Friday, 9 March 2018

This Cornish Pasty Was Rather Disappointing

I found another Nicola Upson in the library, the second in her Josephine Tey series.
Initially it looked to be very promising. Ms Upson and her partner had a holiday in Cornwall and fell in love with the county. I can understand that, it is a beautiful place, and by all accounts, the recent Poldark series on TV did wonders for the tourist trade.
As with the other NU/JT books, the plot hangs on genuine historical facts and real locations.
It is 1935, Ms Tey's [fictional] Detective Chum, Archie Penrose, is going back to his roots, the Penrose Estate.
This is a real place, now owned by the National Trust. There is a large house, stunning scenery, and Cornwall's largest natural lake, Loe Bar.You may have seen these if you watched Poldark, as much was filmed there.
Loe Bar is really close to the sea - the curved lake separated by a narrow strip of land from the ocean.
The book begins with a death at the lake. Archie arrives for the funeral, closely followed by Josephine. She has come to stay, and work on her novel A Shilling for Candles 
The locals were due to perform a play at the nearby Minack Theatre - an amazing open air venue, cut into the side of the cliff. Archie agrees to takes the place of the dead guy, and play his part, as 'the show must go on' even despite the death.
During the play, "The Jackdaw of Rheims" someone else dies- falling rather spectacularly off the cliff in his jackdaw costume. 
Passing reference is made to Daphne Du Maurier, who was busy just up the road in 1935, writing Jamaica Inn.
So here we are, with genuine locations, and genuine people - and Upson throws in a couple of deaths for Penrose and Tey to solve.
It has taken me well over a week to read this- every time I picked it up, I had to flick back through the previous chapter to remind myself of the convoluted plot.
It was like an overfilled Cornish Pasty, too much to digest, and a bizarre mixture of flavours.
On this small estate [everybody seems to work for Archie's Uncle William] there is much history being swept under the carpet- orphans, tragic deaths, deaths in childbirth, adopted children, violent husbands, downtrodden wives, gay relationships, incestuous relationships, dubious clergy...and the weirdest collection of names. "Lettice spoke to Snipe about supper"... "Morwenna went to visit Morweth" I really could not follow the storyline. And by the end, I wasn't sure that I cared! 
Sorry - this one gets just  * and that is only because of the glorious locations described! I'm giving up on this series, I think!


  1. I’ve been to Loe Bar a number of times whilst visiting my brother and holidaying in Cornwall. The lovely Porthleven is nearby. A number of lives have been lost in Loe Bar and locally is known to be dangerous for swimmers. I think it’s because of unexpected waves and strong currents.

  2. Sounds a bit over-egged, if you know what I mean. If ever you get down here, you must try to go to the Minack theatre, it is quite amazing.

  3. I'd love to visit Minack - and Porthleven and Loe sound beautiful too. Thank you both for your comments. Now I am living in Dorset, Cornwall feels a bit more 'manageable' - although bizarrely it is only slightly closer in terms of distance and time than a trip to Cornerstones in East Anglia!!

  4. I read the first one and then gave up straight away. Bit disappointing because I thought it would be right up my street.


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!