A MelanieM Review: Lessons in Cracking the Deadly Code (Cambridge Fellows #12.7) by Charlie Cochrane



Rating: 5 stars out of 5

St Bride’s College is buzzing with excitement at the prospect of reviving the traditional celebration of the saint’s day. When events get marred by murder it’s natural that Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith will get called in to help the police with their inside knowledge. But why has somebody been crawling about on the chapel roof and who’s obsessed with searching in the library out of hours?

Yes! The mystery is afoot to borrow another sleuth’s phrase in the latest Cambridge Fellows mystery by Charlie Cochrane.  The author is not following along a specific timeline for her stories, happily for us who follow this series, so here some of our favorite characters like Jonty’s parents can still be seen taking part in solving this  quite puzzling affair. What a joy as I love them so.

In Lessons in Cracking the Deadly Code, St. Bride’s is looking to reestablish many of its older traditions for Saint’s Day, and it has called upon it faculty and staff for assistance.  That includes the mystery of who killed one of its students, and cause behind his death.  Once again it’s Jonty and  Orlando on the job. Orlando especially who was feeling maybe out of sorts, and needing a mystery to solve, got several handed to him.

Because as we all know, nothing is simple in a Cambridge Fellows mystery.  There are layers, and   complications, and a knotted path to follow to the end. A marvelous journey done in companable conversation, affectionate glances, witty phrases (with the  occasional snark thrown in), hewn through years of partnership and love that the author has crafted so carefully and genuinely.  I know these men because I have been through so much with them with this series that coming into this stories feel like visiting with old friends.

Charlie Cochrane is a master at placing her characters and story into a historic setting with accurate touch that’s so subtle that she makes it look easy.  It’s not.  The time period comes alive in her hands just as Jonty and Orlando do, as they have gone through the years in this series, emerging on the  other end of the war, back in England.  All the changes reflected in each story as it is here.  Along with that you get the deepening romance and love over the years of these two remarkable men and often some very gnarly murders as is the case here.

I adore the mysteries Cochrane concocted for this one, all for a story in 110 pages.  Amazing.

I had a great visit and can’t wait to see where the next mystery takes us.  I’m thrilled that the author is happy to go willy nilly all over this couple’s timeline.  I want their journey never to be over and this is a great way to do it.

I highly recommend this and all the Cambridge Fellow Mysteries, but especially 1 through 10 should be read in the order they were written.

Cover art by Alex Beecroft: I love the soft tone of this illustration.  Great for the era and story.  Love the author’s novels too.

Buy Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 110 pages
Published November 26th 2018 by The Right Chair Press
Series Cambridge Fellows #12.7

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Lessons in Loving thy Murderous Neighbour: A Cambridge Fellows Mystery novella (Cambridge Fellows Mysteries) by Charlie Cochrane


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith like nothing more than being given a mystery to solve. But what happens when you have to defend your greatest enemy on a charge of murder?

I’m a huge fan of Charlie Cochrane.  Her love of history and her ability to bring various eras to life vividly and memorably on the page can be seen no where better than her Cambridge Fellows Mysteries.  In this series, her remarkable characters Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith meet in St. Bride’s College, Cambridge, England, 1905.  That was their first story Lessons in Love.  From that start, we watch these two men grow, sometimes falter, mature, and continue to love each other through the years and history that follows.  The last book release was Lessons for Sleeping Dogs (Cambridge Fellows #12) and the year was 1921, setting Cambridge. Of course, they are at their beloved St. Bride’s College, a place that’s kept their secret and them safe all these years.

Their greatest enemy here? Well, that would be their neighboring college next to them…one so dastardly that the name is often never spoken.  Especially since its Head has been involved in several imbroglios and a nasty encounter with a beloved member of their small group of friends.  Now their are being asked to investigate whether one of their worst enemies could actually be innocent of murder?

