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Charlie’s latest newsletter

The weather at Cochrane Central is glorious, if a tad hot, as we head towards the longest day of the year. Nights start drawing in all the way to Christmas after that. 😊
 
News
 
Lock, Stock and Peril is now out in ebook and print and I’ve been Bette Bolt’s blog talking about  – among other things – some of the things I learned while writing it.


 
In other book news, I’m thrilled to say that my Cambridge Fellows/Actor lads crossover will definitely be out from Williams and Whiting later this year. Release date when I have it and, of course, when the publisher and I have agreed on a title. That’s always the hardest bit.
 
There are so many good books around at present, both new and backlist. Please don’t ask me about my ever increasing TBR pile. That’s at risk of growing even taller as a result of the Read With Pride event starting today at Bookfunnel. Crofton Hall by my old pal Rebecca Cohen is on offer, alongside various other discounted titles and freebies. As I always warn you, make a note of the titles because when the event ends on June 27th, the page will disappear.


 Excerpt:

Today’s excerpt is a real sneak peek, because it’s from the ‘in edits and untitled’ crossover story.
 
Cambridge September 3rd 1952
 
“Good morning, Orlando. Lovely to see you.”
Those words had been spoken first thing in the morning on numerous occasions and in many different settings over the best part of fifty years. From lips that had once been young and full, but which were now showing fine lines and downed with white, rather like the hair which crowned Jonty Stewart’s head. A full set of hair—he’d inherited his paternal grandfather’s locks rather than his father’s bald pate—yet the tawny gold had now all gone to be replaced with hoary silver.
“Lovely to see you, too.” Orlando Coppersmith turned in the bed, easing into a more comfortable position. He was currently beset with an issue concerning his left rotator cuff, or so the doctor had diagnosed, one that should get better with exercise. It had been a result of over-exertion in the garden and not, as Jonty told everyone, due to Orlando having dealt the bridge cards too vigorously.
“What does your diary have in store for you today?” The airy tone in Jonty’s voice as he asked the question immediately put his partner on alert.
“The usual. College business and the like given the arrival of students is hull up on the horizon. Why do you ask?”
“I’d like to suggest a slight change to plans dinner-wise. Are you free tonight?”
“Ye-es. Why?”
“I had a phone call last evening, when you were at your orgy.” That was another line which had been used innumerable times over the years, referring to Orlando being out playing cards. He’d learned to ignore it. “It was to invite us to dinner and a discussion.”
“A commission, do you think?” It had been a while since they’d had a really good mystery to get their teeth into. Odds and ends of investigations, yes, including ones bound up with the war that they simply couldn’t accept, because they’d have had little chance of fulfilling them. Finding where Aunt Elsie had hidden the family silver because she thought that Hitler would invade—said aunt having then been so inconsiderate as to get herself killed in an air raid before she could share the location of the treasure with the rest of the family—had been a typical kind of request. As were the string of entreaties to locate the whereabouts of men who’d been declared missing in action, at least one of whom Jonty had decided had likely taken a convenient opportunity to get away from home.
At least they could now decline the commissions with dignity, pleading old age and the inability to travel as far as they used to, alongside not being up to the physical challenge of digging up bomb sites to find Aunt Elsie’s spoons. These excuses might have been seen through had the applicants observed the pair of them working vigorously in the garden at Forsythia Cottage or indeed still almost as vigorously sharing the pleasures of the double bed.
“It’s not about a commission as such, although there’s a peripheral link to an old, unsolved mystery.” Jonty raised an eyebrow. “One we might have got involved with at the time had we not been otherwise occupied. No, this is something quite different and rather exciting.”
“Am I allowed a clue to whatever you’re on about?”
“Not a single one. I want you to come to this meeting with an open mind and if I drop the merest hint, you’ll mull it over all day. Suffice to say the discussion could lead us into pastures entirely new for us, which is rather nice at our time of life, wouldn’t you say?”
“I’ll only say one way or the other when I know what these pastures new are and whether they’ll be green or arid.” Orlando was rather pleased with his analogy. “You’re not even going to make an indication as to whom I’m eating with?”
“No, because it risks giving the game away entirely. A knight of the realm. Title conferred as opposed to inherited. You’ve met him before, although that doesn’t cut down the field. Very nice chap, who has a proposal for us and—” Jonty cuffed Orlando’s arm. “That’s quite enough. You’re wheedling secrets out of me. I’m easing my stiff old bones out of this bed before you spoil all the elements of surprise.”
“Just one more question, then. Will this different and exciting whatever-it-is be the sort of thing to make me jump for joy or run away screaming?”
“I can’t imagine you running away screaming from anything, at this point in your life. Quite below your dignity. I might have to see if I can engineer it happening, simply for the novelty.” Jonty, now on his feet, stretched extravagantly, like a great cat rousing itself.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“True, oh light of my life, although that’s simply because I can’t formulate an answer. I’ve been weighing it up since last night and I honestly don’t know. All I can state with any certainty is that we’d be stupid not to explore the possibilities. Too young still to be stick-in-the-muds.” Jonty made an elaborate bow. “And now I exit, if not pursued by a bear, then pursued by your third degree. Patience, old man.”
“Patience my arse,” Orlando muttered, although he couldn’t help smiling. Whatever happened over dinner would turn out to be gratifying. If he liked this mysterious proposal, then it would add a new challenge to their lives and if he hated it then he could go into a pleasing yet dignified huff for at least twenty-four hours. And tease Jonty over his rashness for the next few weeks.
Despite the ache in Orlando’s shoulder, life was still good. 
 
