Manna from Hades - Carola Dunn A comfortable, slightly unusual mystery set in the 1960s in Cornwall, but I like Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple series better.
The story starts with the protagonist Eleanor, a senior in a small seaside village, discovering a corpse in her charity shop. Or rather it starts even before, when she found a briefcase full of jewelry in her car, after she came home from collecting donations for her shop. And she doesn’t know who donated the mysterious briefcase.
This is the first mystery I’ve ever read with a witness as the protagonist. And an inept witness: she doesn’t remember so many details. She forgets to lock her doors. She didn’t remember to tell the investigators about the jewelry until a couple days after her discovery of the corpse. She is a kind, absent-minded woman, but her character is vague, blurring around the edges: for the lead investigator as well as for the readers. Not the best choice of a protagonist, in my opinion.
The lead investigator DI Scumble, on the other hand, is very well defined, the most colorful among the characters of the novel, although his role is less than secondary. The author tries to picture him as a rude, uncouth boor, but he comes out as competent policeman, perhaps a bit sarcastic and definitely overworked.
The exchanges between Scumble and Eleanor, as well as many other dialogs in the book are worth mentioning. As always, Dunn’s language sparkles. Not as distinctive as her vernacular for the Daisy Dalrymple books, it’s nonetheless marvelously inventive and funny.
For example, after one of his infuriatingly uninformative interviews with his dreamy witness Eleanor, Scumble sighs. “His sigh was deep enough to have originated in the Antipodes.”
Another quote – a snatch of a dialog – made me laugh out loud. In it, one of Scumble’s associates is questioning Eleanor’s friend Nick.
“… you don’t think I had anything to do with this murder, do you? I’m a pacifist.” [Nick said]
“Don’t tell the inspector. He was hit over the head with a nuclear disarmament sign by an Aldermaston marcher.”
“Strewth, you’re having me on!”
“It’s a fact….”

Overall, a nice cozy read.