WITH its chocolate box cottages, babbling streams and pretty church, Cheringham may seem like the picturesque Cotswold idyll but underneath the surface is a different story.

The fictional Cotswold town, based on three different villages, is the setting of a new eBook series of 12 self-contained murder mysteries.

Written by US-based Matthew Costello and Neil Richards, of the New Forest, Hampshire, this “cosy crime” series is published monthly by German publishers Bastei Entertainment.

The pair, who have previously collaborated on video games and television, devised the fictional town after staying at various locations in the Cotswolds - but will not reveal exactly where.

The eBooks follow single-mother Sarah Edwards and former NYPD homicide detective Jack Brennan, who has retired to Cheringham looking for the quiet life, as they investigate the dastardly deeds of the town’s inhabitants.

Mr Richards, who is in his 50s, said while he was remaining tight-lipped on the places in the Cotswolds they based Cheringham, locals would probably work it out.

“We’ve listed our favourite bits and created Cheringham which I would like to live in because it’s perfect,” he said. “It’s quite interesting it’s got a really lovely market square that has a village hall in it. It has a lovely long road that goes down the hill. Wherever possible the places are from my memory or Matt’s. “

In a revival of the Dickensian tradition, the 100-page eBooks are published every month, with two already out, Murder on Thames and Murder by Moonlight.

“They are about half the length of a big mystery, you can read them in a couple of hours,” said Mr Richards. “It sort of feels like an episode of Inspector Morse. They are not all murders although I’ve a feeling somebody has probably dies in some of them.

“The problem is, being a small village there’s only so many people you can kill.”

The father-of-two said one of his favourite things about the series was the main character.

“The lead female Sarah for me is really important,” he said. “She’s a young single mum detective. You don’t get many of those.

“I know women who are in that situation, it just seemed a really good model. They have to be really tough, really single minded and really individual. I wanted a female lead who was like that.

“We’re really pleased with it. We like Cheringham and we’ve now created 80 characters. I hope we carry on and do a lot more.”

The eBooks cost £1.49 and are available to download from iTunes, Amazon and Googlebooks.