Authors: Neil Richards & Matthew Costello
Performed by Neil Dudgeon
Released on Audible: August 2016 by Lübbe Audio
Category: Cosy Crime Mysteries
Set in the sleepy English village of Cherringham, the detective series brings together an unlikely sleuthing duo: English web designer Sarah and American ex-cop Jack. Thrilling and deadly – but with a spot of tea – it’s like Rosamunde Pilcher meets Inspector Barnaby. Each of the self-contained episodes is a quick read for the morning commute, while waiting for the doctor, or when curling up with a hot cuppa.
The main characters in the Cherringham mysteries are Sarah Edwards and Jack Brennan, both likeable and realistic. Sarah, a web designer, previously lived in London with her husband and two children. Now divorced after her husband left her for his boss, she and the children have returned to the Cotswold village of Cherringham, where Sarah was brought up. Jack is a former NYPD homicide detective, who was widowed a year ago. He and his wife had always planned to retire to the UK and, after deciding to go ahead with their plans, Jack lives on an old Dutch canal boat moored at Cherringham, with his dog, Riley.
Audible have these short mysteries as compilations, each audiobook comprising three episodes and narrated wonderfully (and appropriately) by Neil Dudgeon, currently DCI John Barnaby in Midsomer Murders. Each episode is a complete story, incorporating more of the villagers and village life and charting Jack’s progression from weird American outsider to an accepted member of the community.
Jack breathed in deep. Today was just the kind of day that told him he’d made the right decision to come and live here. Though the morning had been quite cold and wet, the sun had come out and it was warming up already. On the other side of the river, a heat haze hung over the meadow and just overhead, the swallows dived and swooped.
It was a very long way from the gulls and fishing boats of Bay Ridge, New York.
Along the river all the residential boats were just coming alive with the sound of TVs, radios and the smell of bacon and eggs.
There were boats every twenty yards or so – a real hotchpotch of canal barges, river cruisers, yachts, little day boats, speedboats. So English, this odd community.
In the first story, Murder on Thames, Sammi, who used to be Sarah’s best friend before they both left Cherringham, is found drowned. Without finding anything to the contrary, the police assume it’s an accidental death but Sarah thinks otherwise. Enlisting the help of Jack, who Sarah met during her quest to find some answers, they set out to investigate the circumstances surrounding Sammi’s death.
Mystery at the Manor sees Jack and Sarah on another sleuthing mission when Sarah’s friend, Hope, has doubts about a fire which killed an elderly man she looks after. Each of Victor Hamblyn’s three children think they’re in line to inherit his estate and each had a motive. But Victor had a secret.
The third instalment is Murder by Moonlight. The Cherringham Rotary Club choir is well into rehearsals for the Christmas Charity Concert when one of the choir members is found dead. Kirsty Kimball had a severe allergic reaction to one of the home-made cakes brought for the after rehearsal refreshments. Jack’s new friend, Beth, asks him to join the choir because she thinks Kirsty’s death is suspicious. Word of Jack and Sarah’s detecting skills are spreading.
The steadily growing friendship between Jack and Sarah, and their character development, is evident throughout each story and the interaction between them is natural and believable. They’re a great team and work well together, with Sarah’s internet skills and knowledge of the village dynamics and Jack’s experience as a detective. I love that they are out of the ordinary protagonists and become good friends.
A descriptive narrative easily conjures up vivid images of the beautiful Cotswolds. There’s a lot packed into each story without it feeling rushed, a mixture of murders and mysteries and no two the same. I’m well on the way to finishing the available compilations now and will continue for as long as it runs. Neil Dudgeon does a great job as narrator, really enjoyable and easy to listen to with very good characterisations. The accent and personality he gave Jack made him very engaging. It’s a nice change of pace from the graphic violence in a lot of crime novels.
Neil Richards has worked as a producer and writer in TV and film, creating scripts for BBC, Disney, and Channel 4, and earning numerous Bafta nominations along the way.
He’s also written script and story for over 20 video games including The Da Vinci Code and Starship Titanic, co-written with Douglas Adams, and consults around the world on digital storytelling.
His writing partnership with NYC-based Matt Costello goes back to the late 90’s and the two have written many hours of TV together. Cherringham the series is their first crime fiction as co-writers.
An American and an Englishman writing crime stories with an American and an English hero – what took us so long?