Hiya guys, we have Charlie Cochrane popping in with her new release Old Sins, we have a fantastic guest post from Charlie, a great excerpt and a brilliant swag bag giveaway so enjoy the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
Past sins have present consequences.
Detective Chief Inspector Robin Bright and his partner, deputy headteacher Adam Matthews, have just consigned their summer holiday to the photo album. It’s time to get back to the daily grind, and the biggest problem they’re expecting to face: their wedding plans. Then fate strikes—literally—with a bang.
Someone letting loose shots on the common, a murder designed to look like a suicide, and the return of a teacher who made Robin’s childhood hell all conspire to turn this into one of his trickiest cases yet.
Especially when somebody might be targeting their Newfoundland, Campbell. Robin is used to his and Adam’s lives being in danger, but this takes the—dog—biscuit.
Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes:
Emotional Abuse (references)
Sexual Assault (references)
Child Abuse (references)
Drug Use (references to drug dealing)
Suicide (discussion and description of suspected suicide)
The Lure of the Ordinary
I help to organise the UK Meet (a conference come social event that takes place this side pf the pond every couple of years) and one of the most memorable panels we’ve had, a few years back, was looking at “What Readers Want”. One of the surprising things which emerged was that they wanted more books with everyday heroes. (You can read what else they wanted from authors at the UK Meet Blog.) “Older characters, people with everyday careers, people with real bodies as opposed to bodybuilder/supermodel types.” Readers also asked for more domestic settings, fewer stalkers and more disabled characters. Yes, they enjoyed books with big, hunky firemen or soldiers or men with other glamorous careers, but they also wanted commonplace people finding romance. None of those are unreasonable demands.
This gives an author a bit of a dilemma. There’s an inbuilt glamour and excitement to some of these jobs that you won’t necessarily summon up if your hero works in a bank or a library. The author has to work extra hard to create situations which will add drama to the story, and these situations have to be believable. I mean, you might just get away with a robbery at the bank, but having your bank clerk getting inadvertently involved in saving London from a terrorist plot or discovering that he’s the long lost heir to a far eastern kingdom sounds a bit far-fetched. More like fodder for comedy, rather than romance. (And if he were heir to a kingdom he’d no longer be the typical man in the street!)
But ordinary people need—and find—love, too. Most of us live pretty mundane lives most of the time, but romance comes and hits us with the amorous equivalent of a sock full of wet sand. Some occupations, though, seem to mitigate against glamour. Chiropodist? Drain cleaner? Dustbin man? All tremendous professions, all necessary, although not your usual heroes.
When I decided to write a story about two ordinary blokes finding romance, set against a background of murder, I chose one of them to be a cop and the other to be a teacher, who also happened to be a school governor. Now, it has to be said, that the vast majority of school governors aren’t drop dead gorgeous. They’re lovely, enthusiastic people, willing to put a lot of time in for no recompense, but George Clooney they mostly ain’t. What they have going for them, as I know from experience, is a tendency to get worked up about things. They care greatly, they have really strong opinions, and they can end up almost at daggers drawn about certain issues. All of which was great inspiration for the first Lindenshaw book, The Best Corpse for the Job.
And maybe that’s the way forward for our everyday heroes. Find what floats their boats and what gets their goats. Find what makes them angry, what things they’ll fight tooth and nail for, what things make dramas out of commonplace events. What opportunities they have to be heroes in the small business of daily living. Once you’ve found that, you can do your characters—and their stories—justice. In those situations, you have the sparks that can make a fire, whether it be a blazing inferno of action or kindling of a romance.
The drive over to the common was pleasant enough, especially when the radio kept cutting in with extra travel news bulletins warning locals to avoid the Rutherclere area. The big event must have been proving a bigger attraction than the police had predicted, although apparently it wasn’t simply the volume of traffic causing problems. There had been a three-car shunt on one of the approach roads and rumour of the air ambulance having to be sent in. Adam tried not to feel smug at having made the right decision—pride goeth before fall and all that—although he was grateful when they reached the car park to find it almost empty rather than stocked with people who’d come there to avoid the traffic. There was another parking area on the Lower Chipton side, and if that was equally quiet they’d have the common pretty much to themselves.
