Jul. 7th, 2017

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Many apologies for the radio silence. We spent three weeks on Jersey which, as usual, exceeded all superlatives. Now the nose is back to the grindstone and I’m madly playing catch-up all round.

News

Have had some lovely feedback from readers about Broke Deep, including someone who thanked me for all the new British slang words she’d learned. Writing can be so educational...

I often get asked when there’ll be a new Jonty and Orlando story so I’m delighted to announce that there’ll be a new Cambridge Fellows short, “Lessons in Loving thy Murderous Neighbour” coming later this summer. It’s just at the final edit and cover art stage.

Cambridge 1922

“Owens? Owens?” Orlando Coppersmith’s voice sounded louder and clearer from his chair in the Senior Common Room at St Bride’s than it had ever sounded before, and with good cause.

“Steady on, old man. We’re in enough of a state of shock without you making sufficient noise to wake the dead.” Jonty Stewart smiled at his friend’s uncharacteristic outburst, although friendship would hardly be the most accurate way to describe their relationship. Even the description “lovers, companions, colleagues and partners in solving crime” didn’t quite cover the depth of the bond they’d build up in nigh on twenty years.

“Or wake some of the dons,” Dr. Panesar agreed, mischievously.

“Good point, Dr. P.” Jonty sniggered. “Some of them look like they’ve been asleep since 1913.”

St. Bride’s may have been one of the most forward looking of the Cambridge colleges, embracing the fact the year was 1922 rather than pretending it was still 1622, but some aspects of the university, including crusty old dons, seemed to be an immutable fixture.

“In which case,” Orlando pointed out, “we’d have ten years of history to explain to them, much of it unpleasant, let alone this latest scandal. Being asked to defend Owens. What is the world coming to?”

“Technically, we’re not being asked to defend him, simply establish the truth of what went on. Can you not square that with your conscience?” Jonty tried his most winning smile, but to little avail.

Perhaps Orlando had a point. Every decent St. Bride’s man loathed Owens, the master of the infamous “college next door”; a college so despised that it didn’t merit a proper soubriquet among its neighbour’s environs. He’d caused trouble aplenty over the years, perhaps his worst offence attempting to molest the wife of the present college master, in the Fellows’ Garden, when she’d been younger and fancy free. She’d landed him a swift kick right between the two small forsythias, which was no more than the man deserved.

And now that he’d been accused of murder most foul, any decent St. Bride’s man might have been glorying in the prospect of the nuisance being removed.

Except that Owens swore he was innocent and Ariadne Sheridan—she of the forsythia incident, of all people—believed him. That had been enough for Jonty to promise to take a serious look at the matter, although he’d promised nothing in the way of success. The police believed Owens guilty, the road to trial and conviction looked a pretty straightforward one, and the close contacts the fellows of St. Bride’s had once possessed in the local force, who might have brought influence to bear, had long retired.

“We would all do anything to serve Mrs. Sheridan,” Dr. Panesar said, with a twinkling eye, “or any of the ladies who grace our college.” He’d long held a passion for the long widowed college nurse, a fact which was now a matter of St. Bride’s folklore, although whether her amply bosomed frame graced his bed—as many averred, but without proof—was a matter of debate. Jonty had long believed the pair were secretly married, having to keep it quiet not because it breached college etiquette, but owing to the potential scandal surrounding a union between Sikh and Christian. “The days of chivalry are not dead.”

And finally, here’s one of the things I love best about Jersey. Lizards!

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