 
Charlie

Charlie’s latest newsletter

“Here we go gathering nuts in May”…or should that be “knots of May”? I don’t think even the experts on English nursery rhymes know for sure. But it’s May and summer seems as if it might be round the corner (in a typically Brit fashion of cold one day and sweltering the next).

News:

There’s another one of those themed events going on at the moment, this time focussing on military themed stories. Lots of authors, lots of books, including my Pack up Your Troubles. As I always remind you, if you fancy working through several of these, take a screencap, because the page with the list on will disappear when the event ends.

Pack Up Your Troubles is brought to you by Indie publisher Williams and Whiting. I’m delighted to say that they want to contract my Cambridge Fellows/Toby and Alasdair crossover novel. More news on that when I have it.  

The cover for the new Lindenshaw has had its official reveal so I can share it with you properly. I really have been very lucky with the artwork for this series. It’s available for pre-order on the Riptide site and will be on other outlets very soon.

They may be locked down but this case isn’t.

Lockdown is stressful enough for Chief Inspector Robin Bright. Then a murder makes this strange time even stranger. In one of Kinechester’s most upmarket areas, the body of Ellen, a brilliant but enigmatic recluse, has lain undiscovered for days. Pinning down the time—and date—of death will be difficult, but finding a killer during unprecedented times could prove impossible.

Adam Matthew’s focus on his pupils is shaken when a teaching assistant reveals his godmother has been murdered. Keen to avoid involvement, Adam does his best to maintain a distance from his husband, Robin’s, case, but when it keeps creeping up, Adam lends his incisive mind to the clues again.

Between Robin trying to understand the complex victim and picking his way through a mess of facts, half truths, and downright lies from witnesses desperate to cover up their own rule-breaking, he realises this could be the cold case that stains his career and forever haunts a community. And when it looks like the virus has struck Adam, Robin’s torn between duty and love.

