Title: Lessons in Trust
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Historical (early 1900s) Mystery
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: A fitting end to a wonderful series — a must read!
He thought he knew who he was. Now he’s a stranger to himself.
When Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith witness the suspicious death of a young man at the White City exhibition in London, they’re keen to investigate—especially after the cause of death proves to be murder. But police Inspector Redknapp refuses to let them help, even after they stumble onto clues to the dead man’s identity.
Orlando’s own identity becomes the subject for speculation when, while mourning the death of his beloved grandmother, he learns that she kept secrets about her past. Desperate to discover the truth about his family, Orlando departs suddenly on a solo quest to track down his roots, leaving Jonty distraught.
While Jonty frantically tries to locate his lover, Orlando wonders if he’ll be able to find his real family before he goes mad. After uncovering more leads to the White City case, they must decide whether to risk further involvement. Because if either of them dares try to solve the murder, Inspector Redknapp could expose their illicit—and illegal—love affair.
Lessons in Trust is the final installment of Charlie Cochrane’s incredible Cambridge Fellows Mystery series, or at least the last book of the Edwardian stories (more on that later). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here for those who read this review first: this author is such a talent and the books are so well-written and -plotted, full of smart humor, great dialog, and well-developed, three dimensional characters. Although some series books can be read as standalones, I would say that you absolutely should begin with book one — Lessons in Love — as there is so much emotion and experience built upon and referenced. Plus, you get a real feel for these two wonderful, fully-fleshed protags in the other books and that, along with Charlie’s lovely prose, should not be missed.
Set about 10 months after the close of Lessons in Seduction and during the 1908 Franco-British exhibition, our heroes find themselves drawn to the attraction of the great White City. While there, the happen upon a sleeping man, humorously asking themselves how someone could sleep with all of the people, noise and excitement around them. They later learn that the man was dead, not tired. Chomping at the bit to do another round of sleuthing — they were witnesses, of sorts, after all — they are turned down by the disagreeable and grumpy Inspector Redknapp, who views them as nothing more than bothersome amateurs. Though they have been told to butt out of the murder investigation, they happen upon clues and obtain other information on the sly that could help solve the case if only Redknapp would accept their assistance. In the meantime, Grandmother Coppersmith passes away, leaving everything to Orlando — including the mystery of his heritage. Increasingly distressed and desperate to find out who he really is, he steals away in the night on his own to trace his roots, leaving Jonty anxious and increasingly angry. Who knows how long the quest might take and surely Jonty could help his lover! As he tries to find Orlando and help solve the Halfpenny case at the same time, Orlando himself comes to a series of frustrating and discouraging dead ends in his own task.
Jonty and Orlando are back in another tightly-written and -plotted installment with fully-fleshed characters, wonderful, witty dialog, and great detail of the period, all of which has been so even throughout the series. I am a big fan of this author and have adored all of the Cambridge books, and Lessons in Trust is a fitting end to this part of our heroes’ adventures. It is tale about identity, illusions, secrets, desperation and trust, with two subplots running parallel throughout: the murder mystery of Ian Halfpenny and Orlando’s search for his roots.
The story is very emotional for our boys, and especially for Orlando. Sadness over his grandmother’s death, anger over the circumstances around the situation she was forced into, fear that he’ll never find his heritage, sorrow at having parents not capable of loving him as he needed, confusion and sympathy over his father’s emotional state and suicide all collide in Orlando making him act recklessly and foolishly — very out of character. On top of that add his missing of Jonty because of his own rash decision and we have one very miserable man. And poor Jonty; he is so distraught over his “mathematician’s moonlit flit” that he can hardly function with worry and more than a little anger over Orlando’s willful and foolish abandonment of him, even if the reason for the abandonment is somewhat understandable from Orlando’s point of view. Only when they are back together again do they become whole once more; these two are obviously best together. Jonty says at one point “You’re a complete idiot but you’re my idiot,” and it’s so true.
And don’t think it’s all dark and gloomy, because it’s not. It’s also very humorous, with some of the conversations they all have tickling my funny bone. Take this example from immediately after our boys have “done their duty”:
“I’m not going down to the study until the pair of us are respectable. I suppose Mrs. Ward has seen a bare chest or even a bare backside before but she’ll have a heart attack if she sees the state of your shirt.”
Speaking of their “duty,” per the usual, the smexxin is vague and alluded to in the most beautiful of ways, perfectly in line with the rest of the story.
Much to my delight, the Stewart family — who are some of the best secondary characters I’ve read, period — has a large role en masse in this book. It’s no secret that I adore Jonty’s outgoing and force-to-be-reckoned-with mother and always-on-hand-to-help-sleuth father, and Lavinia, Jonty’s sister who had a very unfortunate wedding night, also gets a sub-story line with the help of the wonderful Ariadne Sheridan née Peters.
Though I suspected the reveal early on, I found the murder mystery element of the story to be engaging and interesting, the journey to the end satisfying. And with the discovery of Orlando’s proper family, Cochrane has left it well open for more adventures. Indeed, she indicated in the comments of Lessons in Seduction’s review that there is a plan to revisit these two:
“Just wanted to say that I won’t be abandoning the boys entirely when the next book comes out. It just feels the right place to end the ‘Edwardian’ stories. I’m working on a book about them set in 1918 and I’m toying with doing a set of shorter stories. ”
Lessons in Trust is an absolute must-read by fans of the series or this author and a perfect end to a wonderful set of books. If you haven’t yet begun the series, go — right now! — and pick them all up, and start with Lessons in Love.