By Stevyn Colgan

Two aristocrats. One fortune. A geriatric circus. A tale of greed, deceit and incontinent elephants.

Crime | Fiction
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Benelli’s Circus is on its last legs. The performers are geriatric, bookings are scarce and the owner, Benjamin Ellis, desperately wants to sell up and retire. However, thanks to a legal loophole, he can’t do so without his performers’ consent. And they won’t give it because the circus is all they’ve ever known.

Meanwhile, Berkeley Cockering, the Viscount Morbridge, is similarly frustrated. Despite being joint owner of a village, a brewery and several farms, he cannot sell a single property and realise his fortune without the agreement of his older sister. And she would rather die first.

Lady Marcheline Cockering is proud of her family’s long history but feels justifiably aggrieved that her greedy younger brother has inherited the title. To add to her frustration, Berkeley has no interest in tradition or duty and resolutely refuses to settle down and produce an heir. So when he suffers a heart attack, Marcheline decides that it’s up to her to save the family name. She must have a son and she sets out on a quest to find a suitable father.

However, Berkeley’s near-death experience has galvanised him into action. He will get his inheritance by any means necessary and he embroils Ellis and his tottering, threadbare circus in a wicked plot to foil his sister’s plans. If all goes well, he’ll get his hands on his inheritance and Ellis will be rid of the millstone that is his circus. However, their actions soon attract the attention of disgraced former Detective Inspector Brian Blount who sees one last chance for redemption ...

First came A Murder To Die For. Then The Diabolical Club. And now, Stevyn Colgan serves us up a third dose of savagery and slapstick among the green fields and picturesque villages of South Herewardshire.

Clowns were harmed in the making of this book.

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  • Stevyn Colgan avatar

    Stevyn Colgan

    Stevyn Colgan is the author of nine books, a former police officer and oddly spelled Cornishman. And, for more than a decade, he was one of the ‘elves’ that research and write the multi award-winning TV series QI and he was part of the writing team that won the Rose D’Or for BBC Radio 4’s The Museum of Curiosity. He is a popular speaker at UK and international events such as TED, QEDcon, the Ig Nobel Prizes, Latitude, the Hay Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe and many more. He has appeared on numerous podcasts and radio shows including Freakonomics, Saturday Live, Do The Right Thing, Ex Libris, No Such Thing As A Fish, Eat Sleep Work Repeat and Josie Long’s Short Cuts. He is the co-host of the We’d Like A Word podcast and his first novel, A Murder to Die for was nominated for two awards.

  • Berkeley woke up with a thumping headache and pins and needles in his left arm. He felt as if someone had pushed him through a combine harvester.

    His alarm clock told him that it was near 2.30am. What time had he passed out? His argument with Marcheline had been at around 10pm so he couldn’t have slept for more than three or four hours. The decanter, which he knew had been three quarters full, was empty. And, more worryingly, he couldn't move his left arm. Panic gripped him. Was this the prelude to another heart attack? He rolled over onto his side and found that someone was in his bed and lying on his arm. That was why he had pins and needles. But who could it be? And how had they got into his bed? As far as he was aware only he and Marcheline had been in the house and it was hardly likely to be his sister. The only other person who had keys was Mrs Shandcreek and for one awful moment he imagined her naked under the bed clothes. Had Meg taken advantage of his inebriation to seduce him? He didn’t feel like he’d been seduced. To start with he was still fully clothed and nothing seemed to be unzipped or unbuttoned. And besides, Meg rarely came to the house after 7pm as she ‘knew her place’ and respected their privacy. No, she’d be tucked up in bed in her home in one of the estate’s twin gate houses. So, who was in his bed? Surely not someone from the village? The choice of possible bedfellows in Shapcott Bassett was somewhat limited and mostly septuagenarian and he hoped to God he wasn’t being stalked by some predatory older woman. Cougars, they called themselves. Tentatively, he reached over and pulled the sheet back from the head of his unexpected guest and found himself face to face not with a cougar, but with a sleeping Bengal tiger. 

    His first reaction was to scream, but he bit his lower lip hard and squeakily broke wind instead. Screaming might upset the big cat. And what a big cat it was lying there on its side, the skin around its mouth pulled back into a grimace revealing three-inch long yellowed and dagger-like teeth. The tiger twitched and snarled in its sleep, presumably dreaming primæval dreams of hunting down some soft, fleshy prey to despatch with those terrible jaws.

  • 12th September 2019 Not a Pyramid Scheme. Probably.

    Hello lovely pledgefolk.

    I've had an idea.

    Cockerings is currently 35% funded - we've sailed past the 1/4 mark and the 1/3 mark. 50% is on the horizon.

    But the pledges are coming in very slowly.

    So what if I ask you guys to help me to get some new pledges?

    Not for free, mind.

    If you can get me THREE new pledgers I'll send you an exclusive signed print of an artwork by me. 


    22nd August 2019 The Clown is Named

    Thank you so much to all of you who responded to my request for a new name for Bozo the Polish clown - one of the main characters in Cockerings.

    As you'll recall, I found out that I couldn't use 'Bozo' due to copyright issues. And I didn't want to use a name that's currently in use by a currently registered professional clown.

    So I asked you guys. And you came through.

    I had some cracking…

    15th August 2019 Wet Wet Wet

    25% funded - we're quarter of the way there!

    But we can't afford to take our feet off the pedal yet. There's still a long way to go.

    And speaking of a long way, I just spent a long weekend in Scotland doing two performances of my talk Life, The Universe, And Elderberries for the Edinburgh Fringe and for Glasgow Skeptics. It was also my birthday on the 11th. I spent it getting wet.

    Yes indeed…

    7th August 2019 NAME THAT CLOWN

    If you've read any of my previous updates you'll know that one of the main protagonists in Cockerings is an aged, alcoholic Polish clown called Bozo.

    We go a long way back, Bozo and me.  

    In fact, he's been with me, in notebooks and unpublished short stories for over twenty-five years. And I was delighted when Cockerings was accepted by Unbound because it meant that I could now share him with…

    13th July 2019 Puppetry of the Pizzas

    One week into the campaign and Cockerings is already 19% funded. Let's keep up the momentum, m'lovelies!

    Meanwhile ...


    All of the best stories have their roots in real life.

    When I was a young cop pounding the beat in Uxbridge, West London, in the early 1980s  there was a pizza joint near the bus station called Stanelli’s. I often thought, as I wandered past, that it would be quite funny…

    4th July 2019 Thirty Years of Clowning about

    Hello lovely subscribers. You look great. And my word, what a lovely blouse you have on (sorry Rik).

    Well, here I am again, begging for money. Well, not quite begging. It's more me asking you if you like the sound of my new book and, if you do, would you mind paying up front for it? It's no worse than me asking to borrow a few quid off you. The price of a big pizza in fact. And as a reward for…

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