This parking area, previously little more than a muddy patch of grass, had been properly surfaced since Adam had last visited, and the space available for vehicles had been expanded. The two cars already present were at either end of the tarmacked area—very British behaviour to be as far distant from other people as possible—so Adam slotted his car slap bang in the middle. As he opened the driver’s door, he caught sight of the distinctive yellow air ambulance flying over, and sent up a silent prayer that nothing else would go wrong at Rutherclere and Robin wouldn’t have to be called in.
Campbell sniffed the air tentatively as they let him out of the back of the car. He would know this wasn’t his usual stomping ground and he’d be naturally wary about what delights or disappointments it would hold in store for him. It didn’t take long for him to decide he liked the place, though, and begin to bounce about enthusiastically. They managed to get the lead on him and would keep it on until they could, quite literally, get the lie of the land, then they’d be able to let him romp where he wanted. He was a well-behaved dog, not one to approach strangers, whether canine or human, and generally he’d not stray outside of shouting distance. Clearly, he believed that part of his role was to keep half an eye on his owners while he let them have a walk.
Once off his lead, he initially walked no farther than a few paces ahead, although as soon as they started throwing his ball for him to fetch, his confidence and need for exploration both grew. Adam and Robin eventually found a fallen tree to perch on, sun warming their backs, where they could repeatedly hoick the ball over the scrubby grass, watch the dog go scrambling after it, then see him return triumphant with his treasure.
Adam shook his head. “Next time I say that Campbell’s an extremely intelligent animal, remind me how he takes such pleasure in performing the same actions time and again.”
“I can never work out if he’s really bright or really thick,” Robin observed. “Or maybe he flips between the two.”
Adam grinned “I’d say he’s good in a crisis. That brings out the best of his limited mental resources. Otherwise he can’t process anything other than food, pat, or favourite toy.”
He’d proved his worth in a crisis at least three times, though—and in two of them he’d probably saved a life. Despite the reputations of Newfoundlands, none of these crises had involved water, but death by gunshot or blunt instrument was as definitive as death by drowning.
“That’s typical of dogs, though, isn’t it?” Robin picked up the ball Campbell had deposited at his feet and lobbed it in the direction they’d come, for variety. “Wow, a ball! That’s my favourite thing. Wow, a biscuit! That’s my favourite thing. Wow! You get the picture.”
“Yeah. And that’s himself to a T. Look at the idiot.”
The Newfoundland had retrieved the ball and was carrying it back in his slobbery jaws like he was carrying the crown jewels. He dropped it in the same place he kept placing it in front of Robin, who’d only just finished wiping dog saliva off his hand from the last time he’d handled the thing.
“He’s a disgusting idiot, to boot.” Adam grabbed the ball, stood up, and ran to the ridge to fling the thing as far as he could and give them a bit of respite from continual throw and fetch. The ground fell away sharply before levelling onto a plain, so the ball would roll farther than on the flat where they were seated. He lobbed the ball, then plonked himself down next to Robin, taking a deep breath of the bracingly pleasant air. “I’d forgotten how nice it is here. Better than that place with the goats.”
“The cells at Abbotston are better than the place with the goats.” While holidaying, they’d gone on an expedition to a supposed beauty spot that had been anything but. They spent the next few minutes reminiscing about how ghastly the experience had been, until they risked depressing themselves. “We’ll come here again. It’s so peace—” A sharp report cut Robin off, and sent rooks and pigeons into the air from the nearby trees.
“What’s that?” Adam jumped up, a sickening tingle flying up his spine.
“A rifle, by the sound of it. Not that I can tell much from gunfire.” Robin scanned from side to side as he got up, then they both broke into a run. “Where’s Campbell?”
“He went off after his ball.” Don’t panic. That shot and Campbell’s nonappearance is a coincidence. “Maybe it’s only somebody shooting rabbits in the woods?”
