Title: Lessons for Survivors
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release: 26th January 2015
Genre: M/M (historical / crime)
A more than professional interest . . . a more than personal intrigue.
Orlando Coppersmith should be happy. WWI is almost a year in the past, he’s back at St. Bride’s College in Cambridge, his lover and best friend Jonty Stewart is at his side again, and—to top it all—he’s about to be made Forsterian Professor of Applied Mathematics. And although he and Jonty have precious little time for an investigative commission, they can’t resist a suspected murder case which must be solved in a month so a clergyman can claim his rightful inheritance.
But the courses of scholarship, true love, and amateur detecting never did run smooth. Orlando’s inaugural lecture proves almost impossible to write. A plagiarism case he’s adjudicating on turns nasty with a threat of blackmail against him and Jonty. And the murder investigation turns up too many leads and too little hard evidence.
Orlando and Jonty may be facing their first failure as amateur detectives, and the ruin of their professional and private reputations. Brains, brawn, the pleasures of the double bed—they’ll need them all to lay their problems to rest.
If a bit of sleuthing and solving murders Sherlock Holmes style is your thing then this book will be right up your street. I just loved the the way this book was set out, intelligent, well-written and a perfect historical backdrop to go with it.
Jonty and Orlando are back in Cambridge after surviving WWI. they have now got a bit of a name for themselves as detectives and soon get their next case. They feel a little out of practice as it has been a while since their last one, but take it on as the temptation is just too good. What I liked mostly about this whole book was the fact that it really isn’t a romance, but a solid murder-mystery where the two detectives, Orlando and Jonty are already in a long-standing relationship. Personally, I found this totally refreshing to read a book where the focus is on two normal gay guys just going about their everyday business or in their case not so everyday as it always seems to involve a murder or two. It breaks totally away from the “objectification” of gay men having gay sex, but gay men as MCs in the case that the sex or romance is no longer the focus. Of course they share some tender moments as in the case with any long standing relationship so the romance is there, but more in an everyday way.
I loved the way that the author got the style of writing and feeling for the period exactly right. The sentence construction and vocabulary used all felt real and realistic for this period, wonderful! Also the question of how Orlando and Jonty managed their relationship in a day where people certainly would have been less understanding. this meant in public they kept up the front of two confirmed bachelors who have just not found the right woman and are “best friends.” Sometimes I wonder whether people were really that naive or ignorant as to not see what kind of relationship they had or were too polite to say anything. Makes me also wonder how many gay men lived in this time exactly under that kind of smokescreen. All quite plausible if you ask me. Maybe Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson were also gay being the “confirmed bachelors” that they were.
This I found intriguing and quite funny that Orlando hates Sherlock and Watson and mentions this and why several times, although for me parallels could definitely be drawn with their relationship and the characters of Arthur Conan Doyle. The author does not in anyway imitate, but in my opinion almost uses this as a vehicle to make the contrast between her characters and the classical ones of Sherlock and Watson. Knowing that Sherlock and Watson are fictional and listening to these guys talk about them so, gives Jonty and Orlando and even more real feel. Nicely done Ms Cochrane :-) Loved it. the balance in the characters were great too. Orlando has just got his professorship in Maths and is obviously the more logical one liking to work things out and putting the pieces together in a scientific way. Jonty is more the intuitive partner, relying on his feelings and hunches to get him his answers. Put them together and you have the perfect crime solving machine and a great dynamic for a relationship.
As for the mystery, well set in England at this time everyone of course is always on their best behaviour. Codes of etiquette are rigidly observed even in the face of murder. Stiff upper lip and have another cup of tea. The murder-mystery is well thought out and developed nicely, leaving me guessing how they are going to ever solve this, with lots of, “I know who did it,” then, “maybe not,” then, “it has to be him/her,” but finally it was a joy to read how the murder was carried out and brought to its final conclusion. So all in all a great book, well written and thought out, liked it immensely.
