Lessons in Seduction

By: Charlie Cochrane

This time, one touch could destroy everything…

Cambridge Fellows Mysteries, Book 6

The suspected murder of the king’s ex-mistress is Cambridge dons Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart’s most prestigious case yet. And the most challenging, since clues are as hard to come by as the killer’s possible motive.

At the hotel where the body was found, Orlando goes undercover as a professional dancing partner while Jonty checks in as a guest. It helps the investigation, but it also means limiting their communication to glances across the dance floor. It’s sheer agony.

A series of anonymous letters warns the sleuths they’ll be sorry if they don’t drop the investigation.

When another murder follows, Jonty is convinced their involvement might have caused the victim’s death.

Yet they can’t stop, for this second killing brings to light a wealth of hidden secrets.

For Orlando, the letters pose a more personal threat. He worries that someone will blow his cover and discover their own deepest secret… The intimate relationship he enjoys with Jonty could not only get them thrown out of Cambridge, but arrested for indecency.


My family have the patience of saints, putting up with me locking myself away over a hot keyboard and gnashing my teeth. I thank them.

The Regal Hotel exists, but not by that name or in Pegwell Bay. Forgive my necessary relocation of it.

Chapter One

Cambridge, 1907

Dr. Coppersmith and Dr. Stewart felt nervous, as anyone in their situation would, standing outside the hallowed sanctum of the Master of St. Bride’s like a pair of naughty schoolboys summoned to see the headmaster over fighting in the dorm. It felt like the end of the world. Their future at the college, or at least the immediate part of it, was at present being discussed in Dr. Peters’ study the other side of the heavy oak door. No matter how hard Orlando stared at the thing, willing it to yield its secrets, it was keeping them in ignorance.

“Now I know how young Ingleby felt when he was summoned here for playing his ukulele too loudly.

I’m scared enough—he must have been petrified.” Jonty grinned, but he was obviously nervous and not at all his usual witty, confident self.

“This is a serious business, Dr. Stewart. I just wish they would reach a decision more quickly. How long can it take to work out whether we’re leaving the college?”

“Perhaps the longer they take, the better, assuming…” Jonty didn’t have the chance to finish his sentence, as the door swung open, making Orlando jump and produce what Jonty always alleged afterwards was a squeal.

“Gentlemen, come in.” Dr. Peters beamed, beckoning them into the room. Tall, handsome and rather austere, when he smiled his appearance changed from medieval abbot to chevalier. “Chief Inspector Wilson has persuaded me that he needs you much more than your university will these next few months. You’re both to be granted a sabbatical.” He indicated two august figures behind him. “And these gentlemen have reluctantly agreed, given the special circumstances of this case, to allow it. Mr. Wilson can be very persuasive.”

Anxiety turned to smiles, they shook hands all round and a decanter of sherry appeared almost from thin air.

“Are we to be told exactly what’s going on?” Jonty could barely stop the glass shaking in his hand, from what Orlando hoped was excitement, not fear. Whichever it was, this was clearly going to be a two sherries, at least, conversation. “All we know is that Chief Inspector Wilson requires our services but we don’t know how long or what for.”

“As much time as is required.” The dean, Dr. Peters’ second-in-command, spoke through clenched teeth. No one would have been pleased at being deprived of two such shining stars.

“I have negotiated a little something with the relevant parties to oil the wheels.” Chief Inspector Wilson resembled neither abbot nor chevalier. He looked like a headmaster with an enormous intellect and radical views, and he carefully avoided the use of the words “bribe” or “douceur”. Whatever had been employed, it had at least stopped the bursar vetoing things. He was clutching his sherry in a happy financial haze.

“Gentlemen, I refuse to agree to anything until I know who these parties are and what they expect of us.” Orlando’s commanding streak, which only appeared in moments of great importance—or high passion—asserted itself.

“A lady has been found dead, in a fashionable hotel just outside Pegwell Bay in Kent. I believe you know the area, Dr. Coppersmith?” Mr. Wilson raised both an eyebrow and his sherry glass in enquiry.

“I do. My grandmother lives nearby.” The combination of a suspicious death and familiar ground eased the tension; so far, so good.

“Two doctors couldn’t agree whether it was due to natural causes. A third doctor, one who said he could see nothing suspicious, swayed official opinion.”

“And?” Jonty had finished the first sherry and was eyeing the decanter hopefully.

“The identity of the victim meant cogs got set into motion.” Mr. Wilson inclined his head. “Lady Jennifer Johnson was the mistress of the king for the best part of two decades when he was still Prince of Wales. Those initial doubts have put a bee in His Majesty’s bonnet. He wants his old friend’s death investigated properly.”