Wednesday, November 14, 2012

VALLEY OF THE SHADOW -- Welcome to Cornwall

Welcome to Cornwall, a peninsula with the longest stretch of continuous coastline in Britain, making it a smugglers’ haven. But that was more than 100 years ago. Or was it?

Carola Dunn’s latest Cornish mystery takes place in the present. An early autumn afternoon begins agreeably enough. The protagonist, Eleanor Trewynn; her Westie, Teazle; her neighbor, artist Nick Gresham; and her niece, Detective Sergeant Megan Pencarrow, get together for an impromptu coastal excursion.

Eleanor, who operates a charity shop, wants to contact a few farm wives. Nick wants to do some sketching. Megan wants a temporary respite from her stressful job. The Westie is ready to run and romp. It is not to be. A perilous journey through a woodland of “cliffs’ coves and caves” takes them to the inlet, where they find the body of a man floating in the water.

He’s breathing, though barely. Megan launches a complicated rescue operation, aided by a couple of passing hikers, which ends with the completely nude victim in a sleeping bag, warmed by the body heat of the mostly naked female hiker. Eleanor manages to find a telephone and soon the trails are buzzing with emergency personnel.

Megan’s boss, DI Scumble, orders her to sit watch at the hospital. Eventually the patient regains consciousness long enough to mumble his name—Kalith Chudasama—and a few disconnected words: “The cave … my family … They didn’t come … must swim … My mother … dying …”

Back at the station Megan and Scumble theorize that Indians living in East Africa, which no longer wants them, are being smuggled into England via the Cornish coast. English law prohibits some immigrant settlers even though they may hold British passports. The man Megan rescued fits the profile, especially if he is traveling with his family.

In this set up, the author introduces several village characters and draws the reader into the small, cozy world of Cornwall.The action moves in a leisurely manner but it kept me turning the pages. As the police-procedural aspect of the story kicks in, Eleanor and Megan make a good mother-daughter team.

Megan takes her job seriously, while sidestepping a couple of romantic entanglements. Eleanor is absent-minded and soft-hearted, but her mind ticks like a clock. She figures that if a family has come ashore illegally, someone must know which smuggler’s cave hides them. She goes through the village one house at a time to find the answer.

The denouement is both wild and funny, and the author ties up all the threads in a surprising but satisfactory ending.

This is the third book in Carola Dunn’s Cornish mystery series. The earlier books are MANNA FROM HADES (2009) and A COLOURFUL DEATH (2010).

I don’t have the foggiest idea what this is all about, but I keep seeing it on other blogs, so here it is.

FTC Disclosure Notice
FTC has a new regulation which went into effect in December, 2009 which says, basically, "Amateur Bloggers to Disclose Freebies or Be Fined." Here's my required FTC Disclosure Notice regarding review copies of books obtained for this blog. No other compensation is accepted beyond review copies of books. When I do write a review, or opinion, the source of the book cited will be disclosed in the post in which the review/opinion appears. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

Meet the author. From her web site:
I was born and grew up in England. After graduating from Manchester University, I set off around the world, but only made it halfway, to Fiji, before turning back to get married. I lived in Southern California for 20 years, and then moved to Eugene, Oregon, where I live now.

Minotaur Books, Hardcover Dec. 11, 2012
Robinson E-book, Kindle and Nook June 20, 2013

“The Smuggler’s Song”

Smuggling was a way of life in 18th century England, due at least partly to taxation imposed by a succession of governments who needed money to pay for wars in Europe. With France just across the English Channel, and the rugged Cornish coast pocked with caves for hiding goods until they could be picked up and distributed, smuggling was a source of income for entire communities.

There’s a history of smuggling here:

Smuggling flourished because so many villagers were involved, and everyone turned a blind eye (or “watched the wall”) to all the activity going on.

British author Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem called “The Smuggler’s Song.” First stanza:

“If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet,/
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street./
Them that ask no questions isn't told a lie./
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!”

There’s an excellent YouTube video with Murray Lachlan Young reading the poem. It’s very atmospheric and gives me the shivers!

1 comment:

  1. Carola,
    Your mystery sounds delightful. I love Cornwall and its tiny villages and awesome views.