What follows is a charming, complicated (it’s Jonty and Orlando of course) murder investigation.  It will touch on many past elements and stark realities about that era.  Soldiers in what we now call PTSD from the war being one of them,  Jonty’s past abuse as a child, and others are all threads included here. If you are unfamiliar with the series, they might slip by you without a much of a trace.  But if you are, they deepen much of the poignancy that flows here.  Jonty and Orlando have been together 20 years at this point, a lovely measure of time.  Yet still the fear of being caught out hangs over them and they are always cautious with themselves and their relationship.

The author bring’s us into Jonty and Orlando’s lives again gently, her conversations with them flows with the language and usage of words of the times yet it never feels forced or hard to read.  Indeed, its warm, welcoming, and easy.  After all these stories, it feels like  walking into the drawing room again and seeing old friends.  What a joy.   The story flew by all too quickly and it was another case closed before I knew it.

I hope Charlie Cochrane never closes the books on her Cambridge Fellows Mysteries.  I hope Jonty and Orlando never really get so old that they can’t go sleuthing together and that St. Bride’s will always be waiting for them when they return home.  Unfamiliar with the series?  Start today with Lessons in Love and work your way through.  There’s some real heartbreakers in the series but don’t worry.  The sun continues to shine on them both.  This is proof and a great story to boot.

Cover Illustration by Alex Beecroft is utterly charming and perfect for the story. Had no idea this talented author was an artist as well.

Buy links:    Amazon | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 82 pages
Expected publication: August 14th 2017 by The Right Chair Press

Charlie Cochrane On Her Obsessions with Pre/Post 1900’s and ‘Lessons in Loving thy Murderous Neighbour’ (Guest Post, Excerpt, and Giveaway)


Lessons in Loving thy Murderous Neighbour:
A Cambridge Fellows Mystery novella (Cambridge Fellows Mysteries)
by Charlie Cochrane
Alex Beecroft  (Illustrator)

Buy links:    Amazon | Amazon UK  

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Charlie Cochrane here today with her new Cambridge Fellows Mysteries story, Lessons in Loving thy Murderous Neighbour! Welcome back, Charlie! 



Charlie Cochrane on Her Obsession with Pre and Post 1900’s

I’m obsessed with the era either side of 1900. To the extent that if I buy (or borrow from the library) any new books set in the era I have to smuggle them into the house in a plain brown wrapper or my daughters tell me off. I try to pretend they’re for research purposes (I write many of my stories in the Edwardian/WWI era) but that’s stretching the truth. It’s the characters who fascinate me.  Sassoon, Owen, Brooke, Graves, Gurney and the rest – I can lap up both their works and their life stories.

Okay, you might say, that’s all very well setting a context for your writing but how does the romantic element work in?  The simple answer is that Siegfried Sassoon was gay, Wilfred Owen was gay, Rupert Brooke and Robert Graves had experienced homosexual encounters/longings, Vera Brittain’s brother Edward might have sacrificed himself in the line as he was under suspicion of sexual relations with his soldiers…the list goes on. Scratch the surface of almost any of the WWI poets and you find some connection (personal or through friends) to what would have been, at the time, a deliberately hidden world of gay men.

It’s a strange era, with a bit of a dichotomous feel. On the one hand the disgrace of Oscar Wilde would still have been sharp in the nation’s memory but Robert Ross, Wilde’s lover and staunch supporter, still had a sort of coterie in London where several of these poets congregated. (Owen, whose one extant letter to Sassoon suggests he was in love with him, got drawn into this network after meeting Sassoon at Craiglockhart.)

Inevitably, given the illegal status of homosexual relationships, cover ups were ripe. Edward Brittain’s commanding officer kept the story of his impending enquiry secret until he was attacked in print by Vera Brittain. Sassoon’s autobiographical novels skirt around his sexuality and he destroyed some of Owen’s letters to him for which the poet’s brother Harold was grateful. Harold did much (through both his own biography of his brother and destroying much of Wilfred’s correspondence) to sanitise the poet’s image; I wonder what he thought about Wilfred’s poem on the subject of rent boys, “Who is the God of Canongate”?

