Hello and welcome to ‘Map Monday’. This was inspired by the current pandemic and lockdowns and the inability to travel. I will share one book each week with you that is set somewhere different to where I live. I’ll chat a bit about the book and throw some interesting facts out there about the place. I hope you enjoy travelling through books with me…
This week I’ve picked ‘The Dead of Winter’ by Nicola Upson…which is set very close to me but such a lovely location that many of you might never have heard of – St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall.
December 1938, and storm clouds hover once again over Europe. Josephine Tey and Archie Penrose gather with friends for a Cornish Christmas, but two strange and brutal deaths on St Michael’s Mount – and the unexpected arrival of a world famous film star, in need of sanctuary – interrupt the festivities. Cut off by the sea and a relentless blizzard, the hunt for a murderer begins.
Pivoting on a real moment in history, the ninth novel in the ‘Josephine Tey’ series draws on all the much-loved conventions of the Golden Age Christmas mystery, whilst giving them a thrilling contemporary twist.
Facts about Cornwall and St Michael’s Mount:
- St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island in ‘Mounts Bay’, Cornwall
- In 1954, Francis St Aubyn, 3rd Lord St Levan, gave a large part of the island and a significant endowment fund for its upkeep to the National Trust
- The St Aubyn family retain a 999 year lease to live in the castle
- In 2003, James and Mary St Aubyn moved to the castle with their four children. They, in their turn, became Lord and Lady St Levan in 2013 and still live on the island today
- In excess of 300,000 people visit every year
- The north side of the island is also home to around 30 people who live in cottages overlooking a harbour of small boats – with at least one person from each household working on the island in the gardens, the house or on the water
- The only way to access the island on foot is via the causeway, but when the tide is high the island’s residents must take boats. St Levan keeps a book of tide timings by his bed so he can prepare for the coming days and weeks
- St Michael’s Mount was instrumental in warning against The invasion of The Spanish Armada (a major event in English History; an attempt to overthrow the protestant Queen Elizabeth I from the throne). It was where the ships were first sighted and the alarm raised (via Beacons).
- Part of the island was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1995 for its geology
- There is evidence of people living in the area during the Neolithic (from circa 4000 to 2500 BC years). The key discovery was of a leaf-shaped flint arrowhead, which was found within a shallow pit on the lower eastern slope, now part of the modern gardens
- During the 6th century, before a castle was built, according to legend, the island St. Michael’s Mount sits upon was once home to an 18-foot giant named Cormoran, who lived in a cave with his ill-gotten treasures obtained by terrorizing local towns and villages. That is, until a young farmer’s son named Jack took on this gigantic menace, who had an appetite for cattle and children, and killed him by trapping him in a concealed pit, bringing down his axe upon his head. When he returned home, the elders in the village gave him a hero’s welcome, and henceforth, called him “Jack the Giant Killer”.