Manna From Hades: A Cornish Mystery by Carola Dunn (Minotaur Books, $24.99, 309 pages)
The Valley of the Shadow: A Cornish Mystery by Carola Dunn (Minotaur Books, $14.99, 305 pages)
What better way to slow down the action of a mystery than set it in the countryside in the time before cell phones? Indeed, author Carola Dunn makes good use of the weather and topography of Cornwall, England as she tests the wits and patience of her two main characters, Eleanor Trewyn and Detective Sargent Megan Pencarrow. These charming ladies are aunt and niece, respectively. Eleanor is a retired world traveler whose heart is open and willing to serve humanity. Megan is a suspicious and eager police officer who has moved to her aunt’s new home of Port Mabyn after a difficult time in London.
Together, these two are able to get themselves into rather peculiar situations while chasing the bad guys. In Manna, the charity thrift shop which Eleanor sponsors is the location of a murder. This crime comes after a very valuable donation is received by the organization. It makes for an enticing mystery situation which Eleanor is unable to resist. Megan and the local police force led by Detective Inspector Scumble are hard pressed to keep up with Eleanor as she scurries about the countryside following her hunches and seeks to untangle the web of confusing clues she discovers.
In Shadow, we catch up with the Port Maybn ladies just as Megan performs a heroic off-duty rescue of a naked young fellow floundering in the water below the treacherous cliffs abutting the seacoast. The first few chapters of this installment of the Cornish Mysteries are a bit scattered, not unlike the efforts needed to secure the nearly-dead swimmer. The action evens out and becomes manageable about midway through the tale.
Fans of this series are treated to greater insight into Detective Inspector Scumble’s values and beliefs. His attitude is well known as he is usually quick to let those around him have a clear idea of what bothers him. The cast of characters has some expansion in this scenario and old favorites are kept in the mix to assure the reader’s commitment to the Cornish Mysteries.
Younger readers may have difficulty suspending their reality when encountering the 1960s-70s era that is most assuredly more slowly-paced than today due to the absence of smart phones and GPS. When Eleanor is frantically searching for a public phone to contact Megan and DI Scumble, it’s obvious today’s crime fighters have better methods for catching the bad guys.
Review copies were provided by the publisher.