Now that the trip is over . . . keeping alive a sense of Cornwall and its people
by C. T. Collier
When I created my sleuthing duo, Kyle and Lyssa Pennington, I booked a trip to Cornwall. Was I looking for Merlin and Sir Launcelot? Doc Martin and Poldark? No, I was doing research for my hero, Kyle Pennington, whose family estate is close by Padstow on the north coast of Cornwall. I wanted a first-hand experience of the wild coast and countryside I’d always imagined—crashing waves, smugglers’ caves, mysterious moors, cozy villages. And it wasn’t just scenery I wanted, but the voices and expressions, people’s attitude and outlook on life, their values and lifestyles.
Happily, I got all of that and more. The trip was for expressly for photographers and the itinerary included a day on the moors; walks along on the coast, glimpses of derelict tin mines; hours to wander through lush gardens; and opportunities to view paintings by The Newlyn School and at the Tate Gallery. Plus an afternoon in the ruins at Tintangel; the inside scoop on a lifeboat station; and plenty of time in centuries old pubs in fishing villages. And seafood, yum! Enjoying a ploughman’s lunch at a pub was a golden opportunity to eavesdrop on local conversations while studying the pictures and stories stuck up on walls.
I’d go again if I could, but it’s not likely to happen, and that presents a problem for an author. How do I keep alive that all-five-senses experience of Cornwall, so I remain true to my hero’s character and everything he stands for?
I do a lot to keep it fresh. Don’t laugh: for starters, I watch Doc Martin and Poldark on PBS. Poldark for the history of seafaring and smuggling, the impact of class struggle, the legacy of tin mining, and the dependence on the elusive pilchards. And Doc Martin for the thick accents, quaint phrases, spectacular scenery, fickle weather, food, drink, and humor.
But that’s not all I do to keep Cornwall in mind. I’m fortunate that excellent mystery authors have series set in Cornwall. First on my bookshelf is John Bude whose 1930s crime classics include some set on the chalk cliffs of Dover and in the Lake District, in addition to The Cornish Coast Murder.
Historical mystery author, Carola Dunn is next. In addition to her Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, Dunn writes the Cornish Murder Mysteries set in the Cornwall she experienced on vacations in the 1960s. Her heroine is a spry elderly lady, Nell, whose neighbor is an artist who paints and sells charming pictures to the tourists so he can produce his own abstracts off-season. Nell’s niece, Megan is a police detective who’s fast becoming Nick’s love interest. The trio represent hard-working locals who interact with a wide variety of Cornishmen and who cover the countryside in the execution of their jobs. The fifth book in the series, Buried in the Country, involves a car chase in Bodmin Moor, death by drowning in a bog on the moor, and a near-suicide on top of the tors at Cheesewring quarry. Dunn doesn’t write the series from Cornwall, but she is in communication with friends who live there, and she consults online sources for facts such as which fish is abundant at markets this week.
Another mystery series of Cornwall is more contemporary than Dunn’s, that by mystery author Janie Bolitio. Her series of half a dozen mysteries feature a woman artist, widowed, who lives a stone’s throw from Penzance, between the active port of Newlyn and the picturesque village of Mousehole. Rose Trevelyan moves easily from high-end art galleries to desolate homes on the moor, and she dates a policeman. I feel tuned into every socio-economic group as I turn the pages, and I often underline phrases and highlight the controversies that play out in a book.
Those are my tricks for staying attuned to the Cornwall of my hero, Kyle Pennington. And, as you can imagine, Kyle, always the gentleman, gently corrects me anytime I slip up.
Justin’s assistant claimed the president was in a meeting but added, “You sound out of breath, Lyssa. Is it urgent?”
“I’m running to a murder scene. Yes, it’s urgent.”
Justin came on the line, and she told him what little she knew.
“For God’s sake, be careful.”
That spooked her. But he was right. A man was dead. Was the killer still in the neighborhood watching the aftermath? Hanging around would be too risky, wouldn’t it? People in these neighborhoods watched what happened all day. And night. Someone must have seen something. Heard something.
She pressed forward the next two blocks and paused at the end of the Van Derzee’s brick walk. Where were the police? Emma had said she’d called them. Surely they hadn’t come and removed the body already? And why leave the door open?
By C.T. COLLIER
Meet the Penningtons: Lyssa, Ph.D. Economics, and her husband “the handsome Brit” Kyle, Ph.D. Computer Science. When their clever minds ask questions, clever killers can’t hide.
Murder never entered the picture until Fritz Van Derzee decided, at long last, to clear his name. Who stuck a jeweled stiletto into his desktop after stabbing him to death? Fritz’s daughter, Emma, recruits her former professor Lyssa Pennington to find the killer.But where’s the ten million Fritz was falsely accused of embezzling? Tompkins College President, Justin Cushman, hires his old friend Kyle Pennington to trace the missing money.
While Lyssa uses charm and tenacity on the long list of suspects, Kyle reconstructs the college’s old homegrown finance system. As they converge on the killer, Lyssa and Kyle may be the next two casualties.
About The Author:
C. T. Collier was born to solve logic puzzles, wear tweed, and drink Earl Grey tea. Her professional experience in cutthroat high tech and backstabbing higher education gave her endless opportunity to study intrigue. Add to that her longtime love of mysteries, and it’s no wonder she writes academic mysteries that draw inspiration from traditional whodunits. Her setting is entirely fictional: Tompkins College is no college and every college, and Tompkins Falls is a blend of several Finger Lakes towns, including her hometown, Seneca Falls, NY (AKA Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life).
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