Crime series calls Cotswolds home
- Credit: Archant
Cherringham is an eBook series of 12 murder mysteries set in a fictional Cotswold town. But why here? The authors explain their decision - and give us a taster of their latest story.
Cherringham is a transatlantic collaboration by US-based Matthew Costello and Hampshire-based Neil Richards. A ‘cosy crime’ eBook series, best compared to Midsomer Murders or Miss Marple, it launched in December 2013, introducing sleuth duo former NYPD homicide detective Jack Brennan and local web designer and single mother Sarah Edwards. Each episode is intended to be thrilling and engaging, but at only around a hundred pages each, ideal for commuters.
The new series launched with A Lesson in Murder on March 9 this year, in which the two investigate suspicious goings-on at an elite local girl’s boarding school. Authors Matt and Neil both stayed in different locations in the Cotswolds for a week at a time to build the setting and the story, and Cherringham is based on three different villages (which they’re keeping a secret for now).
About setting the series in the Cotswolds, Cherringham writer Neil Richards commented: “Our publisher in Germany, Bastei Luebbe, originally suggested Devon or Cornwall for Cherringham. But neither Matt nor I knew that area very well, and when I suggested the Cotswolds they were easily persuaded. I’ve known the Cotswolds for years - as well as spending a lot of time around Charlbury, Chipping Norton, I got married in the Cotswolds and have family here. So Matt came over and we spent a week here, driving round, visiting villages, drinking in pubs, meeting people (it’s a hard life…). We realised very quickly that the area was perfect for our story setting - as well as the natural beauty of the landscape, there’s the Thames flowing through, there are weekenders, locals, working families, tourists, the rich, the famous, the ordinary - all of which is great fuel for a long-running series. We’re now 17 stories in to a commission of 24 novellas and we’re still having great fun killing off locals and visitors alike!
So I love the area - though I wouldn’t recommend coming to our fictional village of Cherringham if you value your life…”
A Lesson in Murder (Extract)
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by Matthew Costello & Neil Richards
Jack pulled off the dual carriageway and nudged the Sprite through a couple of sharp bends, before relaxing as the road straightened out along the crest of a hill.
“So, although it’s a private school, I know you guys call it a public school. I may have been here a while but, well.” He grinned at Sarah. “It still doesn’t make sense.”
“Come on… It’s like that soda you told me about, the one they make in Brooklyn.”
“The egg cream. Has no egg, no cream.”
He laughed. “Not exactly the same thing – but I hear you.” He looked up at the sky, clouds indeed turning darker.
May have to stop soon. Get the top up.
“But okay … if you go to that school, you get what’s called a private education.”
“Exactly. It’s not difficult, Jack.”
“No, not difficult,” he said. “As long as you agree with me that it’s not logical either.”
And that made Sarah laugh.
Yes, good to be out with her again. They had done and seen so much over the past couple of years.
But it was always fun just to talk.
A New York Yankee in Queen’s England.
The road seemed to stretch for miles ahead.
Roman road, got to be, he thought, something else he’d learned since moving here to live on his river barge. A straight road meant ancient – predating the hedges and farm tracks, a road made by the conquering legions.
He slipped into fifth gear, just loving the moment, fields and woods dropping away into valleys on either side, big white clouds on a wide horizon.
“How come I’ve never heard of this school if it’s such a big deal?” he said.
“It’s very exclusive,” said Sarah. “And weekends and holidays, the girls tend to go into Oxford or down to London on their time off. Not much in a little village like Cherringham for them.”
“Don’t want to mix with the yokels, huh?”
“I suppose some of the parents might feel like that,” said Sarah. “As for the kids … look at Chloe. She can’t wait to be off to the big city!”
“Right. You never thought of sending Chloe there?”
“Forty thousand a year? I don’t think so, Jack.”
“Whoa – that’s sixty thousand dollars. Parents have got to be serious players, huh?”
“Oh yes,” said Sarah. “Politicians, oil execs, pop stars, Far Eastern government officials, you name it…”
“Hence the call to us – and not the police. Discretion’s the word?”
“Exactly. They’ll only talk in person about … whatever it was.”
Then Jack brought up something they had discussed.
A slight change in how they did their detective work. Now with so many cases solved…
“We going to charge them a fee?”
“I think so – don’t you? The school can certainly afford it.”
“You bet,” said Jack. “Usual split between the local charities?”
Some months back, over a long and pleasurable dinner at the Old Pig on Cherringham High Street, Jack and Sarah had drawn up a list of suitable good causes that could benefit from their sleuthing.
“Hmm, maybe. Though I was thinking … Chloe’s school’s fundraising for a new sports track.”
“Okay,” said Jack. “Lion’s share to them – kinda like that. The Robin Hood principle, rich kids to poor kids huh?”
“Exactly. Hey – better slow down a bit, Jack – the entrance is along here somewhere.”
Jack dropped down a gear, enjoying the manual, so different from the automatics back in NYC.
This … was driving.
“Of course, we’ll have to deliver,” he said.
“When haven’t we?” said Sarah.
“True,” said Jack. “But most times when we get involved in a case, we know what the deal is. This time…”
“Like I said – when they called, they definitely didn’t want the police looking into it. Had to be in person – and in the strictest confidence.”
Jack slowed. Ahead he could see a discreet sign by a turning: Cherringham Hall School for Girls, Main Entrance.
He indicated and turned. The perfectly tarmacked road dipped down through woods of oak and chestnut, eventually emerging into broad open meadows.
“Wow,” said Jack. “Quite the public school.”
Below, in the valley, among gentle pastures dotted with trees, lay the most beautiful English country house he’d ever seen. Behind it he could see sports fields, tennis courts, accommodation blocks, all carefully landscaped so as not to spoil the view of the house.
“Sarah – whatever you were thinking of charging – add a zero … I mean, of course, a nought at the end, huh? In fact, add two noughts.”
The Cherringham series by Matthew Costello and Neil Richards is published monthly from March 9 by Bastei Entertainment, price £1.49 per eBook.