Friday, December 28, 2012

"The Valley of the Shadow"

Carola Dunn is the author of twenty Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, set in England in the 1920s, three Cornish mysteries, and over 30 Regencies.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Valley of the Shadow, the third Cornish mystery, and reported the following:
Cornwall, around 1970: DS Megan Pencarrow, off-duty, has rescued a young man of Asian Indian appearance from near drowning. He's unconscious and unidentified, and the area where he was found is not the sort of place anyone would choose to go for a swim. His head is bruised.

In short, he's a mystery. Megan's unsympathetic boss, DI Scumble, sends her with the victim in the ambulance to the local hospital. She's to stick by his side until relieved, in case he comes round and says something helpful or revealing.
Gobbling down the biscuits, not usually one of her favourites, she realized she had had nothing to eat since lunch, and she was ravenous. Horlicks for "night starvation," said the advert. She should have asked for some, or a cup of Bovril.

Did the small hospital have a canteen? It must have a kitchen, to feed the patients...

She dragged her mind away from food to check her own personal patient. He seemed unchanged. She couldn't tell whether the faint wheeze was from his lungs or the machinery. Surely someone, somewhere, was worrying about him, wondering where he'd got to. Someone would report him missing. His identity would soon be discovered without her sitting here all night, starving and trying desperately not to fall asleep.

The girl—her name was Mitzi: "Mary, really, but everyone calls me Mitzi, except Sister"—came to fetch the cup and saucer. She was perfectly willing to ask Sister's permission to go in search of a sandwich for Megan. While she was gone, the Night Sister herself came in to take the patient's pulse and temperature, and to check the IV and respirator.

"How is he doing?" Megan ventured to enquire.

Sister looked at her consideringly. "I suppose it's all right to discuss his condition with you, Sergeant. His pulse is much stronger. Temperature nearly normal. Breathing still not good. I can't tell whether he has any colour in his cheeks."

"He looks to me a bit less sallow than when we pulled him out. But I don't know what his normal complexion is."

"That's the trouble with all these dark-skinned people coming into the country. Though I suppose in the big cities, where there are more of them, they learn to judge."

"In London, there are quite a few Indian doctors, and West Indian girls often go into nursing."
This passage reveals the theme of the book. Larger numbers of brown-skinned immigrants are entering Britain than ever before, and many people are not happy about it. Radical racist Enoch Powell has made a speech prophesying that rivers of blood will run in the streets if the inflow is not stopped.

The British Government changes the rules so that holding a British passport does not guarantee right of residence. Thousands of Asians are being kicked out of newly independent Kenya and Uganda, with nowhere to go, no country willing to admit them.

Briefly semi-conscious, the boy tells Megan his family is stuck in a cave, and his mother is dying.

Cornwall has been a centre of smuggling for centuries. What more likely than that someone would get the idea of smuggling a refugee family into the county via the cliffs and caves and hidden coves?

Megan's aunt, Eleanor Trewynn, has met a smuggler or two on her rounds of the villages collecting donations for her charity shop. Perhaps one of them is involved, or can at least suggest where the lifeboats should start looking. Eleanor refuses to believe she can be in any danger from people who have so kindly supported her fund-raising efforts...
Learn more about the book and author at Carola Dunn's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Carola Dunn and Trillian.

The Page 69 Test: Manna from Hades (the 1st Cornish Mystery).

The Page 69 Test: A Colourful Death (the 2d Cornish Mystery).

--Marshal Zeringue