The only mistake I made was not realising when I started that this is book #9 of a series, the penultimate book from a series of ten. Only when I began reading and was in to about chapter 4, after constantly getting the feeling that I was missing a whole lot of background to their relationship for such an established couple, did I realise it belongs to a series after looking it up on Goodreads. There were things that didn't quite add up that couldn’t be explained. I must admit to having been a little lost at times with their relationship, also the MCs’ connection between older established friends who obviously had been introduced in previous books, but I couldn’t really place them in Orlando’s and Jonty’s life and what their significance to them were. I blamed it first on the old grey cells, as there were moments between Jonty and Orlando that refer to a shared history and experiences with no explanation being proffered in the book, but alas I accepted my lot that some things were not going to be explained for my too curious mind. Jonty and Orlando obviously share a very profound history, that would have made more sense had I followed the series from the beginning *ggggrrrrrrr*
On the publisher’s website it states that it is a standalone. Sorry, but I personally felt this was definitely not the case and feel slightly deceived, cheated and a little annoyed to be honest. When I saw it on the publishers site I snapped it up as soon as I saw it as I thought this will be something that will be right up my street. This has happened to me before because the other books are published somewhere else with another publisher and this fact is not mentioned. But this is seriously NOT FAIR to the reader. This book is essentially a re-release, it may have been re-edited and re-vamped somewhat, I can’t really comment as I obviously haven’t read the original version. However, with the best will in the world this book for me personally is NOT A STANDALONE.
I’m delighted to say that I could follow things easily enough as far as the murder-mystery contained in this book goes. I’m happy I stayed with it as I have been introduced to another series which I feel will be well worth reading. So I will be putting amends to my mistake now ~ I have enjoyed this book a lot. I will make it my New Year’s resolution to read the series from the beginning! Maybe then I’ll find out how Jonty and Orlando’s relationship has developed and got to the solid and profound one that it is today. My advice is that if you like reading a series from the beginning to the end then I’m sure you will be well advised to start with book one. As with me if you start with the next to last book by mistake then you’ll still definitely love the story, its characters and murder-mystery plot without a shadow of a doubt, but just may wish you had started with book one.
“I am standing still.”
“You aren’t. You’re jiggling about like a cat after a pigeon.” Jonty Stewart made a final adjustment to Orlando Coppersmith’s tie, then stood back to admire his efforts. “I think that’s passable.”
“You should wear your glasses, then you wouldn’t have to go back so far. You can’t use that old excuse about your arms getting shorter so you have to hold the paper farther away.” Orlando turned to the mirror, the better to appreciate the perfectly tied knot. “Faultless. Thank you.”
The hallway of Forsythia Cottage benefited from the full strength of the morning sun through the windows and fanlight, enough for even the vainest creatures to check every inch of their appearance in the mirror before they sauntered out onto Madingley Road. Still, what would the inhabitants of Cambridge say to see either Jonty or Orlando less than immaculate, especially on a day such as this?
“It’s as well you had me here to help, or else you’d have disgraced yourself and St. Bride’s with it.” Jonty smiled, picking at his friend’s jacket. If there were any specks on it, Orlando had to know they were far too small for Jonty to see without his glasses. “I’m so proud of you. Professor Coppersmith. It will have a lovely ring to it.”
Orlando nodded enthusiastically, sending a dark curl springing rebelliously up, a curl that needed to be immediately flattened, although even the Brilliantine he employed recognised it was fighting a losing battle.
His hair might have been distinctly salt and pepper, but he was still handsome, lean but not angular, nor running to fat like some of his contemporaries. He’d turned forty when the Great War still had a year to run, so there was a while yet before he hit the half century. Jonty was a year closer to that milestone and never allowed to forget it. “I won’t believe it until I see the first letter addressed to me by that title.”
“Conceit, thy name is Coppersmith.” Jonty nudged his friend aside and attended to his own tie. Silver threads lay among his own ruddy-gold hair now, and the blue eyes were framed with fine lines. He knew he could still turn a few heads and young women told him he was handsome. If the young women concerned were his nieces . . . well, that didn’t invalidate their opinions.
