- Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series
- The Authors
- Main Characters
- A Lesson in Murder
- 1. Sink or Swim
- 2. Cherringham Hall
- 3. A School Under Siege
- 4. The Scene of the Crime
- 5. Girls Will be Girls
- 6. Contradictions
- 7. Straightforward Lies
- 8. An Unexpected Delay
- 9. A Policeman Calls
- 10. Secrets and Lies
- 11. Uncovering the Past
- 12. Hannah and Tahir
- 13. A Pool of Light
- 14. The World Turned Upside Down
- 15. Monday Morning
- Next episode
Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series
“Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series” is a series made up of self-contained stories. A new episode is released each month. The series is published in English as well as in German, and is only available in e-book form.
Matthew Costello (US-based) is the author of a number of successful novels, including Vacation (2011), Home (2014) and Beneath Still Waters (1989), which was adapted by Lionsgate as a major motion picture. He has written for The Disney Channel, BBC, SyFy and has also designed dozens of bestselling games including the critically acclaimed The 7th Guest, Doom 3, Rage and Pirates of the Caribbean.
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 is their first crime fiction as co-writers.
Jack Brennan is a former NYPD homicide detective who lost his wife a year ago. Being retired, all he wants is peace and quiet. Which is what he hopes to find in the quiet town of Cherringham, UK. Living on a canal boat, he enjoys his solitude. But soon enough he discovers that something is missing — the challenge of solving crimes. Surprisingly, Cherringham can help him with that.
Sarah Edwards is a web designer who was living in London with her husband and two kids. Two years ago, he ran off with his sexy American boss, and Sarah’s world fell apart. With her children she moved back to her home town, laid-back Cherringham. But the small town atmosphere is killing her all over again — nothing ever happens. At least, that’s what she thinks until Jack enters her life and changes it for good or worse …
1. Sink or Swim
Sophie White raced up the back stairs of Florence House, her footsteps on the worn stone echoing in the cold space as she climbed the three floors.
Damn, damn, double damn, I’m going to be late, she thought. Prep’s never supposed to over-run on a Saturday, this is so unfair …
At the top of the stairs she pulled open the heavy fire door that led to the Sixth Form dorms, ran past the crowded common room, and the kitchen where she glimpsed the usual weekend breakfast crowd.
Oh, cheese on toast, if only I could join in …
But even if she had time, she wasn’t sure she’d be welcome. Freya and her crowd would be in there.
And since the new term started they’d been blanking her.
She reached the end of the corridor, pushed hard on the door to her own room, and in one move flung her laptop bag onto her bed.
“Walk, don’t run,” came a voice from the other bed.
Sophie looked over: her roommate Hannah was lying back against the pillows watching something on her iPad, her hand hovering over the shared biscuit tin.
“Walking’s for Year Sevens,” said Sophie digging into her wardrobe, clothes flying. “Can I borrow your tracksuit? Mine’s covered in mud.”
“Gross,” said Hannah with a shrug, munching on a biscuit.
Sophie didn’t need a yes — after six years of school together it was unspoken.
What’s yours is mine, mine yours. Live fast, die together. Friends till the end. No lies, no secrets.
Each time they moved up a year at Cherringham Hall School for Girls, she and Hannah had bound themselves tighter to each other with a new motto. And now they were in their last year, full-on Sixth Formers, just three terms to go before …
Sophie stopped herself thinking about that. About leaving. It made a pit in her stomach. Way too scary.
“So what’s the rush? Seeing someone?” said Hannah. “Secret admirer?”
“As if …” said Sophie. “I’m running the Minnows club for Ms. Braithwaite.”
“Tough,” said Hannah. “Duty calls.”
“Hey — did you know you’re late?”
She grabbed her swimming costume, Hannah’s tracksuit and a pair of trainers, then reached over, and pulled out a handful of biscuits from the tin.
“Seventy calories each,” said Hannah.
“Doesn’t count,” said Sophie heading for the door. “It’s breakfast.”
“That make a difference?”
“Duh, yes. Latest research.”
“Gotta love science.”
Sophie raced out. “Laters …” she said, over her shoulder.
“Still on for Oxford this afternoon?” she heard Hannah say, as she turned into the corridor.
“Can’t wait!” she shouted back, then she was off heading for the stairs again.
She checked her watch. Three minutes — she might just make it.
Being late — for anything — was a cardinal sin at Cherringham Hall. Sophie knew the ethos back to front and upside down, it was drilled into all the girls from their first term:
‘Cherringham girls will be bright, independent, free-thinking, creative, confident, resourceful, tolerant — and above all, reliable.’
And the teachers made it clear that while most of those qualities might take a while to develop, the bit about ‘reliable’ — being on time — was one that had to be acquired immediately.
She wheeled off the main school corridor and took a short cut through the Dining Hall.
As she slalomed past the formal tables, she glanced up at the portraits of Cherringham alumni on the walls — explorers, poets, politicians, novelists, Nobel-prize winning scientists, businesswomen, International sportswomen.
Sophie and Hannah used to joke that the reason they’d all succeeded was that they were never late.
And generally, now that she was a laid-back Sixth Former, Sophie wasn’t that bothered about being a few minutes late. But today was different.
Just a few days ago, on the very first day of term, Ms. Braithwaite had called Sophie into her study and told her that she — yes, she, Sophie White — was to be this year’s House Guardian. Short of School Captain, House Guardian was the most responsible position in the whole school.
