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Just been to a lovely service at church so this excerpt from Don't Kiss the Vicar feels appropriate.

“Vicar!” The shout, the almost friendly wave meant the decision to veer off was taken too late.
“Steve!” A cordial wave back as the distance between them narrowed. “Didn’t think you frequented this place.”
“Is that why you come here, then? To get away from the parishioners you like least?”
Dan tried to find an answer, but somehow the connection between his brain and mouth had become severed. Helpless, he could feel the flush rushing up his neck, and could see—without looking at the bloke—that Steve was less than amused. What the hell else was he going to think other than that he’d hit the nail on the head, and Dan was too dumb to cover the fact up?
“Rex!” A high pitched, agitated female voice broke the awkward moment, as did a huge Great Dane, about the size of a rhinoceros, which came haring out of the woods, onto the path and straight into Steve’s leg.
“Shit!” Steve staggered, arms flailing in a futile effort to keep himself upright. Dan’s attempt to reach out and catch him before he hit the stony path was equally ineffective, but at least he could keep the nasty, snarling brute at bay with the aid of the stick he habitually took when he walked. Jimmy had said it gave him gravitas, now it provided the ideal weapon.

More excerpts at Rainbow Snippets.

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Hello all – hoping you’re well and that storm Gareth (or any of his nasty relatives) hasn’t blown you away. I suppose he’s better than last year’s Beast from the East but only fractionally.

News

Our “Great Detectives panel was a success, with lots of nice feedback. Alas, Cadfael lost out to Hercule Poirot in the meaningful vote. My next gig has me with my romance hat on, celebrating love in literature. I’ve done a round for the quiz, which I’ll post to my blog once the big night is done.



My ‘find a title’ challenge was won by George Loveland, who suggested lots of excellent variations on the lines of Seasons of Love. Clever lad!

This week I’m featuring a guest author, Elin Gregory, whose latest book, Midnight Flit, looks a right bobby dazzler. (Let me state here and now that I’d only ever feature guests who are a) pals of mine and b) blooming good authors. I’m not into random newsletter swops.)

Midnight Flit:
Book Two of The Carstairs Affairs: Miles Siward and Briers Allerdale return for another thrilling Jazz Age adventure.
“Silk stockings on expenses.”
Miles’s aristocratic mother has information of importance to the British Government and he must escort her home from Bucharest immediately, but their plans go violently awry and Miles and Lady Siward find themselves on a train to Belgrade - where Miles’s lover is posted. Since their pursuers are looking for a man and a woman, might two women slip past them unnoticed?
"Is anyone on this train who they say they are?"
Briers doesn’t know whether to kiss Miles or punch him but is delighted to accompany him and his mother on their journey. All he has to do is keep an eye open for their enemies - but who exactly are they; the enormous Russian, the sinister priest, the handsome jazz pianist, or maybe the winsome young movie star? And his mother-in-law might just be the most terrifying of all!
All aboard for the ride of a lifetime, with a cast of characters you'll never forget!



Elin and I collaborated on a Cambridge Fellows/Miles and Briars crossover, which is available to download free here.


Excerpt:

