A cryptic message spurs Eleanor, Megan, and Nick Gresham on a frantic search for a refugee's missing family, in The Valley of the Shadow, a Cornish Mystery from Carola Dunn.
While out on a walk, Eleanor Trewynn, her niece Megan, and her neighbor Nick spot a young, half-drowned Indian man floating in the water. Delirious and concussed, he utters a cryptic message about his family being trapped in a cave and his mother dying. The young man, unconscious and unable to help, is whisked away to a hospital while a desperate effort is mounted find the missing family in time.
The local police inspector presumes that they are refugees from East Africa, abandoned by the smugglers who brought them into England, so while the Cornwall countryside is being scoured for the family, Eleanor herself descends into a dangerous den of smugglers in a desperate search to find the man responsible while there is still time.
The wider world comes to the Cornish village of Port Mabyn in Dunn's meandering third mystery featuring doughty widow Eleanor Trewynn (after 2010's A Colourful Death). While out walking by the ocean with her dog, Teazle; her detective sergeant niece, Megan Pencarrow; and neighbor Nick Gresham, Eleanor spots a drowning Indian man, whom Megan saves. In the absence of any identifying documents on the man, who lapses into unconsciousness, Megan's boss, Detective Inspector Scrumble, suspects that he's an East African trying to illegally enter the country after learning of the end of Britain's open-door policy for former colonials. There may be other refugees, moreover, in distress along Cornwall's rugged shores. Dunn lives up to her reputation for cozies that take on serious stuff, allowing her ragtag bunch of investigators to unearth a story with roots deep in international politics, but would have kept her tale livelier with tighter plotting.