Orlando snorted. “Conceit? That’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.” He slicked back his hair again, frowning.
“You seem unusually pensive, even for the new Forster Professor of Mathematics.” Jonty stopped his grooming, turned, and drew his hand down Orlando’s face, remapping familiar territory. Coppersmith and Stewart. Stewart and Coppersmith. They went together like Holmes and Watson, Hero and Leander, or strawberries and cream. Colleagues, friends, lovers, and amateur detectives, they were partners in every aspect of their lives, and neither of them entirely sure whether the detection or the intimacy was the most dangerous part.
“I was just thinking how sad it is that neither your parents nor my grandmother are here today.” Orlando fiddled with his tiepin, at which Jonty slapped his hand away and straightened the offending object once more.
“Leave that alone. I’d only just got it right.” Jonty stuffed a hat into Orlando’s hands—not the one he was going to wear today, but one he could twist nervously to his heart’s content, with no damage done. “Perhaps it’s as well they’re not here for your inaugural lecture. They might have had to put on a magnificent act to cover their boredom. Computable numbers? Hardly the stuff of gripping entertainment.” Jonty smiled, trying to keep his lover’s spirits up. He knew how deeply Orlando still felt the horrible series of losses he’d suffered during the years of the Great War.
So many people he’d been close to, now gone; it had left a gap in his life that Jonty knew even he couldn’t entirely fill. Not that, as Orlando swore, he loved Jonty any the less—nor, as Orlando frequently said, was there any less of him to love. The reports of the college veterans’ rugby matches still referred to him as a little ball of muscle, and Orlando said he was beautiful beyond the power of words or numbers—even imaginary ones—to describe. Both of which were nice, if perhaps biased, compliments.
“Thank you for your vote of confidence.” Orlando ruffled his lover’s hair, grinning smugly as Jonty scurried back to the mirror to begin priddying again.
“My pleasure. I’m looking forward to the lecture, of course. I’ve a list of keywords that I’ll tick off as they come. If I get them all, I’ll win five quid off Dr. Panesar.”
“Does he have a list as well? Does everyone?” When they’d first met, Orlando would have been thrown into a panic at such a statement. Now he was older, wiser, and alive to Jonty’s attempts to make game of him. “And do I get a cut of the proceeds? I’d write my lecture specifically to help out the highest bidder.”
“That’s the spirit. I’ll start the bidding.” Jonty leaned forward and kissed Orlando as tenderly as when they’d first been courting. “That’s the deposit. You can guess what constitutes the rest of the payment.” He was pleased when Orlando, visibly happier, returned the kiss; he couldn’t let Orlando succumb to melancholy now. The man might start blubbing through his inauguration.
“Oh, Lord, look at my hair!” The romantic interlude earned Orlando a return to the mirror to repair the damage to his coiffure. “No more of those before the big event, thank you.”
“We’re not turning into a pair of sissies, are we? I don’t ever remember spending as much time in front of a looking glass, not even when I was in my twenties.” Jonty resisted the temptation to have another glance at his reflection.
“This is an occasion without precedent. We can take as long as we want. You said it was a matter of the college’s honour—surely we can’t have people thinking St. Bride’s is inhabited by scarecrows!” Inhabited by old duffers, eccentrics, and a pair of amateur detectives who had the habit of getting their names into The Times, certainly. “Anyway, make the most of that kiss. There may be no more forthcoming before I give my lecture.”
“That’s hardly the spirit I expect, Orlando. If I were ever to gain a Chair in Tudor Literature or some such wonderful thing, I’d insist on regular romantic activity to fortify and inspire me. A man can’t live by hair pomade and computation alone.” Jonty made good the knot in his lover’s tie for what seemed the umpteenth time. “How far have you got with your first draft, by the way?”
“First draft? At this rate, it’ll never get written. Too many distractions. You being at the top of the list.” Orlando screwed up his face. “Perhaps I should simply write it on the subject of ‘Equations quantifying the known nuisance values of Jonathan Stewart.’”
