'Lessons in Discovery' is the third book in the excellent Cambridge Fellows Mysteries series that's set in Edwardian England. Readers familiar with the series will have come to know and love the two main characters, Drs. Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith of St. Bride's College, Cambridge. The two young dons have become well known as amateur detectives after they helped solve a series of murders in book 1 and another murder in book 2. And while they've been busy doing that, and teaching their students, they've also been developing a closer, more intimate friendship that finally became a complete bonding at the end of the previous book.
In book three the story opens on an anniversary. It's one year to the day that the two men first met. And what a year it's been, especially for shy, inexperienced, emotionally repressed Orlando. During those 12 months the two men found true love. But it was a tumultuous time emotionally as well as physically. They are looking forward to a more relaxed second year and Jonty is on the point of suggesting that the two of them move out of their college housing and into a house of their own where they can be together away from prying eyes. Sadly, in the midst of happiness and optimism, Orlando has a serious fall that gives him a concussion and leaves him without any memory of the past year. Not only does he not remember any of the events of the past year, he has no recollection of who Jonty is or of their relationship.
While Jonty is devastated at first he resolves to try to help Orlando recover his momories so that they may resume their loving relationship. At the same time the College Master presents the two men with an ancient mystery to unravel. A body had been found in an abandoned well that points to an old legend dating back to the Wars of the Roses. The key to the mystery seems to lie in a collection of old letters and parchments that are written in a hitherto unbroken cypher. Perhaps by bending his logical mathematical brain to the task of breaking the code, Orlando will also find a slow return of his lost memory.
So, while the ancient mystery is tackled, we also witness a slow and gentle reprise of the gentling of Orlando by an anxious but loving Jonty. We are almost back at the beginning of their relationship and it's with delight that we revisit those earlier gropings toward understanding his nature that Orlando has to go through a second time. Like the first two books, and no doubt the rest of the series, this is less about solving a mystery than about the development and cementing of the loving relationship between Jonty and Orlando. And, as always, it's the background of Edwardian manners and mores that makes this such a fascinating story.
I wasn't so taken by the code breaking as I would have been perhaps by the resolution of a more contemporary mystery but since the story isn't really about that but more about Jonty and Orlando themselves, it's not a significant detraction. I enjoyed the story immensely and was delighted with the outcome.
This is an excellent series whose books could be read on their own, in any order, but which benefits from their being read in chronological order. Yes, like the others, this is an easy 5 stars out of 5.