“Is she dead?” A deep voice. Miles could hear it clearly and suspected he might be able to put a name to it from some deep cavern of memory, but he could neither open his eyes nor respond.
“No, she’s breathing, you clown. Hopefully nothing worse than being out for the count. And a pint of claret down the front of her dress.” Another voice, one that Miles instantly recognised, although what Jonty Stewart was doing here, God alone knew. Unless Miles was dreaming, of course. Or really had died and Dr. Stewart and his colleague—that’s who the other voice must belong to—formed an unusual pair of heavenly ushers. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“I know. It was that other idiot going far too fast. Worse driver even than you.” The colleague—what was his name again? Wainwright? Copperberg?—sounded beside himself with worry. “We should have gone for the doctor. The car would be quicker than a cart.”
“And leave the farmer here with a team of spooked horses? Have you seen the size of those things or have any idea what sort of damage they could do? Better to look after h— Ah, hello.”
Miles had managed to force his eyes open; there were worse sights to greet a man than Jonty Stewart, even though he must be into his fifties by now. Classically handsome face, high cheekbones, a scar that added rather than detracted from the whole effect. Miles couldn’t deny that he’d fancied his tutor during his years at Cambridge and just hoped he hadn’t made too much of an exhibition of himself at the time. Although wasn’t he making an exhibition of himself now?
“Hello,” he managed. “I don’t think anything’s broken.”
“Only most of the front of your car.” Stewart, grinning, drew out a handkerchief then applied it to Miles’s nose. “And your cover, Miles. Although not as badly as it might have been had I let the farmer perform first aid.”
“Oh.” He morphed Millie’s voice into his own; a more nasal version than normal, although he didn’t think his nose was actually broken. “Is it so obvious?”
“Only to somebody who admired your Rosalind.” Stewart busied himself with taking Miles’s pulse and checking him over. “You remember Siward, don’t you, Professor Coppersmith? One of the less vile dunderheads.”
Coppersmith peered closer. “The one who was quite useful at whist. Yes. Is this what they’re wearing in London these days?”
“Only when they’re involved in Room 40 type stuff. Just as well they didn’t ask you to get dolled up in a tea frock. You haven’t got the legs for one thing.

And finally – a picture of the panel from the Great Detectives event. Why can I never keep my eyes open when the camera goes off?



Charlie
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"I don’t know if there is a better way to relax, after a long day, than a cup of tea, a twisty-ol’-mystery, and maybe a dead body or two." A reviewer after my own heart! Read more at Love Bytes.

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Just had a smashing review for Old Sins at Creative Deeds: "The mystery was only part of the story though and that’s just one of the reasons why I love this series."

Today's excerpt is unexpectedly serious.
It was after lunch, a beer, and half an hour of kip that they actually got around to discussing the morning’s events again. Robin hadn’t received any further messages and nothing definitive was featuring on either the news or social media yet, so they’d made themselves comfy on the sofa, with Campbell stretched out on the floor like a living rug.
“I hope himself’s asleep and can’t hear what I’m about to ask,” Adam said. “What’s the law on killing dogs?”
“Long story short, if you’re a farmer and a dog’s trespassing on your land, worrying your sheep, you can kill it, preferably in one clean shot. You’d need to prove you were justified in taking the action, though. Long story longer, if you asked your pal to come over and he brought his dog and it starts worrying the sheep, you’ve lost the right.”
“That’s sounds straightforward enough.”
Robin grimaced. “It isn’t. You’re supposed to try to contact the owner first, and only shoot if absolutely necessary. You’re supposed to report it, afterwards, too.”

Loads more excerpts at the Rainbow Snippets Group.
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Well done to Carol Westron who successfully argued the case for Hercule Poirot and saw her favourite win the audience vote. Really interesting evening, with good talks from the speakers, good questions from the audience and nifty observations from Will Sutton, our moderator. Who also managed to control Carol and me, which isn't easy.

great detectives
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Am blogging on the matter of mixing romance and crime over at the Curzon Harkstead blog. Why do the two genres work so well together? What can help to weave the two?

Read more about it here.
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Apologies this a couple of days later than usual. Blame doing a visit to a potential UK Meet 2020 venue and going to see an Agatha Christie play. Pleased to say that my cold is all better although I have infected the rest of my family. I keep offering to rub their chests with Vick, but the offer isn’t always well received. I wonder why...

News

Our “Tea and cakes with the Deadly Dames” event in Portsmouth went very well. Next up is me making a case for Cadfael being the greatest fictional detective at the Great Detectives panel on Thursday 7th March at 7pm at the Eldon Building, which is part of Portsmouth University. Tickets on sale now!

