1) Novels set in the past demand so much of the author. Like novels set in the present, they must advance plot, create vibrant characters, give the reader a sense of place, and (last but not least) be well written. In addition, however, they must also be true to a time and place. This imposes the extra burden of research. "What were the main concerns of people living then?" "How did they talk?" "What were the manners and mores of the time?" People who attempt this genre usually fail miserably. Not Charlie Cochrane, I'm glad to say. I read it first for enjoyment. Jonty and Orlando are delightful opposites--a Shakespeare scholar and mathematician--who play off each other skillfully. Writing a mystery, the author adheres to the Agatha Christie formula, appropriate to 1921, when the novel is set. A locked-door murder or double suicide--which the sleuths acknowledge as a cliche--and a classic denoument, where each suspect is grilled in the same room. Delicious, to anyone who loves Christie and her contemporaries. On a second reading, I read for anachronisms. Here's where I entered the author's world. I tried to do the author's work. She mentions Japanese maples. Were they introduced to England before 1921? (Yes.) Did people say "built like a brick outhouse" then? (Researched. Couldn't find out.) How about "we've had our moments," "tell him off," and "life of Riley"? (Research provides no definitive answer, but my guess is yes.) Is "huffing and pudding" (page 183) a typo? Probably not. Charlie Cochrane does not make the amateur's mistake of explaining the time. Her characters simply live in it. What does "show Georgie how to harden his conkers" mean? (A game where children thread chestnuts--conkers--on a string and combat each other, trying to smash the competitor's chestnut.) BTW, we had a similar game in 1960s Louisiana, where children faced off over boiled Easter eggs, tapping tip to tip, and only one would break. The secret was to use a duck egg. This game is universal. Ponc and Conkers mean the same thing. And what about "Angel of Mons"? (A WWI battle, where, fictionally, the ghosts of Agincourt bowmen arrowed the Germans.) What does "Snapdragon" mean? (An old version for bobbing for apples, where people pluck and eat raisins set afire in a shallow lake of brandy.) Then, of course, the language of the time: "overegging the pudding," "sail close to the wind," and "a touch parky," for example. They don't interfere--readers get the gist without looking it up. The language does not interrupt the story. In short, brava, Charlie. P.S. Riptide editors, please change "principles in the drama" to "principals in the drama," on page 91
2) Cambridge Fellows is a series I started reading years ago and not once has bored me. Each book is quite entertaining and well written. But then again, everything I've read of Charlie Cochrane has been a good experience. Each book in this series, or at least the ones I've read, deal with whodunit murders. Ms. Cochrane has the ability of leaving you guessing until the very end, leaving you making assumptions throughout the story. That is what I call a good storyteller. Ms. Cochrane is an author that never disappoints. Keep 'em coming, Charlie!
Lessons for Sleeping Dogs (Cambridge Fellows Mysteries) by Charlie Cochrane
Series: Cambridge Fellows Mysteries
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (June 2, 2015)
Amazon: Lessons for Sleeping Dogs (Cambridge Fellows Mysteries)
Amazon Kinlde: Lessons for Sleeping Dogs (Cambridge Fellows Mysteries)
When 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.
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