2023)

The Deadliest FallSet in England in 1947.

The war is over but things are still settling back down. When Leslie Cadmore runs into Marianne Sibley, he is reminded how much he misses his best friend and lover (and Marianne’s twin), but still is unsure whether Patrick was involved in the death of someone in the circle during a war training exercise.

Somehow, the closer you had been to somebody, the trickier it was to make that first move and the more awkward that reconnection might prove.

There is a lot happening in this story.

The dead man was disliked by many–and was in some ways a threat to many–so there is no shortage of those who might want him dead.

Leslie’s father left the family to join a monastery, and didn’t give the family much of a reason for his leaving–and it turns out there is also some secret to his taking orders.

Leslie worked for the government at home in London during the war, and is still bound by the official secrets act, which has made it hard to explain why he didn’t serve on the front.

The problem was that there was so much going on it was hard to keep straight who might have been involved in which possible murder.

And I had serious reservations about what Abbott Barnabus chose to share with Leslie. The giving of hints was bad enough, but his letting Leslie know if he was right or wrong in his guesses about his father bothered me tremendously.

But I did enjoy the characters themselves, and the setting.

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Rating: 7/10