Because of the secrecy gay men had to live under, mysteries remain, some of which we may never be able to solve. Did Edward Brittain deliberately choose death in combat over disgrace? Was Wilfred Owen seduced by Charles Scott Moncrieff? Was the death by drowning of Michael Llewelyn Davies part of a suicide pact? How can we understand the lives of gay men at a century’s remove? Read the most up to date biographies, clearly, especially those which rely on first hand sources. (Dominic Hibberd’s “Wilfred Owen a new biography” is one of my brown paper wrapped books.)  Access correspondence from the time, and look at the changing drafts of the poems. Read the finished poems themselves, with the gift of hindsight. Maybe you’ll end up like me, so inspired by the tales you’ve heard that you’ll want to write about the era.

Title: Lessons in Loving thy Murderous Neighbour (m/m mystery)


Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith like nothing more than being given a mystery to solve. But what happens when you have to defend your greatest enemy on a charge of murder?


Cambridge 1922 

“Owens? Owens?” Orlando Coppersmith’s voice sounded louder, and clearer, from his chair in the Senior Common Room at St Bride’s than it had ever sounded before. And with good cause.

“Steady on, old man. We’re in enough of a state of shock without you making sufficient noise to wake the dead.” Jonty Stewart smiled at his friend’s uncharacteristic outburst. Although friendship would hardly be the most accurate way to describe their relationship. Even the description “lovers, companions, colleagues and partners in solving crime” didn’t quite cover the depth of the bond they’d build up in nigh on twenty years. If their hair bore the odd silver thread, their ardour hadn’t cooled.

“Wake the dead or, harder still, wake some of the dons,” Dr. Panesar agreed, mischievously.

“Good point, Dr. P.” Jonty sniggered. “Some of them give the impression they’ve been asleep since 1913.”

A quick glance around the oak panelled room supported his assertion. St. Bride’s may have been one of the most forward looking of the Cambridge colleges, embracing the fact the year was 1922 rather than pretending it was still 1622, but some aspects of the university, including crusty old dons, seemed to be an immutable fixture.

“In which case,” Orlando pointed out, “we’d have ten years of history to explain to them, much of it unpleasant, let alone this latest scandal. St. Bride’s men being asked to defend Owens. What is the world coming to?”

About the Author

Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Riptide, Lethe and Bold Strokes, among others.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.



Comment below for the chance to win an audio copy of Lessons in Love. One winner to be drawn from total comments from all blog tour stops.

A MelanieM Review: Murder Between the Pages by Josh Lanyon


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

murder-between-the-pages-by-josh-lanyonFelix Day, author of the Constantine Sphinx mysteries, and Leonard Fuller, author of the Inspector Fez mysteries, are bitter rivals and the best of enemies. Both happen to present when a notorious author of roman à clef is shot by an invisible assailant during a signing at historic Marlborough Bookstore.

Even if they weren’t both suspects, it’s the perfect opportunity to match wits and sleuthing skills.

If only the murderer was equally amused.

Murder Between the Pages by Josh Lanyon combines so many of my  favorites elements.  You have two main characters who happen to write murder mysteries of the type that were popular in the 40’s (and now, they never go  out of style).  They both have incredible past histories, war experiences that have marked them severely enough that neither feels suited to a “typical” return to normal life after the war.  And of course, you have the murder (sometimes murders) mysteries to be investigated and solved by the end of the story.  Romance too, lets not forget.

All wrapped up in a story that involved snappy dialog, beautifully layered characters, and an historical tone and feel that has the post war era all over it.  I loved  it all, from the author hostilities at the book club over their very similiar detectives to the terms used by gay men to signal their sexuality to each other in the 40’s.  Just so well done.

Of course, Josh Lanyon is a favorite author of mine for exactly the same reasons I loved this story.  Its short but doesn’t feel that way.  Its concise and yet at times, I could slow my reading down and admire the language and descriptions of the men and locations.  There’s my regret of a lost character who came and went too soon.  He was so well written even for one so briefly known, full-flavored and believable.

And then there’s the mystery. It comes with just the right amount of angst and flair for the dramatic.