Excerpt:

Today’s excerpt comes from one of the stories in Pack up your Troubles

The leaves on the copper beeches danced in the breeze; the late summer sun lighting on them produced a warm glow. Nicholas had always loved them more than any other trees on his estate, even in their bare winter form. Now, leaving the cab at the gate and savouring the walk along his own drive, he saw them afresh. He used to meet Paul under these branches when they were hardly more than boys, taking a chess set or pack of cards to play seemingly endless games bathed by the warm August Hampshire sun. There’d be no time for such frivolity now.
 He told Nanny that he was signing up almost as soon as he reached the house, before anyone else. She’d been so proud at the thought of him putting his name down. “You’ll look a picture in your uniform. Have all those mesdemoiselles waving their handkerchiefs at you. Be careful you don’t come back with one of them on your arm.”
 “I promise.” Only recently had Nicholas been able to address his former governess and not feel seven-and-a-half again. Even though he towered over her, she would always seem the grown-up one of the pair. “I hope to be off training in just a few weeks, which will give me time enough to set my affairs here straight. There are plenty of safe pairs of hands to entrust things into.”
 “Young Mr. Haskell will keep a steady eye on things,” Nanny said, fiddling with her knitting. No doubt those fingers would be employed producing socks or scarves or who knew what else over the next few months. “You’ll be back come the spring, in time to see the lambs over at Longlea.” She made the pronouncement as if it were a certainty, as sure as Christmas Day falling on December the twenty-fifth.
“I hope so.” As Nicholas spoke the words, he felt a prophetic jolt, and knew it was all a lie. Somewhere inside—heart or brain, he couldn’t be sure—he was certain they were in for a long campaign. Leaving the old lady with her wool and her thoughts, he went out into the gentle light to find Paul.
 As he walked down the path back to the beech avenue an instantly recognisable, elegant figure came to meet him, a gun hanging off its shoulder and an uncharacteristically serious look on its handsome face.
“You’ll sign up?” Paul didn’t attempt any small talk; it wasn’t their way. They usually met three times a week, if Nicholas was down in Hampshire, and those meetings always began with a litany of business, action taken or to be considered on the estate, successes and failures. Only when all the business was dealt with would Paul take a beer, relax for half an hour and indulge in chit-chat. A discussion of parish scandal, something which might have been called gossip if they’d been female, a brief harking back to the days when they’d traded all their secrets over that chess board. True to form, Paul hit straight at the crux of things now.
 Nicholas wasn’t sure if the question was an order—you do this for the honour of the estate, I can’t—or some sort of expression of jealousy, that he could go where the other man could only dream of. He couldn’t dare hope it was the beginnings of a plea for him not to go.
“It’s my duty.” The words seemed inadequate, barely expressing anything Nicholas felt. Yes, he was bound by duty, but there were other considerations. He was, he knew, running away from conflict as much as running towards it.
“I’ll look after things.” Paul’s eyes registered something which might have been offence.
 Nicholas replied hastily. “Of course you will. I’ve never doubted it.” He’d doubted his own intentions, of course.
 He cast a sidelong glance at Paul, wondering what expectations he’d have. The estate manager wore his business face, a cool, clear eye surveying the fields, maybe weighing up the chances of the next pheasant brood surviving the depredation of fox or buzzard.

Charlie

Lock, Stock and Peril cover art

Now that we’ve had the official reveal, I can post the swishy cover here, too! Release date less than a fortnight away – 6th June.

LockStockAndPeril

They may be locked down but this case isn’t.

Lockdown is stressful enough for Chief Inspector Robin Bright. Then a murder makes this strange time even stranger. In one of Kinechester’s most upmarket areas, the body of Ellen, a brilliant but enigmatic recluse, has lain undiscovered for days. Pinning down the time—and date—of death will be difficult, but finding a killer during unprecedented times could prove impossible.

Adam Matthew’s focus on his pupils is shaken when a teaching assistant reveals his godmother has been murdered. Keen to avoid involvement, Adam does his best to maintain a distance from his husband, Robin’s, case, but when it keeps creeping up, Adam lends his incisive mind to the clues again.

Between Robin trying to understand the complex victim and picking his way through a mess of facts, half truths, and downright lies from witnesses desperate to cover up their own rule-breaking, he realises this could be the cold case that stains his career and forever haunts a community. And when it looks like the virus has struck Adam, Robin’s torn between duty and love.