“That would be impossible to quantify, I’m afraid. Didn’t you tell me there are no numbers bigger than infinity?” Jonty pulled down his lover’s brow to reachable level, but had second thoughts about kissing it, just in case hair and tie both got mussed up again. “If you’re that distracted, we should deem it protocol to sleep in separate beds the next few nights. Then you could scribble away to your heart’s content.”
“It could be done. And the thought of resumption of bed sharing would be a positive incentive to get the wretched thing sorted out. I need something to give me the proverbial boot up the backside.” Orlando deliberately moved away from the mirror. “Right, that’s it. If I’m not fit for public view now, I never will be. Thank goodness it’s just the official bit today and the lecture’s all of a fortnight away.”
“At least that’ll give Lavinia the chance to buy a dress suitable for the occasion. She’s dragging her heels about getting the right outfit. Worse than you. And she’s almost as nervous as you are. Feels she’s representing all the Stewarts and has to be on her best behaviour.” Lavinia Broad, Jonty’s sister and the matriarch of the family now that their formidable mother had died, was developing into the role with surprising dignity and good sense.
“She’s bound to be better behaved than you, so everyone will be relieved.” Orlando smiled, a twinkle in his eye to show that he didn’t mean any—or at least much—of what he’d said.
“And you’ll have Antonio there, to represent your illustrious relatives.” Jonty took out his spectacles and gave them a special polish in honour of the occasion. Not that he intended to wear them. “He can sit next to Lavinia, looking proud and patriarchal.”
“At this point, I’m glad my grandmother had to change her name. Professor Artigiano del Rame sounds a bit pretentious. And they’d never manage to paint all of that on the sign at the bottom of the staircase at Bride’s. They had enough trouble with O’Shaughnessy.” Orlando made one final adjustment to his jacket, ignored Jonty’s whisper of I was right when I said ‘Vanity, thy name is Coppersmith,’ and turned to the door. “It shows you what a state I’m in that I don’t object to turning up in the metal monster. If I was quite myself, I’d have insisted on a horse-drawn cab.”
“The metal monster” was one of the kinder ways Orlando referred to whichever one in the procession of Jonty’s cars was currently standing outside the house, allegedly polluting the vicinity. Only the fact that one of the earlier incarnations had helped save Jonty’s life made the possession of an automobile tolerable, even if the current version was one that Orlando deemed deficient in the number of required wheels.
“You love it, really. Especially since we got the Morgan.” Jonty grabbed their academic gowns, opened the front door, and ushered his lover through it. “Come on, let’s get the bride to the altar.”
“Not the analogy I’d have chosen, but it’ll do. Lead on, Macduff.”
“Lay on, Macduff, you mean. You’re worse than the dunderheads at times.” He closed the door behind them and took a deep breath of the autumn air. “It’s going to be a glorious day, in more ways than one.” As they reached the car, he dropped his voice to barely a whisper. “That moratorium on my bed doesn’t have to start until tomorrow. Only don’t think about that fact while you’re being inaugurated or invested or installed or whatever it is they’re about to do to you, as you won’t look very good in the photographs with a lascivious grin all over your gob.”
Investiture or not, Orlando couldn’t resist calling into the porters’ lodge en route to see if he had any post. It was customary for him when entering or even passing St. Bride’s to see if anything of importance had appeared in his pigeonhole. Or failing that, just some desperate set of calculations from one of the dunderheads. No matter how Jonty tried to break him of the habit—“Once a day is enough for any man, and I do mean checking your post and not anything else, Mr. Filthy Mind.”—the practice was ingrained.
“Dr. Coppersmith!” Summerbee, head of the porters’ lodge in spirit if not in title, greeted him with a huge grin. “The lads were hoping you’d drop in today. We all wanted to wish you the very best.”
“Thank you.” Orlando couldn’t help grinning in return. He’d always liked the denizens of the lodge, and today they felt like the absolute salt of the earth. There couldn’t be a college in Cambridge with a more stalwart set of men in its employ, and they’d taken good care of him back in the darkest days when it had seemed like there was no light left in the world.