Now Sophie was terrified of letting Ms. Braithwaite down.
Ms. Braithwaite was the most … perfect teacher in the whole school. Everybody loved her. And she in turn knew everyone in the House, knew all their problems, all their fears and struggles.
If Ms. Braithwaite liked you, if she valued you, there was nothing you couldn’t do. House Guardians chosen by Ms. Braithwaite were out there now in the world now doing brilliant things. Sometimes you saw them on the news being interviewed.
Sometimes they were even doing the interviews, dressed in those big jackets and helmets they wear in war-zones.
Through the big main front door now, Sophie hit the gravel at the side of the Hall at speed. Out here, autumn leaves billowed in the cold wind — she knew there’d be no teachers around to tell her off for running.
Only Tahir the caretaker’s son, trimming the hedges. She saw him look up and watch her as she ran past, then turn back to his work …
Being late would be unforgivable. The Minnows — the Year Seven swimming club — was Ms. Braithwaite’s pride and joy. Being asked to run it was not just a responsibility. It was a privilege.
Ahead she could see the glass and steel of the brand new sports hall — The Prince Said Building. The plush lobby area — where the girls were supposed to wait — looked empty …
Oh no, they’ve already gone through, she thought, pulling open the door, and feeling a blast of warmth.
The entrance to the pool was down a flight of stairs at the far end of a glass corridor which gave onto the gym.
She jogged along the corridor. Through the glass she could see plenty of familiar faces from all years pounding treadmills, rowing, spinning … Some smiled and waved.
She took the stairs to the pool two at a time. The air was even warmer here, she could smell the chlorine, and now she could hear the loud chatter of the Year Seven girls as she headed towards the changing rooms.
Was Ms. Braithwaite here already?
She pushed open the double doors and the noise immediately stopped. She looked around: twenty or so girls in their black regulation swimming costumes, frozen in mid-sentence, stared back at her.
“Good morning, girls,” she said.
“Good morning, miss,” they all responded.
“Is Ms. Braithwaite here?”
There was a pause. Sophie waited to see who would drum up the courage to reply. Did they even know she wasn’t even a teacher — just a sixth former?
“No miss. We don’t think so,” came a voice from the crowd.
Sophie breathed a sigh of relief.
Phew. She’d got away with it!
“Line up now, girls, and we’ll go through to the pool,” she said, echoing the words she herself could remember from all those years ago when she’d been a Minnow too.
“Don’t forget to pick up a towel from the basket on the way please. And no talking until we’re all lined up — lined up, remember — at the side of the pool.”
Taking a towel herself, Sophie led the girls through into the pool area. While the group followed her instructions, she went through the routines she’d observed so often: she walked around the pool checking the life-saving equipment was all in place, the panic buttons lit, the floats in order, the water pumps functioning.
She took one last look around. Although the pool was underground, the lighting was bright and warm. The water was flat and calm. The room temperature was perfect. When Ms. Braithwaite arrived the class would look drilled and perfect.
Despite the rush, this morning was going to be fine.
With ten minutes to go before the end of the lesson, Sophie finally relaxed. The morning hadn’t been at all what she expected.
Just moments after she’d lined up the girls by the pool, a message had come from the Staff Room saying that Ms. Braithwaite was ‘indisposed’ and could Sophie please take the session on her own?
So that’s what she’d done. That’s what a ‘Cherringham Hall girl’ was supposed to do, she knew. Pick up the pieces — and adapt.
How many times had she heard that over the last few years?
And in the end she’d enjoyed it. She’d got to know the new girls and — she hoped — they trusted her. She’d worked on technique, on confidence, on breathing. She’d pushed them — but not too hard. She’d watched them race and made a mental note of the girls who might have potential.
That’s exactly what Ms. Braithwaite would do, she thought.
And now, while she sat high up on the lifeguard ladder, she was letting them have fun, go a bit crazy with the inflatables. She scanned the pool, checking all the girls were safe among the brightly coloured floats and shapes. She watched them splashing and laughing.
Sophie glanced at her watch. She’d given them just another five minutes: if everyone got changed without too much fuss, she could be out of here and on the one P.M. train to Oxford with Hannah. Shopping!
Then — so fast! — all the lights went out.
The whole pool area turned dark. Blacker than Sophie had ever known: not just a dull, shadowy grey with shapes faintly visible, but a total blackness as if a blindfold had been pressed against her face.
Sophie swayed in her chair and nearly fell, then thought:
Oh my God — the girls!
The laughing and splashing in the pool had turned into cries and shouts, she could hear anxious voices from every corner of the water …
What’s happened? I’m scared! I can’t swim! Miss, miss!! I’m going to drown!
Sophie gripped the sides of the lifeguard chair. Her thoughts were racing, but from somewhere deep within, a calmer spirit seemed to take over.
“Listen, girls!” she called out. “The lights have failed. That’s all. Nothing to be scared of. Now everyone stay calm. We’re all safe. Nobody’s going to drown. I promise.”
She could sense the children in the water below, listening to her.
“So listen carefully … I want you to do just what I say? Okay?”
There was no answer.
Then a series of meek voices. “Yes miss, yes miss …”
“First — I want you all treading water. Got that? Nice and gently. Don’t think about the dark, don’t worry. Everyone treading?”
More meek replies from all corners of the black pool.
“Now very slowly — I want you all to swim to the side of the pool — follow my voice. I’ll keep talking.”