Two Feet Under began life as a conversation in a car, when my eldest daughter and I got stuck in a traffic jam on the way to an author/reader event. It gained a criminal mastermind as a result of another conversation in the car with her younger sister. It got its background thanks to the popular television series “Time Team” and a setting care of the northern part of Hampshire. The plot came from the author’s twisted imagination, via a lot of checking. And at least one character is based on people I know. You have been warned.
About Two Feet Under
Things are looking up for Adam Matthews and Robin Bright—their relationship is blossoming, and they’ve both been promoted. But Robin’s a policeman, and that means murder is never far from the scene.
When a body turns up in a shallow grave at a Roman villa dig site—a body that repeatedly defies identification—Robin finds himself caught up in a world of petty rivalries and deadly threats. The case seems to want to drag Adam in, as well, and their home life takes a turn for the worse when an ex-colleague gets thrown out of his house and ends up outstaying his welcome at theirs.
While Robin has to prove his case against a manipulative and fiendishly clever killer, Adam is trying to find out which police officer is leaking information to the media. And both of them have to work out how to get their home to themselves again, which might need a higher intelligence than either a chief inspector or a deputy headteacher.
Adam Matthews’s life changed when Inspector Robin Bright walked into his classroom to investigate a murder.
Now it seems like all the television series are right: the leafy villages of England do indeed conceal a hotbed of crime, murder, and intrigue. Lindenshaw is proving the point.
Detective work might be Robin’s job, but Adam somehow keeps getting involved—even though being a teacher is hardly the best training for solving crimes. Then again, Campbell, Adam’s irrepressible Newfoundland dog, seems to have a nose for figuring things out, so how hard can it be?
About Charlie Cochrane
As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes, MLR and Cheyenne.
Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series of Edwardian romantic mysteries was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, International Thriller Writers Inc and is on the organising team for UK Meet for readers/writers of GLBT fiction. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.
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“And this is our safeguarding checklist. If you’ll just sign it to show you’ve read it and agree to abide by it . . .”
Adam nodded, read the sheet of paper, then signed and dated it at the bottom.
Adam Matthews, deputy headteacher. 10th April.
He fancied writing the job title again, as it had felt so good the first time. His first deputy headship, and a real chance to put a feather in his cap, given that Culdover Church of England Primary School officially “required improvement.” He’d been recruited to help the new headteacher light such a firework under the staff that by the next time the Ofsted inspectors popped their cheery heads round the door, they’d rate the school as at least “good.”
Before any of that could happen, though, he’d have to go through the standard induction procedure, almost all of it necessary, some of it boring, and some elements—like safeguarding and the location of the men’s toilets—vital.
Soon everything was done and he had the chance to familiarise himself with the place, including sitting in with his year-six class, which he’d be taking two days a week and who were at present under the beady eye of Mrs. Daniel, the teacher who’d have them the other three days. The pupils seemed a cheery enough bunch, eager to show their new deputy just how good they were at maths. He sat down at one of the tables, where they were mulling over fractions, although it wasn’t long before they wanted to bombard him with questions, a new member of staff—and that rare thing in primary education, a man—being much more interesting than halves and quarters. In the end, Adam, Mrs. Daniel, and the pupils came to the arrangement of making the last five minutes of the lesson a question-and-answer session, in return for which the children would work like billy-o up to that point. The plan worked.
“Which team do you support, sir?” opened the official interrogation.
“Saracens for rugby. Abbotston for football.”
“Are you married, sir?”
“No.” Until he had an idea of how mature his class were, he’d better keep quiet about the exact nature of his relationship. “But I’ve got a Newfoundland dog called Campbell.”
“Wow! Will you bring in a picture of him?”
“Of course. I’ll put it on the desk so he can keep an eye on you all.” One day perhaps he’d also be able to bring a picture of Robin in to show the class, but that was probably wishful thinking. Children had open minds, yet too often they got filled with an imitation of their parents’ prejudices.
“I interviewed you, sir,” one spiky-haired lad piped up.
“I remember.” The school-council part of the interview process had been trickier than facing the headteacher and governors. “You asked me to sing a song.”
“Yeah. And you made us sing one instead.” The boy chortled, his classmates joining in.
“I remember. No point in getting old if you can’t get cunning.” Adam grinned. “Right, one last question.”
One of the girls—with an expression more serious than normally came with her age—raised her hand among a sea of others. She waited for Adam’s nod before asking, “Which school did you used to teach at?”
Adam forced his grin to keep going. “Lindenshaw. Lindenshaw St. Crispin’s, to give it its full name.”
“Oh.” The girl turned pale. “My dad told me they had a murder there. Is that why you left?”
Adam paused. So the school’s reputation was preceding it?
Mrs. Daniel, obviously flustered, said, “I don’t think we should talk about things like that.”
Adam pursed his lips. “I think I disagree. It’s better to have stuff in the open, and I’d have hoped this class is mature enough to discuss matters like that sensibly.” How best to describe what had happened? Simply stating that there’d been a murder in what had been the children’s kitchen, where the pupils had once learned to make semi-inedible fairy cakes, might put these pupils off cookery for life. “Somebody was killed, which is a really rare thing to happen in a school. None of the children were ever at risk, and the police found the killer very quickly.”
And he’d found a partner in the process, which had been the best outcome from a wretched time.
The spiky-haired lad chipped in again. “My dad says that you probably can’t go anywhere in Culdover without walking over a place where someone’s died. What with the Romans and the air raids and—”
Adam raised a hand. “I think that’s where we’ll leave it. Time for lunch.”
The class left their chairs, lined up at the door, and waited for Mrs. Daniel to let them out to their pre-lunch play. Just another first day of term for the children at Culdover, but for Adam it was that cliché: “the first day of the rest of his life.” He’d miss Lindenshaw school—that went without saying, especially as it was starting to show a real improvement under the new headteacher—but his regrets would be few. The place held far too many unpleasant memories and associations now, and not simply in terms of the murder. Just last term a young teacher had thrown away the chances of a good career because he couldn’t keep his fists to himself.
Worst of all, but predating Adam’s sojourn at Lindenshaw, it had been Robin’s school, where he’d been subjected to continual bullying.
Adam had promised to keep in touch with those of his colleagues who’d become genuine friends, but the building itself . . . The sooner Adam could shake the dust of the place off his shoes, the better.