Today’s special offer is on a print book. If you fancy a copy of Lessons in Power to have in your paw, then it’s cheap as the proverbial chips (although not real chips which are actually quite expensive!) on Amazon.

Remember a few weeks back I was looking for a title for an anthology of old stories I’m republishing? I had some cracking suggestions, including the excellent-but-probably-unusable-because-of-copyright “Charlie’s Angels”. Having started work on formatting and tidying, I found the four stories fall naturally into one for each season, so am reissuing the challenge. A prize for the best title for such an anthology.

The excerpt this week is from a few years back, the novella length story Second Helpings which is slightly more bittersweet than my normal offerings (although a happy ending is guaranteed…)

Stuart pulled his car up to the garage door, turned off the engine, and sat, staring at the steering wheel without really seeing it. Friday already—where the hell had the last fortnight gone? Where the hell had the last year gone?
Dad had rung on Thursday, no, make that the previous Thursday, to say he was taking Isabel to see a show, sounding airy, as if he was trying to give the impression it wasn’t important. Yesterday he’d reported back that they’d been to their matinee, although the old man had been cagey about whether they’d come home to deepest Berkshire that evening. The uncomfortable thought that the pair of them might be doing more than holding hands and sharing butterfly kisses got shut out of Stuart’s brain. What business was it of his anyway? Dad was happy, even if he wasn’t.
God, he hated child murder cases, especially when it seemed a member of the family might be responsible. He felt nauseous just at the thought of the tests he’d run, let alone gathering their results. Still, if the police had enough evidence to make an arrest and make the charges stick, he’d played his part.
That sort of thing hadn’t been so bad back in the days when he’d been able to walk in the house and know somebody was there to take away a slice of the pain. Somebody who could absorb it all without complaint and still come back for more.
He turned to look at the darkened windows, knowing he’d be opening the front door to nothingness. Friday evening used to be one of the highlights of the week. Mark would cook dinner, they’d share a bottle of wine, and then they’d use that big, comfortable bed. This Friday would see Stuart flicking on the television and catching up on the sleep he’d missed while helping to pin down the little boy’s step-grandfather with the crime.
It was enough to make him want to restart the car straight away. Dad wouldn’t mind, would he, if his only son appeared on the doorstep and said, “I can’t stay alone tonight”? What a bloody state to be in, when you couldn’t summon up the courage to walk through your own front door.
He tried an old trick, counting to ten then getting out of the car. Counting to ten again and getting to the door. Counting to ten again and then putting the key in the lock. Stupid, but it worked. Counting to ten again and he was in the hall. The effort seemed to expend his last bit of energy. He couldn’t face cooking, or anything more taxing than slouching on the sofa, and if his head nodded within minutes of him parking his backside, what did it matter?
His mobile went off, propelling him out of sleep and sending the remote control flying onto the floor. Who the hell could be ringing him at six o’clock in the evening? It had to be work, another bloody-awful case to deal with.
“Hello?” he said, fighting to fully wake himself.
“Stuart Collins?” The voice wasn’t one he recognised, and if it was somebody unknown from work, they would probably have addressed him as Dr. Collins. Had to be a salesman or a scammer. He tried to keep his bubbling anger in check.
“Yes?”
“I’m Isabel Franklin’s son.”
“Paul?” Stuart relaxed a bit. Known quantity, or at least known about.
“That’s me. I wanted to introduce myself.”
“Oh. Right. Well . . . hello.”
“Sorry, this is a bit awkward over the phone. I wondered if we could meet up. Have a chat. Nothing to worry about,” Paul added hastily.
“Yes. That would be fine.” A bit early for the official meet-the-family bit—and surely that should be all four of them—but maybe things had moved faster than Stuart had reckoned with. “When were you thinking of?”
“As soon as you like. Where are you?”
Stuart, brain not quite in gear, almost said, In the lounge.
“I’m not far from outside Maidenhead.”
“Great. I’m in High Wycombe. There’s a pub about halfway. Do you know The Bull, just outside Marlow, on the main road? It used to be called something else.”
“I can Google it. Although I must have driven past the place.” Mark’s family had lived out that way; the memory of driving around Marlow, in happier days, stung.
“Most people have. There’s a garage, then a church, then The Bull. Can you get there by eight?”
“This evening?” This sounded urgent. “Unless the road’s full of tractors, yes.”
“Magic. See you then.”
Stuart stared at the phone after Paul had terminated the call. Friday night could well be interesting again, at least for this week.