Charlie’s Newsflash – the next Lindenshaw

The big news I’d like to share is that the new Lindenshaw mystery – Lock, Stock and Peril – is now available for pre-order on the Riptide site. The cover reveal is still to come, so all I can give is a sneak peek:

They may be locked down but this case isn’t.

Lockdown is stressful enough for Chief Inspector Robin Bright. Then a murder makes this strange time even stranger. In one of Kinechester’s most upmarket areas, the body of Ellen, a brilliant but enigmatic recluse, has lain undiscovered for days. Pinning down the time—and date—of death will be difficult, but finding a killer during unprecedented times could prove impossible.

Adam Matthew’s focus on his pupils is shaken when a teaching assistant reveals his godmother has been murdered. Keen to avoid involvement, Adam does his best to maintain a distance from his husband, Robin’s, case, but when it keeps creeping up, Adam lends his incisive mind to the clues again.

Between Robin trying to understand the complex victim and picking his way through a mess of facts, half truths, and downright lies from witnesses desperate to cover up their own rule-breaking, he realises this could be the cold case that stains his career and forever haunts a community. And when it looks like the virus has struck Adam, Robin’s torn between duty and love.

And in other exciting news, I’ve finally finished my big organisation of free stories, so all the ones that had broken links because the blogs they were on no longer exist, have been rescued and put together into themed bundles. This includes all the Cambridge Fellows freebies which are now exclusively on my free stories page.

Charlie

Charlie’s latest newsletter

Hi all. Well, Mr C and I have got over Covid and we’re back almost to a hundred percent activity. Well, ninety-five percent, anyway. Spring has sprung and our part of England is awash with blossom and new leaves. (I say our part, because for a small country, you get a lot of variety over here in terms of when things spring into bloom.)
 
News
 
There’s one of those Bookfunnel themed events on at present – a number of you have told me you really like them and that they help you to find different books to read. There are some really good authors and really good books here.
  

 
If second chances at love aren’t your cuppa, then keep an eye out for the next promo event, which has a military theme.
 
Free stories: I’ve been carrying on the big sort out of my free fiction page, with the final two bits being the trickiest. Well, anything that involves those two Cambridge Fellows is never simple. There are loads of extra stories about them, often featured on various blogs, and with time many of the links have become broken. So I’ve been gathering up the rag, tag and bobtail of the odder stories, which you’ll find on my website as the “Alternative universe” tales.  I hope you enjoy them.
 
Special offers: You can currently buy three of my stories at prices under £2 or indeed $2! Lessons in Love is on special offer and both Promises Made Under Fire and Dreams Of A Hero are always at a bargain price.
 
Today’s excerpt has to be from my novella Second Helpings
 
Stuart Collins’s life might as well have ended a year ago when his partner died in a car crash. Even Stuart’s widowed father has found new love with an old friend, Isabel Franklin, so why can’t Stuart be bothered to try?
Then he gets a phone call from Isabel’s son, Paul, who wants to check out whether or not Mr. Collins is good enough for his mother. During dinner together, though, they end up checking out each other. Trouble is, Paul’s got a boyfriend—or maybe he doesn’t, since the boyfriend’s supposedly giving Paul the push by ignoring him. Or maybe Paul just wants to have his cake and eat it too.
Honesty with each other is the only way to move forward. But maybe honesty with themselves is what they really need.
 