Tait, a relatively new porter who still seemed totally in awe of Orlando, whispered something to his colleague.
“Ah, thank you for reminding me. Dr. Coppersmith, would it be an imposition to ask a favour? The lads wondered if there’ll be any photographs taken today for the newspapers and the like. And if so, maybe we could have a copy of one of them, to go up in the lodge?” Summerbee looked imploringly and as like an eager schoolboy as a fourteen-stone, middle-aged man could manage.
“If there are, you can.” Orlando felt slightly overwhelmed by such a request; it always astonished him that anyone should take a genuine and affectionate interest in his affairs.
“Thank you, sir.” Summerbee bent his head as Tait conveyed another whispered message. “Oh yes, that’s right. And if it could feature Dr. Stewart as well, that would be very gratifying.”
Gratifying? Orlando couldn’t help wonder if the porters had twigged the exact nature of the domestic arrangements up at Forsythia Cottage. Well, if they had, they didn’t seem to be showing any signs of disapproval. Not in public, anyway.
“I doubt we’ll be able to keep the little blighter out of range of any cameras. Remember when His Majesty visited the college? Dr. Stewart seemed to get his nose into just about every photograph that was taken.”
“He did that, sir. Mind you, he’s what you might call photogenic.” Summerbee grinned. “We could do a roaring trade with the ladies if we made postcards from those pictures of him dating back to when he was naught but a student here.”
“I beg your pardon?” Orlando had once been taken to see The Tempest and had lost the plot around Act II, Scene 1. He felt the same way now.
“We keep photograph albums of college life—the students and the dons, the sports teams and the like. They go back years. When we have our Christmas party here, some of our missuses and sweethearts like to look through them.” Summerbee tipped his head towards the inner sanctum where the picture albums were stored. “They always pick out Dr. Stewart, especially the one of him with the rest of the rugby fifteen.”
“So long as it’s not a picture of me milking a goat in the lodge, we should be thankful for small mercies.” Jonty, distinctly red-faced as though he’d heard every word of the praise, entered the lodge bearing a handful of letters. “Mr. Summerbee, have you any idea how these ended up in my room and not in my pigeonhole?” He held up his bundle of post.
“Wasps.” Tait at last seemed to find the courage to speak aloud, even if it was only in a monosyllable.
“Wasps?” Jonty and Orlando asked in unison.
“Yes. We’ve got a wasps’ nest behind the wainscoting and we had the little blighters smoked out only yesterday. Trouble is, the smoke seeped through and was pouring out of a crack in the wood.” Tait, gaining in confidence, illustrated his story with dramatic gestures representing pumping smoke and fleeing insects. “It was coming out into your pigeonhole and Dr. Panesar’s, so we decided to rescue both sets of post in case either got damaged. We felt it was safest to put it in your rooms, rather than leave it in the lodge and risk it going astray . . .” Tait’s burst of courage was clearly waning under Orlando’s beady eye. “I’m sorry if we overstepped the mark.”
“Not at all.” Jonty smiled, dispersing all worries about people fiddling with his personal property. “Better safe than sorry.”
Orlando shuddered at the thought of wasps, smoke, or worse still, porters interfering with his letters. “I think I’ll just nip my post up to my study, if there’s any risk of arthropod intervention.” He smiled as if he’d made a wonderfully witty joke, and the porters indulged him with a chuckle. Naturally, it was human intervention that would have bothered Orlando more than the other two.
“It shouldn’t happen again, sir.” Summerbee was conciliatory. “We think we’ve got shot of all our unwanted visitors. A shame we can’t employ the same techniques when we get waifs and strays from the college next door in here.”
The college next door—how every true St. Bride’s man loathed it. Often, although not always, with good cause. A den of plagiarists, scoundrels, cads, and cheats, or so every good Bride’s man swore. The archenemy, camped at the gates. Jonty always said every dark cloud had a silver lining, and maybe he’d be proved right. All the great and the good of the mathematics department had been called to attend an urgent meeting on Thursday morning to discuss a case of possible plagiarism by one of their members, which was not an enticing prospect. But at least the suspect was someone from the college next door.