And finally – rare that I include a picture of me, but couldn’t resist me Deadly Daming!



Charlie
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Mr C and I went to see an extraordinary (free!) exhibition in Southampton this morning: twelve da Vinci original drawings, including anatomical studies, plants and animals, word puzzles, etc. It was nothing less than stunning. Not only were the works themselves fascinating, there was a real sense of being in the presence of genius. I kept saying, "I can't believe Leonardo touched this paper..." There are exhibitions of Leonardo's drawings all over the UK at present. If you get the chance to go, please take it.
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As soon as I posted yesterday I found some rig pictures. Not at night, alas, and seen through the murk, but they're so pretty.

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We set off for our first ever cruise. We must have enjoyed it as we're off on another in less than a month (and have done a mini one in between!) I had insomnia several nights and spent part of the first one watching the oil rigs go by. They were lovely - but I do enjoy a nice bit of industrial architecture. And lights. (Southampton docks and Southsea!)

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Also, there's a smashing review for Old Sins over at Padme's blogspot today. "Charlie Cochrane is one of the best when it comes to mixing murder, love, and humor."
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Hallowed Ground is one of the stories in Pack Up Your Troubles.

There was me, the padre and a packet of Black Cats. And bugger all else except the pitch dark night. Me, the padre and a packet of Black Cats we didn’t dare light any of, because the Germans might have spotted the glow and that would have been that.
I wasn’t even supposed to be there, but I guess neither of us were.

He’d been out to take church parade for the lads and wanted to return to base so he could do the same for another poor group of sods the next day. I’d given him a lift from the casualty clearing station, and we were both heading back, when a shell took a fancy to the piece of ground just to the left of us, the little strip we’d played cricket on just two weeks previously, before the Germans moved further forward. Up went me, the padre, the car and all, including Stevens, the poor injured lad we were taking back with us. The lad who was at present scattered all over the field, with his legs at third slip and his head lolling around square leg, if you follow me.

More excerpts at Rainbow Snippets.

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That's what we'll be talking about at the Portsmouth Bookfest at 7pm on 7th March (at the Eldon building, tickets on sale here). Let's hope it's as lively and as much fun as yesterday's Deadly Dames session. 17C902E4-B55B-4C0C-A5A7-A6D567DC6F20 crop pbf
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I just did a random pick of my Old Sins blog tour stops then a random pick of commenters and Jay Mountney won! Thanks to everyone who took part.
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This could be an interesting newsletter, given that I have a nightmare cold which has not only affected my nose, ears and throat, but has decided to affect my brain, too. Yesterday I tried to put the newspaper in the fridge…

News

The big news this week is the release of Old Sins, the fourth Lindenshaw book. That means a blog tour and a blog tour means a prize, in this case a bag of goodies which I’m happy to send anywhere. I’ll choose the winner from among the commenters on the posts – the more places people comment the more chances they have of the random winner generator choosing them. All the blog stops are listed here. Some smashing reviews already including this one: If you love cozies like I do, this is one mystery series for you. Start at the beginning and make your way here! I highly recommend them all. Read more here.

I’ve got several gigs coming up in Portsmouth, both as part of the Bookfest and for World Book Night. If you fancy afternoon tea with the Deadly Dames on February 22nd or the big ‘Who’s the greatest detective/’ discussion on March 7th, then get your tickets now.

