A COLOURFUL DEATH is the second in my Cornish Mystery series. Cornwall is a peninsula bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the northwest. The coast is indented with rocky, cliff-bound coves providing harbours over the centuries for fishermen and smugglers alike. Much of the centre consists of rugged Bodmin Moor, but the moors are surrounded by fertile farmland with a milder climate than most of Britain.
|Large print edition|
One such painter, Nick Gresham, is next-door neighbour to my protagonist, Eleanor Trewynn, a widow in her 60s. Thanks to an introduction from Eleanor, Nick succeeds in placing a couple of paintings in a London art gallery. He returns triumphant from London only to find the pictures in his shop have been slashed to ribbons.
|US edition, hardcover and paperback|
Sure that he knows who the culprit is--a jealous fellow-painter--Nick sets out to confront him. Eleanor, worried about what he might do, tags along, with her Westie, Teazle, in tow.
"There it is." Nick pointed to a narrow shop front opposite the Gold Bezant Inn.
It took Eleanor a moment to decipher the sign above the shop window, as it was written in Old English script. King Arthur's Gallery, it said.
"King Arthur? Shouldn't that be in Tintagel?"
"He couldn't find a suitable place in Tintagel, but he's obsessed with King Arthur. Come and look."
In the window was a display of three paintings. At first glance, they seemed to Eleanor to be quite pretty but rather depressing. She could understand why holiday-makers didn't choose to buy pictures of slender mediaeval maidens with flowing hair and tragic mouths drooping over dead or dying knights, however meticulously portrayed. She wouldn't want one on her wall, breathing gloom every time she looked at it. They were flamboyantly signed: Geoffroie Monmouth.
But she didn't have time to study them. Nick had pressed the electric bell button. No one came. Heedless of the CLOSED sign, he pushed the door. Opening, it set off a jangle, just like his own shop door. The fact that it was not locked suggested to Eleanor that the artist was still within, probably in the throes of producing another grim memento mori. She tied Teazle's string to an ancient, worn boot-scraper to one side of the door and hurried after Nick.
The blind at the rear of the display window was pulled down, so the interior of the shop was dim. Facing the door, a life-size and remarkably lifelike King Arthur stood, barring the way. Grey-bearded, he wore a crown encircling his helmet, and his visible arm and his legs were clad in gleaming armour, the rest covered by a crimson tabard embroidered with flowers. In his right hand he wielded Excalibur. His other arm was hidden by a blue shield with a device of three crowns. Exquisitely detailed flowers surrounded his mailed feet.
Though Eleanor was sure she had never seen the picture before, it was vaguely familiar.
The jangle failed to bring any response. Nick looked around. "Damn," he swore under his breath. "If he's not in the back room, I'll have to trek up to his bungalow."
"Not a bungalow, surely! He ought to live in an ancient cottage overgrown with rambling roses, if he can't manage a crumbling castle."
"A 1950s bungalow," Nick said firmly, striding round behind King Arthur. "And any interest he has in flowers he devotes to his painting, not his garden."
Reluctantly Eleanor followed. He flung open a door in the back wall and stepped through into a room lit by a window facing north, high in the far wall.
"Ye gods! Eleanor, don't come in!"
But Eleanor was already on the threshold. She saw a figure sprawled face down on the bare boards. His beige smock was drenched with crimson, and a crimson pool had spread across the floor around him.
Someone pushed past her and cried in an anguished voice, "My God, Nick, what have you done? You've stabbed him!"
So Nick is arrested, and it's up to Eleanor to find out who really killed Geoffrey Monmouth. She soon finds out there are many people who would have liked to...
Seattle Mystery Bookshop
|Tintagel--Old Post Office|
|Padstow--scene of the crime|
A shop in Port Isaac. Eleanor and Nick live in a fictional village based on Port Isaac and Boscastle, farther up the North Coast.
The popular TV series Doc Martin is set in Port Isaac.