Some accident of the light, illumination from the pub garden streaming through a window and catching Paul’s hair, produced a halo. The effect was frightening. That’s just how Mark had appeared when Stuart had first seen him—in a pub of all places, sitting in a stream of sunlight, motes of dust dancing about his head like pinhead angels.  He hadn’t thought of that first meeting in an age, deliberately shutting off those memories of happier times.
“I asked whether your dad and my mum were an item once.” Paul gently tapped the table top.
“Sorry.” Stuart winced, as though that hand had struck him. “I was miles away. Almost like I saw a ghost.”
Paul studied him for a moment, then looked away. He produced a rueful smile, one which softened the angles of his face. “I thought I’d said something I shouldn’t.”
“No, you’re okay. It’s just…” Stuart pulled his beer towards him then pushed it away again. He wasn’t sure he wanted it any more. “My partner died last year. Sometimes it still feels like yesterday.”
“Oh, God, I’m sorry. I had no idea.” Paul grimaced. He’d grown pale, as pale as some of the victims Stuart had come across at work, deep in shock and wondering why the hell this was happening to them. “Mum didn’t warn me.”
“Perhaps she doesn’t know. Dad doesn’t particularly like discussing it.” Stuart looked at the table, like a chess player weighing up the next move among the beer mats and glasses. “He’s taken a hell of a long time to get over Mum dying. Mark’s death brought it all back and he’s only just finding his feet again.”
“Mark?”
“My partner.” Well, there was a decisive move. Paul would know he was gay.
“Mark was your partner?”
“Yes. Got a problem with that?” Stuart wondered if he’d drawn the homophobe in the pack.
“No.” Paul shook his head. “Would it help to talk about him?”
Stuart’s tide of anger came like Paul’s offer: sudden, unexpected and uncomfortable. He didn’t even know what he was cross about. “Why? So you can vet me, too?”
“No. God, no. I’m gay as well. I had no idea you were.”
“Oh, sorry, didn’t I make it clear as I came in? Should have worn my pink scarf and mascara. Then we could have joined the great queer conspiracy together.” It should have made it easier, the common nature: it didn’t. And, with a sudden clarity of thought he’d not felt in ages, Stuart realised the attraction he felt—and felt so guilty about—was putting a barrier between them.
 
 
Charlie

A little flashfic

Our local RNA chapter has a flashfic challenge every few months. Here’s my offering to the prompt, “We were going to have to find a locksmith.”

We were going to have to find a locksmith.
Most people are forced to call one in for normal reasons. Like they’ve suffered a break-in and the spare keys got taken or they’ve had an acrimonious split from the other half.
Not us.
We’d been coming home from holiday and had got ourselves into what you might call an “inadequate bladder management situation”, one not helped by getting stuck on the M4 after a vehicle had overturned. That twenty minutes in the queue made all the difference between a dignified semi-dash through the door to get to the downstairs loo and Ali vs Frazier on the doorstep.
In our house, it’s a phenomenon known as “wee brain”. Your whole body and mind gets possessed by one thing, which is where to find the next comfort stop. You can’t think of anything else and, frankly, you’re at risk of making really bad decisions.
It was a bad decision to try to get through the door while the key was halfway into the Chubb keyhole. Result? Bent key, one that wouldn’t move. Door impenetrably locked.
My bruised legs would say it was a worse decision to scramble over the back gate (padlocked, key in house, misery upon misery) to reach the back door but my bladder egged me on. I should have returned to open the gate but it was every man or woman for themselves. I did let hubby in, when the crisis had passed.
So…anyone know a good locksmith?

Charlie’s latest newsletter

Hi all. Since last I wrote, we’ve been on a cruise, during which we contracted the dreaded covid. We got away with it quite lightly, in the greater scheme of things but it doesn’t half make you tired.
 
News
 
Three things to report, in ascending order of imminence and excitement.
 
The first draft of my Cambridge Fellows/actor laddies crossover is almost finished. I’m hoping Mike at Williams and Whiting will be interested in publishing it, but it’ll need a good sprucing up before I send it.
 
Second big bit of news is that the next Lindenshaw – Lock, Stock and Peril – will be out on June 6th. I’ll let you have the pre-order link when it goes live and will share the cover art when I’m allowed to. As always with this series, the cover is a great one.
 
The third thing is that I’ve relaunched In The Spotlight, which puts together my two showbusiness related novellas, All the Jazz and If Music Be. They really did need a new cover and the lovely, multi-talented Alex Beecroft came up trumps.
 