I always like to have an offer to give you and today it’s for the first Lindenshaw Book, Best Corpse, which is cheap as chips on kindle at present.

Here’s the first ever mention of what I suspect is the readers’ favourite character in this series, Campbell the Newfoundland.

A scratching noise at the back door made them both turn round. “Excuse me. That’s Campbell.” Adam hopped off his chair.
“Campbell?”
“The dog. I inherited him with the house too. Come in, boy.” He opened the door for a large Newfoundland to make a regal entrance. “Does he bother you? I’ll lock him in the bedroom if he does.”
“No. I like dogs.” Robin tapped his leg, encouraging Campbell to come over for a pat. “I don’t have the regular hours to let me keep one.”
Adam slipped back onto his chair. Funny how the arrival of the dog had eased the atmosphere immediately, creating a common point of contact that had nothing to do with dead bodies or schools. “Unlike us teachers with our allegedly short days and long holidays.”
“I didn’t say that.” Robin smiled, caressing Campbell affectionately behind the ear.
“You’ve made a friend. Just don’t give him any biscuits. He’s spoiled enough.”
“Noted.” Robin flashed another one of his devastating, dark-eyed smiles. “You were saying?”
“I was going to say that there are plenty of people who’d leap at the chance to run the school.” Adam watched the interaction of dog and rozzer. George had never really established more than a wary truce with Campbell, even when he’d been living here for weeks on end. Didn’t they say that animals knew? “If someone comes in and turns us around, it’ll be a real feather in his or her cap. Campbell!”
The dog, suitably chastened, took his nose out of Robin’s pocket where it might have hoped to find a stray custard cream.
“Where’s your chewy toy? Go find it. Go on, boy.”
Campbell, reluctantly, went to his bed, rooting around under it.
“He’s a daft beggar. I’m sure it’s not there. Still, it’ll keep him out of mischief.” Adam sighed. “For whoever gets the headteacher job, there’s every chance it’ll turn out to be this year St. Crispin’s, and two years down the line some failing inner-city primary school with a mega salary to boot. People should be falling over themselves to get it.”
“Really?” Robin made a sour face, swiftly hidden. “If the job’s such a plum, then why did nobody decent apply the first time?”
Campbell, proving his owner wrong, waddled over with a teddy bear firmly clenched in his jaws, depositing the vile object in Robin’s lap. “I said you’d made a friend. You’ll have to pretend to be pleased, even if it’s revolting.” Adam found the sight of dog and man together strangely comforting.


And finally – thoughts of what should be just around the corner. I love spring, especially when my flowering cherry bursts into bloom.





Charlie



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Last day of my blog tour and I'm blethering on about some of my favourite books at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. I'm also at Dog Eared Daydreams and Creative Deeds. "Cochrane’s characters are so beautifully crafted that it’s sometimes hard to tell which way the plot will fall, who will be the villain or the victim?" Read more at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.
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Today I'm at Bayou Book Junkie, where I'm thinking about Happy Ever Afters and how close to them gay characters have been allowed to come in the past. Also at Wicked Faeries Reviews where my hot topic is playing fair with readers. Also at TTC Books. You know the drill - comment to be in with a chance of winning a goodie bag. OldSins_400x600
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More blog tour stops today. Am discussing the appeal of having ordinary, everyday protags in our books rather a parade of soldiers and firefighters, say. That's at mmgoodbookreviews. Then at Love Bytes reviews I'm talking about how you read about characters and produce a mental image that isn't always matched by what you see on a screen adaptation. Don't forget to comment at any (or all) stops to be in the hat for a goodie bag. All stops listed here.
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This is my favourite short cut when I go to Romsey. The gardens are always so well kept. IMG_1123 IMG_1124 IMG_1125
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At My Fiction Nook I muse over the fun of being a pantser, Which way is this story going anyway? At Fangirl Moments there's an interview with me about Old Sins. (The book, not mine!)

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