“If they are, they shouldn’t be doing it so damn close to where the public are. I should have a word.”
“You can take Campbell to help ‘persuade’ them. Where the hell has he—” Adam stopped, sick to the stomach. He had kept his eyes down once they’d got onto the slope, aware of how easy it would be to take a tumble. Now he’d looked up again, the flat western part of the common came into full view and—lying a hundred yards off—a large, black, furry mound. “Campbell?”
Adam sprinted, scared witless. The closer he got, the more the mound resembled an animal, the size of a big dog. One that might be a Newfoundland.
“Hold on.” Robin, voice tight, grabbed his arm. “Let me go and see. It looks like Campbell’s hurt himself.”
“No. It should be me that checks.” Adam slowed his pace, though, eyes drawn to the thick black coat that had to be the Newfoundland’s, surely. And that shot they’d heard could only mean one thing. “He was my dog before he was ours.”
“I know. Sorry.”
“I can’t believe this is happening.” Adam could barely control his voice. Whichever bastard had done this, they were going to pay. He knelt down, tears blurring his eyes as he laid his hand on the dog’s flanks. “He’s gone.”
Robin squatted beside him. “I’m so sorry.”
“I . . . It’s so unfair. He wasn’t an old dog. He should have— Oof!” Adam jolted as something heavy smacked into his back, almost going headfirst into the dead dog.
“Not as dead as we thought he was, then.” Robin’s voice was shaky, somewhere between tears and laughter. “Where have you been, boy, scaring us like that?”
Not chasing his ball, given that the thing was nowhere to be seen. Campbell had probably heard the shot and either taken fright or gone to investigate; they’d have to solve that puzzle later, though, there being a more urgent matter to hand. Adam wiped his eyes, then properly examined the corpse. Shock must have deluded him, because this wasn’t even the same breed of dog. This was a Saint Bernard, one that was still warm, and bleeding, so the chances were that the shot they’d heard was the one which had killed it. He’d certainly not been aware of another discharge.
“What happens next?” Adam asked. “This isn’t a case for calling in Grace, is it?” She was Robin’s favourite crime-scene investigator and would no doubt quickly work out—or get somebody else to work out—how long the dog had been dead, what weapon had been used, what he’d had for breakfast, and whether his owners loved him with the passion Campbell’s owners had for him.
Robin, already getting his phone out, replied with, “What happens next is ringing in to report there’s a nutter on the loose with a gun. And we’ll do that while we get back to the car, as quick as we can.”
“Good thinking. Heel, boy.” Adam speedily clipped on Campbell’s lead, ensuring the dog would keep close by. “Nothing we can do for the Saint Bernard, and it’ll upset this lad to hang around a corpse.”
“That’s the least of my worries,” Robin said, picking up the pace.
Adam shivered. Of course. Campbell was a potential target. “Ah, yeah. We don’t want two dead dogs on our hands.”
“I wasn’t just thinking about Campbell. He’s not the only sitting duck out here.”
Adam gulped and broke into a trot, eyes and ears alert for any untoward movement or noise. Arriving at the car park couldn’t come soon enough.
The Lindenshaw Mysteries!
Adam Matthews’s life changed when Inspector Robin Bright walked into his classroom to investigate a murder.
Now it seems like all the television series are right: the leafy villages of England do indeed conceal a hotbed of crime, murder, and intrigue. Lindenshaw is proving the point.
Detective work might be Robin’s job, but Adam somehow keeps getting involved—even though being a teacher is hardly the best training for solving crimes. Then again, Campbell, Adam’s irrepressible Newfoundland dog, seems to have a nose for figuring things out, so how hard can it be?
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 and Cheyenne.
Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series of Edwardian romantic mysteries was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, International Thriller Writers Inc and is on the organising team for UK Meet for readers/writers of GLBT fiction. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.
Connect with Charlie:
- Blog: livejournal.com/
- Twitter: @charliecochrane
- Facebook: com/charlie.cochrane.18
- Goodreads: com/goodreadscomcharlie_cochrane
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