Carmarthen seems a very pleasant town, with its attractive shops and plentiful restaurants and coffee shops but underneath an alternative Carmarthen exists.Carmarthen Intelligence with their friends in Swansea, the WBI Welsh Bureau of Investigation) ensure that Carmarthen and indeed Wales remain free from their enemies. Indeed this is not just an alternative Carmarthen but an alternative Wales and even Britain. It is now 43 years after the Battle for Wales and the country now is governed by its Senate, the Cymanfa, and the Welsh language is now enjoying something of a renaissance.... Climate change also seems to have moved on,what with green tea plantations in Beddgelert, Welsh vineyards and olives from the Teifi valley......Carmarthen also enjoys a secret Underground train......it was designed by Sir Clough Williams Ellis and as one might expect is somewhat Italianate. It reaches Swansea in 20 minutes - Arriva Trains Wales had better watch out!
Spies tend to live in a world of casinos, expensive 10 star hotels that nobody can afford and super-posh and rich resorts in the French Riviera.So how do welcoming but unpretentious country inns,attractive and welcoming market towns grab you?
The story involves a spy, Wyndham,who is sent on a top secret and highly dangerous mission to the Tywi valley where there have been some dark doings and is based in Myddfai where Betti Williams makes the best breakfast this side of Llangollen.His allies include the farmer Llew Jones, the vicar's daughter who watches over the village by means of a camera obscura in the church tower.Wyndham is aided and abetted by friends who were former team-mates in the rugby team, and the vicarage cat Hannibal.But why does Myddfai have a sheriff, what is Mr.Brynaman really up to.......is even the vicar all that he seems.....? There is a twist at the end - to me somewhat unexpected - as the novel reaches its startling climax
Gaynor Madoc Leonard certainly brings out the cadences of West Wales in the book very well without it becoming stereotypical, but I'm not sure how well it would travel outside Wales.I'm thinking of a few of the plays on words for instance which perhaps the outsider wouldn't necessarily get.However I think that people outside Wales would enjoy it - it's not badly written and as someone who knows Carmarthen fairly well I think she describes the area very well. It's not as dark as the Malcolm Pryce books set in Aberystwyth - this seems to me to resemble Agatha Christie more. If you feel like exploring the area then you might enjoy Beloved Tywi: A Visual Journey
and if you want to know more about the towns in the area you could do worse than try Market Towns Wales
I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait for future novels which I understand are in the pipeline........