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By Graham Thomas

Ballantine Publishing Group, 1998
ISBN 0-8041-1656-3

Reviewed by S. E. Warwick

Cozy is as cozy does. In Malice in Cornwall, the third in Thomas’ Malice series, the terms mac, shepherd’s pie, and hoovering appear in the opening pages of the first chapter. Not to worry, Thomas does not get bogged down in a morass of chintz and sherry at the vicarage, but weaves together threads that include an old unsolved murder, mysterious seaside apparitions, tidal riddles, and characters that are just quaint enough to be real into a satisfying tapestry.

Chief Superintendent Erskine Powell is deftly painted as a real person. He has strengths, weaknesses, and secrets. Detective-Sergeant William Black, Powell’s right hand man has fewer dimensions but is also real enough that you feel sure his name is on the Scotland Yard pension roll.

Cornwall becomes a part of the action. These events could not have occurred anywhere else. The places are so specific that we assume they are real, a lynchpin for good fiction. The pages of Malice in Cornwall contain tantalizing factoids about subjects ranging from Cornish history to the chemical properties of curry tucked in among the clues and red herrings.

If you need a break from your daily routine, a visit to the Cornwall that Graham Thomas chronicles may be just what you need.

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