Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Tea and sympathy have never been so deadly.
The private school of Lindenshaw St Crispin’ has long lost the luster it once had. Once a sought after place of high education, it has now sild slowly into the ranks of lesser schools and its dwindling enrollment reflects that. But the governors want a return to its glorious days and to do that they need to hire a new Head Master or Head Teacher as the title is now called. Among those chosen for the selection panel is schoolteacher Adam Matthews. All Adam wants is to chose the best person for the children and go home to his quiet life at the end of the day. But when one of the applicants is found strangled in the school, everyone looks to be a suspect, even Adam himself.
Inspector Robin Bright isn’t thrilled to be back at St. Crispin’s. the scene of the crime and his old alma mater. The school and its grounds, as well some of the old staff that still remember him, bring back old painful memories Robin would rather stay forgotten. The one bright spot is one that he shouldn’t be thinking about? That would be the handsome and kind schoolteacher, Adam Matthews.
All the secrets of Lindenshaw St. Crispin’s start to surface as another body is discovered. As the stakes get higher and the murderer becomes more desperate, Adam and Robin have to decide who they can trust and rely on, even deciding if that includes each other. The complications rise up and the race is on to find the killer before Adam and even Robin himself are targeted.
If you look up the definition of Cosy Mystery in the dictionary, it includes this statement ”
“Cozies are mystery novels typically set in English country houses, villages, or other benign environments. Cozies feature very little violence, aside for the murder, and few gory details. The term arose from the relatively genteel settings, the common use of amateur sleuths as protagonists, and the fact that all loose ends are tied up and the villain caught and punished by the novel’s conclusion.”
To that I will add, the Cozy Mystery is a popular trope found in all forms of media, from Agatha Christie, the grande dame of Cozies to Murder, She Wrote. It has a timeless appeal with its small town settings and the intimacy found between all the various townspeople… victims, murderers, suspects alike. It lacks the brutality and rawness of other mysteries, concerning itself with the amateur sleuth and their ability to reason. Small wonder that Charlie Cochrane, that marvelous author of stories composed of civilities, history, and relationships has written a cozy to delight us all.
The Best Corpse for the Job brings us into the small English village of Stanebridge and a school in decline. Lindenshaw St. Crispin’s is a school mired in its past. And its teachers, well, most of them, realize that to survive it needs a new Headteacher (formerly known as Headmaster) and direction to pull it into the present. A panel is chosen to decide who is the best candidate for the job and then hire that person. So deceptively simple a decision and yet so fraught full of politics, personality clashes, and ambition that you know it will go wrong right from the start. And it does, deliciously so.
Cochrane brings us into the civilized halls and playing fields of this most austere establishment, letting us feel our way through the aged paneled hallways, noting the deep history of the school while subtly highlighting the wear, tear, and worn nature that its lowered status has caused. Through Cochrane’s descriptions one doesn’t have to had stepped foot in such a school to feel the atmosphere of stress, age, and years of children of all ages trooping in and out have wrought upon St. Crispin’s. It’s all marvelously there, a perfect setting for murder most foul.
Adam Matthews, a kind and caring teacher who prefers to keep his homosexuality quiet from some of the more bigoted members of the staff, is such an attractive main character. His geniality, his concern for his students and the future of the school make him immediately likable. We get his concerns and we adore the way in which he appreciates his life, from the school to his small house, complete with enormous Newfoundland called Campbell. He’s the perfect amateur Cozy sleuth and he acquits himself handsomely here from start to finish.
More complex, definitely more brooding, Inspector Robin Bright has a painful history that is deeply rooted in the very school that is the scene of the crime. And this crime has brought up all the old hurtful memories and issues that Robin thought he had put in the past. Again, Cochrane makes us feel the bitterness and anger Robin has carried with him all these years and it’s a stark contrast to Adam and the type of teacher he represents. Robin too is someone the reader will care about greatly.
And at the heart of this story is the crime and murderer who remains hidden for most of the story. It’s a twisty little mystery, one that the reader will enjoy puzzling out along with Robin and Adam, as the scares, clues, and suspense ratchets up the stakes for all. Is there a heart thumper or two? Why, yes, there is and it makes the ending all the more enjoyable.
I hope that there are further mysteries ahead for Robin and Adam, they make quite the team. And Charlie Cochrane’s ability to bring the gentility, intimacy, and sometimes deadly village goings on to life makes her a Cozy Mystery author to write home about. Consider The Best Corpse for the Job, and its author, Charlie Cochrane both among Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words highly recommended reads.
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase. I have to admit to being disappointed in the cover. Too modern for a Cozy, it missed so many opportunities to highlight the story and the mystery it involves. It looks more like a modern office than ancient private school.
Sales Links: Riptide Press (available for pre order) All Romance eBooks Amazon – all links to follow
ebook, 298 pages
Expected publication: November 24th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
original titleThe Best Corpse for the Job