Rating: 5 stars
After the tumultuous doings where Orlando lost his memory albeit temporarily, Drs. Coppersmith and Stewart are now happily ensconced in their newly purchased home, Forsythia Cottage. But it’s not long before mystery and murder find them again. Matthew Ainslie, friend and acquaintance (depending upon which of the men you talked to, Orlando never quite forgiving Matthew for his actions on Jersey) has a problem. An old flame of Matthew’s is accused of murder and Matthew doesn’t believe he did it.
As Matthew lays out the details of the case to them, the murder hits much closer to home than either one of them could have imagined. The murdered man is none other than one of the boys who sexually abused a very young Jonty over the course of a semester at boarding school. The news brings memories of the abuse back to Jonty with a vengeance, shattering his carefully fabricated acceptance of those events. As Jonty withdraws from Orlando and their relationship, a second murder is committed and the other abuser from his past is found dead. As suspicion falls upon his beloved Dr. Stewart, Orlando and Jonty race to find the murderer and help Jonty finally find some measure of peace with his past.
For me this is a tour de force from Charlie Cochrane. Lessons in Power still contains dialog that delights with the lightness of Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics and the shear witty remarks of Oscar Wilde. But the reality of rape and the long term trauma, bitterness and sense of violation that rape victims contend with lives in these pages as well. And that incongruity serves to highlight the horror and damage done not only to Jonty but other victims of the same sexual violence that seems to know no age or continental restraints.
Threads of Jonty’s abuse have been trickling through the storylines of the previous books in this series. Thunderstorms leave him scared and shaken into silence until Orlando brings him out of it. And when asked, Jonty has said that he has told no one the names of his attackers lest his father or Orlando go after them. But here that abuse and the true torment that Jonty has endured is brought to the front and center of the story. It is with amazing skill and talent, that Charlie Cochrane never loses the flavor of Edwardian England and its settings in her stories, from the Stewart family castle to the hallowed halls of St. Brides. Here the sun never sets on England even as Orlando and Jonty deal with the realities of murderers and child abusers. The author treats all with sensitivity and care even as she made me weep with Jonty and his family.
It took me several books before Jonty and Orlando became near and dear to my heart, so I would recommend that all the books be read in sequence. Otherwise certain references and characters mentioned here can’t be understood in the context they need to be. I have come to love all the characters here, Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, Miss Peters, Mr. Wilson, all of them and find I cannot go to long before I need to head off to St. Brides and another mystery with my Cambridge Fellows. This is a wonderful book in a wonderful series. Don’t let either of them pass you by.
Available from Samhain Publishing, Amazon, and ARE.