You might just have noticed that I am totally in love with Poldark. It was the original TV series with the wonderful Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees that inspired my passion for Cornwall. So when I began writing fiction about five years ago, there was no question of where my novels would be set. It had to be beautiful Cornwall.
The mine scenes in the new Poldark series are set around the Botallack area. If you go there on your own on a bleak Cornish day, when the wind howls eerily through the gorse, and watchful crows follow your every move, it’s easy to imagine the tappings of miners, long since gone, echoing along the labyrinth of the shafts and tunnels beneath your feet.
As I stood there, the wind in my hair, the sounds in my head, I knew this was where I would set my first novel. The main character would have a Cornish name, even though she was Scottish. And she would give up a promising career in tabloid journalism in Glasgow to edit a magazine in Truro. She would meet and become involved with a handsome Cornish police officer – and she would unwittingly become involved in the crimes he investigated.
I called the first book in my Cornish Crime Series, A Cornish Revenge. And just to wet your interest, here’s an excerpt:
Loveday Ross frowned at the glistening ribbon of wet road twisting ahead and tried to work out what was wrong with Lawrence.
The previous evening’s exhibition in St Ives had been a triumph. At least five of his paintings had sold, which was wonderful because he’d made a point of inviting the county’s most knowledgeable and discerning art critics and buyers. So why had he seemed so distracted?
She sighed, forcing her concentration back to the morning’s picture shoot. Loveday was on her way to the old tin mine workings at Borlase, near Lands End. It was a bizarre place to hold an art class, particularly on a damp, grey Saturday in September. Images of pretty coves and villages, old harbours and standing stones, flitted through her mind. Any of these would have made a better picture spread for the magazine than the bleak landscape of brick chimney stacks and mine relics, but she trusted Lawrence. He knew what he was doing.
As she turned into the parking area, she glanced down at her green canvas satchel and went through a mental checklist – notebook, pens, digital recorder, camera. Her mobile phone was in her pocket. She got out, striding across the rough terrain, forcing the worry about her friend temporarily from her thoughts as she raised her camera and zoomed in on the old engine houses that clung precariously to the cliff-edge. They were an iconic Cornish image and she would be remiss not to include them in the article.
It had stopped raining, but the sea still looked hostile under the iron-grey sky. In spring and early summer these cliffs would be alive with nesting seabirds, and Loveday had been told that the secret coves and caves far below were favourite basking sites for Atlantic grey seals. But on this damp autumn morning, the kind her Scottish father would have described as ‘dreight’, it all looked very different.
She picked her way along the rough track, stopping to watch the black crows, or were they ravens? She could never tell which was which. Her neck cricked as she gazed up, smiling as they squabbled for the best vantage points on the high brick stack.
The bleakness of the place made her shudder and she wondered again why Lawrence had chosen it. The wind whipped long strands of dark hair across her eyes and she pushed them back, hooking them behind her ear. She stopped to listen. It was easy to imagine the tappings of miners, long since gone, echoing along the labyrinth of the shafts and tunnels beneath her feet.
She’d been watching for the old Land Rover and looked up when she saw it bouncing along the rough track. It was being followed by another vehicle she didn’t recognise. Lawrence waved as he drove past, and his two passengers gave friendly nods as the little convoy reached the parking area and pulled alongside Loveday’s car.
They all scrambled out, laden with an assortment of bags, painting easels and sketchpads. Released from the captivity of the vehicle, Flossie, whose one brown and one blue eye endeared her to everyone, bounded across the grass to lavish a frantic welcome on Loveday. She laughed, ruffling the dog’s neck and feeling a handful of silky fur between her fingers. ‘Oh, I know Flossie…And I love you too,’ she said, screwing up her face to receive the slap of a wet pink tongue.
‘Sorry, Loveday,’ Lawrence grimaced, striding towards her, ‘I’ll get around to training her, one day.’
His jeans were threadbare about the knees and he wore his usual shabby safari-style jacket over what appeared to be a clean blue checked shirt. But it was a very different image from the previous evening when he’d made a special effort to dress smartly for his exhibition. He’d been the centre of attention then, with praise lavished on him from all directions. But Loveday sensed something was not right. She’d known Lawrence Kemp for a year and although they were not romantically involved, they were good friends, hence the invitation to be his special guest at the event.