 
All That Jazz
Francis Yardley may be the high kicking star of an all-male version of Chicago, but bitter, and on the booze after the breakdown of a relationship, he thinks that the chance for true love has passed him by. A handsome, shy rugby player called Tommy seems to be the answer to his problems, but Tommy doesn’t like the lipstick and lace. Can they find a way forward and is there still a chance for happiness “nowadays”?
 
If Music Be
Rick Cowley finds himself taking up am-dram once more, thinking it’ll help him get over the death of his partner. He’d never anticipated it would mean an encounter with an old flame and the sort of emotional complications the Bard would have revelled in. Still, old Will had the right word for every situation, didn’t he?
 
Excerpt:
 
The first lines of “All That Jazz” sounded seductively, in Francis’s bell clear voice.
Freddie watched his friend slink across the stage. From the third row of the circle, his favoured place for observing any show, he’d have bet fifty quid that the average punter wouldn’t have guessed Francis wasn’t a woman. And a bloody attractive one at that. One of the—straight—stagehands had made a pass at the ‘leading lady’ even though he must have known damn well that the entire cast of this production was male. That was the whole bloody point.
The bit about the noisy hall and the nightly brawl came and went.
Francis was holding it up well, the slight nerves which had come across in the opening lines fading now into an assured performance. He’d have to give as good as this when it came to first night. Novelty value was all very well, but if people didn’t believe they’d had their money’s worth from their night at the theatre then no amount of innovation was going to compensate for them feeling hard done by.
Freddie took his eyes off Velma and had a good look at the rest of the troupe. Nice legs, every one of them, not a bosom out of place. It was taking a huge risk having no women in the cast of a show that relied on the relationship between its two leading ladies. Granted, it was the sort of thing which was being done with Shakespeare; didn’t the Globe prove that no-one batted an eye at a reversion to all male theatre? There were never any snide remarks in the broadsheets about some Ophelia who had to pad her cleavage and shave twice before taking the stage. It was an experience regarded as oddly highbrow.  But how would the same newspapers react to an all male ‘Chicago’? Only the press night would tell and there was a rumour that the Daily Telegraph was sending someone. Not necessarily the top man, but it would still be a coup. So long as the critic thought the show justified the trip.
Freddie closed his eyes for a moment, focussing his thoughts and reassuring himself that it was worth the risk. It was the right musical, of course it was. All the mad suggestions when they’d first mooted it—among the saner West Side Story or Wicked—had been little more than private wishes and fantasy fulfilment. When someone had suggested the Sound of Music he’d been ready to throw the whole thing up. Then somebody else had started humming ‘Razzle dazzle’ and the penny had dropped. They could have chosen either Chicago or Cabaret, Kander and Ebb’s music and Fosse’s choreographic ideas having a bizarre manliness, even butchness, to them. But given that Mary Sunshine was a cross dressing role already and Mama Morton seemed to have been created to be played by a drag queen, the die was cast. There even turned out to be peculiarly masculine edge about Velma which Francis had been bringing out beautifully in all the rehearsals so far.
 
 
Charlie

Charlie’s latest newsletter

Last time I said it was almost February and now it’s nearly March. The daffs are up and 6there’s blossom around, so spring is definitely announcing its imminent arrival.
 
News
 
The Return of the Deadly Dames went well and there’s still time to get tickets for the other panel I’m doing virtually at Portsmouth Bookfest. “From the Horses’ Mouths” on the 2nd March at 7pm features a bunch of BSB authors giving tips aimed at fledgling and wannabee authors. You can get them via the Pompey website.
 
Also, this is literally your last chance to get an advance price ticket for UK Meet, an in-person event on the first weekend of September, in Southampton. You can book and pay at the registration page, but to get the cheap rate will have to pay the full amount by February 28th.
 
I often link here to things on my free story page – if you drop in there and think half the stories have gone, panic ye not. I’ve just started to organise them a bit more sensibly, so the free Lindenshaw tales all together for example. Should be all done by the time the next newsletter appears.
 
