C. T. Collier grew up in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York and today lives on one of the prettiest of the lakes in a town similar to her fictional setting, Tompkins Falls. Her career in high tech and higher education afforded many opportunities to study the intrigue featured in her mystery series, The Penningtons Investigate. Learn more about C.T. and her books at her website.
Because my new mystery series, The Penningtons Investigate, features a luxury-loving Brit, Kyle Pennington, who owns an estate on the north coast of Cornwall, I made a trip to Cornwall and the south west of England before I started writing the series. I found plenty of romantic places to walk and dine and enjoy a picnic, along with the perfect venue and menu for Kyle’s wedding.
However, my time in Cornwall also convinced me that Kyle would not leave his homeland for any length of time, no matter whom he married. How ironic that he fell in love with a penny-pinching college professor, Lyssa, who lived in a sweet little frame house in a tree-lined neighborhood in Tompkins Falls, NY. Kyle’s only consolation is she’s on a three-year contract, not a tenure track. Just enough time for them to solve six tricky mysteries!
Knowing more about the seasons, the gardens, the villages, the pubs, and the coastal paths of Cornwall sensitized me to the difficulties Kyle might have with the rhythms and seasonal changes during his time in the Finger Lakes and helped me better understand how he might respond to a storm or a local custom or a turn of phrase.
For example, the long transition from winter to spring in the Finger Lakes is mainly gray, punctuated with the occasional sighting of a crocus or a robin. In contrast, March and April in Cornwall are bursting with camellias and rhododendrons, and gardens are readying their grounds for an influx of visitors.
Cornish pubs are markedly different from American pubs. In Cornwall’s pubs, the locals bring the whole family, dogs included, for a meal. The fare may be a huge plate of fresh-caught fish, potato, and vegetable. On the weekend afternoons, a local band may entertain patrons with no cover charge and no requirement that children be kept under close supervision. Kids entertain themselves outdoors while adults sip a pint and sing along.
On a fine weekend in Cornwall, walking is popular and public paths are abundant along the rocky coast, beside rivers, through woods filled with wildlife and flora, and from town to town, or pub to pub.
One area that poses less difficulty for Kyle is his emotional response to the little house Lyssa loves, where they make their home in the Finger Lakes, for the south west of England has no shortage of charming small homes, each with its own quirks and workarounds.
As an author with a protagonist from away, travel to the character’s homeland allowed me to add dimension through emotional response, visual awareness, and regional experiences. Although writing a more authentic protagonist required travel to Kyle’s Cornish stomping grounds, it was no hardship. I fell in love with Cornwall and the south west of England, and it’s just a matter of time before I visit again.
The Penningtons Investigate, Book One
It’s Monday of spring break when Professor Lyssa Pennington’s backyard garden project unearths a loaded revolver. With no record of violence at their address and no related cold case, the Tompkins Falls police have no interest. But the Penningtons and a friend with the State Police believe there’s a body somewhere. Whose? Where? And who pulled the trigger?
The Penningtons’ canvass of their quiet neighborhood turns up disturbing secrets about the family that lived in their house for decades and another ill-fated family a few doors away. Lyssa follows the money story and finds twenty million dollars, a neighbor who’s not what he seems, and a long-buried rivalry. Kyle goes after homicide data in six states and finds a body. Their next surprise is a murderer who will go to any length to conceal the crime.