I adore stories like this, can’t get enough of them.  Luckily I have Josh Lanyon who seems to love writing them as much as I love reading them.  Now I can’t wait for the next one to flow off Lanyon’s pen or what have you.

Cover art is superb.  Love it too.

Sales Links


Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 144 pages
Published November 8th 2016 by JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: Lessons for Sleeping Dogs (Cambridge Fellows #12) by Charlie Cochrane


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Cambridge, 1921

LessonsForSleepingDogs_600x900When amateur sleuth Jonty Stewart comes home with a new case to investigate, his partner Orlando Coppersmith always feels his day has been made. Although, can there be anything to solve in the apparent mercy killing of a disabled man by a doctor who then kills himself, especially when everything takes place in a locked room?

But things are never straightforward where the Cambridge fellows are concerned, so when they discover that more than one person has a motive to kill the dead men—motives linked to another double death—their wits get stretched to the breaking point.

And when the case disinters long buried memories for Jonty, memories about a promise he made and hasn’t kept, their emotions get pulled apart as well. This time, Jonty and Orlando will have to separate fact from fiction—and truth from emotion—to get to the bottom of things.

I am always thrilled to find that Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith have returned for another mystery and here they are back in Charlie Cochrane’s Lessons for Sleeping Dogs better than ever.

With the last few stories we have been flip flopping back and forth along the time line as laid out in the novels released to date.  Lessons for Sleeping Dogs now moves that time line forward once more another year.  The men are older, their relationship more established and yet,  their love for each other has never been so deep and committed as the one we see here.  Orlando and Jonty are starting to think past their time at St. Bride’s, perhaps even into retirement age, a startling thought considering we first met them 16 years ago when their world was far more innocent (at least on the surface) and WWI was not even a faint grumbling politically.

Charlie Cochrane is easing her Fellows into the aging process with a smoothness most would envy.  Its acknowledged, through a gentle gesture or wry remark,  a memory to those so sorely missed, lost to war or old age, and then the story moves on as it should.  Its a lovely realistic touch and its inclusion makes me appreciate this author even more.

Oh the mysteries, yes, more than one.  I think this must be the most convoluted of them yet.  Shades of Sherlock Holmes!  There is an echo of an earlier story but you don’t have to have read that to get the gist of it here.  Most of that backstory is included.  There are several mysteries ongoing at several levels of importance, or so you think.  I loved them of course, but I thought that too many puzzles almost took away from the main murder mystery.  I get what Charlie was after, but this was a lot to juggle and it was hard for the reader to keep track of all of the facts, places and people while still dealing with the many emotional scenes and fallout for Jonty and Orlando.  This aspect of  Lessons for Sleeping Dogs kept it from a perfect 5 star rating, but oh it was so close.

There is so much darkness here.  The aftermath of WWI lingers on in the broken minds and bodies of the soldiers who returned, included Orlando and Jonty.  The bleakness and pain of their childhood must also be dealt with once again as parts of their case brings their memories surging back to overwhelm them.  Their past histories are  alluded to here but this remains another definite reason why theses stories should be read in order (in my opinion). You can only get the full impact of what happened to them in those previous novels not here.  Jonty and Orlando have so many issues to deal with, and they must do it using their hearts, their intelligence and their trust in each other.    What a outstanding story to have Jonty and Orlando make their reappearance!

Yes, it all works out.  We get to see some of our favorite secondary characters and Hyacinth Cottage.  I absolutely loved it.  What’s next for Jonty and Orlando?  It’s anyone’s guess and only Charlie Cochrane knows for sure.    But one thing is for certain, I will be there, waiting in line, to pick up the story and see what happens next and hoping that the author won’t tear my heart out.

I highly recommend this story and all the novels in the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries.  I have them all listed for you below.  Don’t miss out on any of them.

Cover artist:  Lou Harper.  I love these  new covers.  They are my favorite covers so  far for the series.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 243 pages
Expected publication: October 12th 2015 by Riptide Publishing