Buried in the Country is the fourth in Carola Dunn’s series of mysteries set in Cornwall, England, in the early 1970s. The series features two protagonists. Eleanor Trewynn is a widow who spent most of her life traveling the world with an international charity. After her husband is killed in an uprising, Eleanor retires to the village of Port Mabyn, where she runs a used goods shop which benefits her former employer. Eleanor’s niece, Detective Sergeant Megan Pencarrow, is the first woman to attain such a high rank in the Cornwall police force. As such, she faces sexism and harassment from her male colleagues.
In this latest entry in the series, Sir Edward Bellowe, a diplomat Eleanor has known for a long time, invites her to a secret conference at Tintagel Castle, a place associated with King Arthur. The guests are two students from warring factions in Ian Smith’s Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe). Sir Edward hopes to negotiate peace between them. But he’s worried about spies at the conference, so he asks Megan and her former boyfriend, Ken Faraday of Scotland Yard, to provide security for the conference. Megan is called off a case where she was sent to search for a missing lawyer, an acquaintance of Eleanor’s. The lawyer turns up at a bed-and-breakfast near Tintagel, where artist Nick Gresham, Eleanor’s neighbor and Megan’s not-quite-boyfriend, is staying. No one knows why the lawyer won’t tell anyone where he is.
The conference does not go well, since the two students hate each other for personal, as well as political, reasons. Then two suspicious characters show up at Tintagel, but they seem to Megan to be a con man and a thug, not spies. But she watches them all the same. Then the landlady at the bed-and-breakfast is murdered, and the two criminals kidnap Nick and the lawyer. An exciting chase through the moors ensues, as Megan, with plenty of help from Eleanor and her dog Teazle, hunts for the criminals and tries to rescue the two victims. Seeing Nick in danger forces her to admit her growing feelings for him.
This series is an excellent modern-day version of the classic English village mystery. The 1970s setting gives the series more of a modern feel than the works of Agatha Christie, but not too much, since, of course, there are no computers or cell phones. Eleanor is a formidable protagonist, who reminds me very much of Miss Marple, even though she’s often absent-minded and stumbles on clues, while Megan does most of the actual detecting. And the little dog, Teazle, is delightful. I highly recommend the series to fans of Agatha Christie and her contemporaries.
Buried in the Country is available from the Browsing Collection at the Shapiro Undergraduate Library.