Cornwall has been a mysterious place since the Phoenicians sailed beyond the Pillars of Hercules to buy tin and gold from the misty land of rugged cliffs, moors, and hidden harbours. Until the advent of modern transportation, the easiest access was by sea, and that was by no means easy as thousands of shipwrecks attest. It was a haven for smugglers and wreckers.
My first visit to Cornwall was at the age of eight. My godmother rented a field from a farmer and parked a caravan, high on a hillside looking west over the Atlantic between two rocky headlands, Cambeak and Penkenna. We stayed there every summer and many Easter holidays for a couple of decades. From there we explored the North Coast, the sandy coves, fishing villages, and Bodmin Moor, now the setting of my Cornish mysteries.
In the meantime, my sister moved to the southern side of the duchy, to a minuscule hamlet on the River Tamar, north of Plymouth. Just upstream is Cotehele, a medieval fortified manor beautifully preserved by the National Trust.
The first time I saw Cotehele, I knew I had to set a book there. At the time I wrote Regencies. The result was Smugglers' Summer. I managed to weave some of the legends of the house into my story, and then added an imaginary secret tunnel, though otherwise I described the house accurately.
When I came to write Mistletoe and Murder, my 11th Daisy Dalrymple mystery, also set at Cotehele, I simply couldn't resist using the secret tunnel I'd invented.
Daisy's adventures take place all over England, but I really wanted to return to beautiful Cornwall. I also wanted, after many years writing about young women (Daisy manages to stay in her 20s for 22 books!), to have a protagonist nearer my age.
The result is the Cornish mysteries, set around 1970, featuring Eleanor Trewynn, a widow in her 60s. After a life of globe-trotting diplomacy in aid of an international charity, Eleanor has retired to a Cornish fishing village. She can't imagine anywhere more peaceful to settle after her adventurous life.
Peace is not her lot, however. The tentacles of crime reach even into the placid Cornish countryside. Eleanor's talent for diplomacy—and a few tricks she learned on her travels—turn out to be unexpectedly useful when she's faced with villains of every stripe.
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Those who worked with her in the past have not forgotten her skills. At the beginning of Buried in the Country, the latest book in the series, a government official begs her to assist at a secret conference attempting to reconcile two antagonistic African parties. In the depths of rural Cornwall, he hopes, the meeting those who want to scuttle the conference won't find it.
In a howling gale blowing rain off the Atlantic, even Eleanor's niece, Detective Sergeant Megan Pencarrow, has trouble finding the place. Her job is to deliver one of the participants and then provide security. She's also looking for a missing person, a lawyer. When a couple of villainous types turn up, are they spies? Did the solicitor flee to escape them? Is the supposedly respectable solicitor a spy?
Whatever is going on, Megan has to combine coping with attempting to keep her aunt out of trouble. In vain. Eleanor gets involved, and—apart from a murder or two—thanks to her everything is sorted out to everyone's satisfaction
Except her unfortunate host, whose conference tumbles in ruins about his ears.
The storm; the sunny day that follows, tempting people out of doors; the grey overcast turning to fog as it meets high ground; the cliffs of Tintagel; the maze of narrow lanes; Bodmin Moor with its deadly bogs, abandoned mines, towers of boulders heaped by legendary giants: these are essential to the plot. Without them, it would be a different story.
Bio: Carola Dunn is the author of 26 mysteries and 32 Regencies. She was born and grew up in England but has lived in the US for many years, at present in Oregon. Her favourite activities are gardening, reading, and walking the dog. She has two grandchildren and cannot believe one is a teenager. Where did the years go?
Buried in the Country
Minotaur, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-04703-8
"The rewards of this entertaining cozy include characters with depth, an interesting bit of history, and an exciting chase through the moors."
The Cornish Mysteries:
Manna from Hades
A Colourful Death
Valley of the Shadow
Buried in the Country