“Maybe you could get your man with the smoke to make a secret raid on Dr. Owens’s lodge and see if he dislodges something worse than wasps.” Orlando sniffed, clutching his post to his chest as if Owens, head of the much-reviled institution and thief-in-chief, was going to sneak around and purloin it. He’d stolen things from St. Bride’s before and had even tried to get his hands on the notorious, precious, and totally befuddling Woodville Ward papers. Those papers had provided the key to solving a mysterious disappearance that had puzzled scholars for centuries. “Shall I put your letters somewhere safe, Dr. Stewart? Just in case you lose them halfway up King’s Parade?”
Jonty sorted through the pile of correspondence, picked out two items to put in his inside pocket, then handed over the rest. “If you’d be so kind, Dr. Coppersmith. They’ll make a terrible bulge in my jacket otherwise. Two whole papers to check through and both of them on King Lear, so that’ll be a bundle of laughs. I’ll hang about the Old Court while you do the necessary.”
Orlando nodded and swept all the letters and papers to safety before any more wasps—or porters—could get at them. He was too consumed with thoughts and worries about the forthcoming ceremony to entertain any curiosity about the letters in Jonty’s jacket. As he came down the stairs from his room, he found Jonty lurking by the entrance, looking concerned.
“I was just a bit worried that you’d lock yourself in and refuse to take part.”
“Don’t tempt me. The thought’s crossed my mind several times.” Orlando hated fuss. Although there was more than that; he was distinctly miffed that he couldn’t be Orlando Coppersmith, Sadleirian Professor of Pure Mathematics, as he’d always had a fondness for real analysis and Fourier series. But short of assassinating the present incumbent of the post—who looked like he had a good few years in him yet—there seemed to be little chance of him getting the job. So Forster Professor of Applied Mathematics he would be, and if anyone noticed that the title had been endowed by his almost-sister-in-law in honour of his almost-mother-in-law (courtesy of the handsome inheritance Lavinia had received), then they were too polite to mention it.
“You deserve this position. Completely and utterly. If anyone so much as hints otherwise, I’ll belt them one. Anyway, you weren’t even the first person to hold the post.” With that, they began a slow, stately walk over the college lawns.
“True.” Orlando had been in the trenches of France when the chair had first been created. The honour of being the original professor had gone to someone from the college next door, shoehorned into the post by that toad Owens, who had probably used blackmail to get his own slimy way in terms of the appointment. “Your Lavinia said Professor Mann was almost a gentleman, even if he came from such a disreputable place.”
“Did she? Well, the old girl’s always had good sense when it comes to getting the measure of someone, so I suppose we must give him the benefit of a rather large doubt.” Jonty grinned, the great scar on his cheek—his souvenir, along with two medals, of the Great War—tipping up and giving him a piratical air. “She didn’t arrange to nobble him, did she?”
Professor Mann had come to a sticky end, literally, falling into a vat of flour and egg when on a visit to a biscuit factory to observe particle and liquid flow through hoppers and tubes. He’d developed a phobia of machinery as a result and had retired to Devon a broken man. The professor elect wouldn’t do anything as rash.
Orlando was pleased they’d not brought the motor car. Sauntering along King’s Parade with Jonty at his side and not a cloud in the piercingly blue sky, he couldn’t shake off the feeling that the shades of Helena Stewart and Grandmother Coppersmith were walking alongside him as well. He wasn’t sure he believed in God or heaven, even though Jonty was enthusiastic about both, but the thought of the two formidable women who had so shaped his life for the better being in cahoots in some ethereal realm, bossing the angels and telling Gabriel off for going around without his vest on, made the day even brighter.
