No pirates. And it’s not in Penzance. But it’s nearby: It’s Death in Cornwall.

What, I wonder, draws me to the Celtic languages and Celtic lands, when I’ve never even been there and speak none of those languages? Irish, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish…all are missing from my language repertoire. And I’ve never visited Ireland or the Isle of Man or Scotland or Wales or Cornwall. And yet it’s more than just The Pirates of Penzance that draws me there.

G.M. Malliet’s Death in Cornwallpart of her St. Just series—is probably the fourth or fifth novel I’ve read that takes place in Cornwall. Why so many? The reasons are unclear to me, but it certainly lends itself to geographical, linguistic, and cultural descriptions that readily create a sense of place.

What else can I say about this cozy (for it’s definitely a cozy even though I enjoyed it a lot)? It has a sense of humor without being silly. It has real characters. It has a well-developed plot. It’s both traditional and up-to-date, with a dying fishing industry, an already-dead mining industry, lingering effects of Covid, a touch of Wicca, convincing small-town politics, and gentrification from Londoners buying second homes. There’s enough Cornish to tease us, but not enough.

I have to put Cornwall and Wales on my bucket list for traveling. And at least one Celtic language on my bucket list for learning. So stay tuned. In the meantime, read this novel.

Categories: Books, Linguistics, Travel