Throwback snippet:
 
This week’s excerpt is from the first story I did for Carina, Dreams of a Hero

Blurb: Mild-mannered and unassuming, Miles is on a journey he never expected. After a visit to Greece with his partner, Roger, he begins to experience vivid dreams in which he travels back in history and takes on the role of avenging hero.
Roger notices Miles’s newfound bravery during his waking hours and is concerned that his lover is changing into someone he doesn’t recognize.
When they discover a gay-friendly café is being plagued by violent thugs, Miles is uncharacteristically determined to take action, no matter the cost. Roger argues it would be both dangerous and pointless to intervene, but Miles insists he’s been called to fight an army, and now he’s found one.
 
“It’s beautiful.” Roger Searle peered into the display case, his long, expressive fingers dancing on the glass, obviously itching to break through the protective barrier and touch the golden mask. This would be the high spot of their visit so far. Three hours on a plane, airport transfers, a coach trip and a lot of Shank’s pony had brought them from a cold and wet English spring to within inches of one of the greatest icons of the classical age.
“It’s beautiful, but is it Agamemnon’s?” Miles Storrie admired the stunning face, trying to penetrate the metal and the years, to work out whether this really was an image of the great king. Mycenae had kept her secrets to herself for a long time.
“I don’t know.” Roger peered closer. “I’ve read too many arguments on either side to be convinced one way or the other. I thought if I stood before it I’d be able to tell.”
“And can you?”
“Not a cat in hell’s chance. Not even sure that I care anymore.” Roger stood upright again, nursing a back which had started to twinge on the plane. “Does it matter whether this particular mask has adorned that particular face? It’s magnificent. The historical significance has transcended its particular provenance.”
“That sounds far too clever for me.” Miles fanned himself with his elegant straw hat. It might only be early May, but Greece was a damn sight warmer than Surrey, and a holiday which had started at Gatwick in sweaters and raincoats had ended in shorts and shirts, hastily put on at the hotel within minutes of arrival. Still, it was more pleasant here than it had been in the city, so the exhibit they sought being on temporary loan had worked to their advantage. Staying too long in Athens might just have been a trial too far.
“Heat getting to you?”
“As always. It’s all right for some.” Miles considered his partner—official civil partner as pronounced by the registrar—in admiration of how cool he appeared even when the sun blazed down. Roger had slightly olive-toned skin, as if some Mediterranean blood had somehow inveigled itself among the strictly Norman Searle family stock, a line which alleged it had come over with the Conqueror.
“I think it’s quite a pleasant change from the Arctic conditions of Epsom Downs.” Roger grinned, dark eyes alive with delight. “Can yae Gallic blood nae stand it, hen?” Roger may have been some throwback to an Adriatic ancestor, but when Miles looked in the mirror he thought himself all Celtic edges.
“It’s never this warm in Edinburgh. Except for the week before.”
“Sorry?”
“When I used to go and visit my granny, it always rained, and she’d say I should have been there the week before because it had been lovely.” Miles gave up fanning himself and tapped his partner’s arm. “So why this outbreak of apathy towards the mask’s provenance?”
“Not apathy, imagination. I don’t care if it really was Agamemnon himself bearing this burial mask, or one of his generals. To me it’s more than that—I feel I’m within a few feet of the Trojan War.” Roger’s fingers inched towards the glass again. “Degrees of separation. This is as close as I’ll ever get.”
Miles smiled, always delighted at his partner’s ability to make connections and gain enjoyment from them. There’d been one notable occasion when Roger had almost clambered over the side of a Dart River pleasure cruiser to get eight inches closer to Agatha Christie’s old house up on the hillside. Their journey through Greece had been littered with him getting excited at how he was treading the same paths trodden in the great age. His battered copy of Mary Renault’s Fire from Heaven had been dragged out time and again, along with joyous cries and fingers jabbed at the text.
This is where this scene happened, Miles. Look. And Miles had smiled indulgently.
 
Charlie