All he needed now were two things. The first was for the ordeal of the next few hours to be over swiftly and without incident. Please God, his dodgy Achilles tendon, which hadn’t given him any gyp this last five years, wouldn’t decide that today was the day it had its revenge for presumed maltreatment and gave out, sending him arse over tip in the face of the congregation. The second was for his guardian angels, if they did exist, to send him a nice juicy problem to solve. And if they couldn’t manage a murder (which didn’t seem like the sort of thing to be praying for), then some other mystery, maybe one that had evaded all solution for years on end and that he and Jonty alone could master.
“Are you thinking about violent crime of some sort?” The perky voice at his side cut into Orlando’s daydream of knives, victims’ backs, and convoluted inheritances.
“How did you know?” How did Jonty Stewart always seem to know what was going on in his brain? Did it read like ticker tape all over the Coppersmith fizzog?
“You’ve got that look in your eye. The one that only comes when it’s been too long between cases.” Jonty grinned, and Orlando had to admit he was right. Time was when he would have bitten anyone’s hand off at the chance of a nice, complicated crime to investigate. Maybe those times were returning at last.
While there’d never been lean years, there had been the odd stretches of lean months when nobody had come forward with so much as a telegram gone astray that needed to be tracked down, let alone an unsolved murder for him and Jonty to get their brains about. They didn’t count the war years, when they hadn’t felt any need to investigate anything; Room 40 work had kept their wits occupied long enough with cryptography and the like, and when they’d been at the front, they’d shut all curiosity off. If ever there’d been a time when Orlando hadn’t wanted to think too deeply, that had been it.
“Is it too much for a man to want a little diversion when he’s got such weighty matters as an important lecture on his mind?” Orlando tried to sound as if he believed passionately in every word he said. “It would help oil the wheels of contemplation. Working on one would aid the other, naturally.”
“You talk such rot at times. I hope you don’t stuff that lecture with such obvious lies.” They stopped to let an idiot undergraduate from the college next door—instantly recognisable by the vile college colours he adorned himself with—hurtle past on a bike. “That reminds me of something Dr. Panesar was saying in the Senior Common Room about the circulatory system. A clot may be transported in many ways.”
Orlando groaned, rolling his eyes. “And you have the nerve to accuse me of speaking rot.”
“At least I don’t deny doing it.” They carried on walking, safe for a while from being impaled on anyone’s handlebars. “You just won’t admit that you miss the thrill of the chase. You’re like a foxhound. You’ve smelled blood once and now you have to have your share of it. Regularly.”
Orlando stopped, eyeing his friend closely. “And are you saying you don’t?”
“Of course not. There’s nothing I’d like more than a mystery. Been too long.” Jonty’s expression was rueful; their last case had been in the spring and solving it had been bittersweet. “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. This wasn’t the Jonty Stewart he knew, loved, and sometimes had the overwhelming desire to murder. Especially when he changed cars and became besotted all over again with some metal monstrosity.
“It’ll certainly never be the same. I feel we’ve all passed through the fire.” Jonty slapped Orlando’s shoulder. “Still, there’s no point in grumbling. Some things are above and beyond the passage of time and the cruelty of the world affecting them. Maurice Panesar still tells appalling jokes.” He lowered his voice to barely more than a whisper. “And we still love each other. Which is a miracle in itself when I consider what a miserable swine you are.”
Orlando grinned, finding the insult a welcome sign that the old Jonty was back. “And you’re still the cheekiest toad in Cambridge.” If they’d been home at Forsythia Cottage, sod would have been substituted for toad, but that wasn’t appropriate for King’s Parade.
“Toad, am I? Then I might not feel inclined to give you the little treat I have here.” Jonty patted his jacket through his gown.
“A reward for getting through this afternoon without strangling the vice-chancellor?” Orlando eyed the thick material, as if the layers might become as glass and yield the secrets of the inner pocket.
“Something like that. But you’re not going to find out unless you stop frowning. Do try to smile at least once.”
“Will whatever it is be worth it?”
“Oh yes. Trust your Uncle Jonty. It’s even worth rousing a smile for Dr. Owens.”
Meet the Author
As Charlie Cochrane couldn't be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes, MLR, Riptide and Lethe.
She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, International Thriller Writers Inc and is on the organising team for UK Meet. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.