She studied him as he turned to introduce his little art group, and decided he looked tired.
His eyes narrowed against the sharp wind. ‘Meet Jacob and Netta Vincent, from Manchester.’ he said.
Loveday held out her hand and the man, short and stocky with a complexion the colour of ripe rhubarb, grasped it in a pumping action. ‘You’ll be the journalist lady. Just you say where you would like to photograph us.’ He nodded across to Netta. ‘You’ll find the wife and I will be very accommodating.’
Loveday shot Lawrence a glance, but managed to keep a straight face. His wife coloured and offered her hand before scowling at her husband.
The younger of the two women who had driven up in the second car came forward. ‘I’m Abbie Grainger,’ she said. ‘And this is my friend, Kit Armitage.’
They all shook hands, and as Lawrence took his students aside for a briefing, Loveday moved away to take some casual shots. She studied the group from a distance. It was difficult to imagine the two women as close friends. They seemed like complete opposites. Abbie was tall, with long black hair and a tan that Loveday suspected had come from a bottle. She wore an expensive grey fleece over white tee shirt and jeans.
Kit’s bright pink anorak looked too flimsy to keep the chill of the wild Cornish cliffs at bay. Her pale hair had been scraped back into a ponytail that pulled her skin so tightly it gave her a startled expression. She lacked her companion’s robust, healthy appearance.
The group had circled around Lawrence, listening to his instructions for the morning’s painting session, when his head suddenly jerked up. ‘Did you hear that?’ Everybody stopped talking and strained to listen.
‘It’s only the wind,’ Abbie Grainger said.
‘No, there’s something else.’ Lawrence insisted.
Loveday looked round for Flossie. A few minutes ago the dog had been nosing around the bumps and bushes, her feathery plume of a tail waving excitedly when she’d sniffed out something that might be a rabbit burrow.
Then the sound came again, and this time they all heard it…a definite whine.
Lawrence cursed. ‘It’s Flossie. She’s got herself stuck somewhere.’
Jacob clicked his tongue, eager to get on with the business of painting. ‘I thought she was a sheep dog. Aren’t they supposed to be smart?’
His remark earned him a poke in the ribs from his wife.
‘I’m sorry folks. I’ll have to look for her,’ Lawrence said, taking off in the direction of the whine.
‘I’m coming with you,’ Loveday shouted, running to keep up with his long stride. They followed the winding path down to the cliff edge. The cliffs here were high and Loveday’s fingers were crossed that Flossie hadn’t gone over and landed on some inaccessible ledge. Then there were the mineshafts…if she had tumbled down one of these then any rescue might be out of the question.
But neither of these things had happened to Flossie. They found her crouched by the cliff edge, whimpering. Lawrence scampered over a rocky outcrop to reach her and as he bent to pick her up, the cove below came into view. He pulled back, his face ashen.
‘Stay back, Loveday!’
His hand went out to stop her going to the edge, but it was too late. She was already there and peering down. Someone was on the beach, the white body rigid and motionless. He was lying at a curious angle, arms and legs stretched out in different directions. Then she froze, the bile rising in her throat, as she realised the man she was staring down at was dead!
Hardly aware of what she was doing, her hand sought out the camera and she began clicking.
‘Oh my God,’ the voice behind them cried, and they turned to see that the others had followed. Netta’s hand was covering her mouth. ‘It’s a body, isn’t it?…There’s a dead body down there.’
Loveday raised her arm, warning the woman not to advance further. No one noticed that Kit Armitage, who had been standing behind Netta, had begun to sway until Loveday let out a warning shout. But it was too late to save her. They all heard the thud as she fell and they rushed forward to help.
Lawrence and Jacob managed to get her to her feet and supported her between them as they walked her back to Abbie’s car. Loveday hurried after them, punching triple nines into her mobile phone as she went. All around her voices were raised in confusion. When she got a response she shouted over the mêlée. ‘Police please! We need the police!’
* A Cornish Revenge is available for download here.