Sharing Books and Authors, with an emphasis on Mysteries.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
A Brush with Death by Elizabeth J. Duncan
Traditional mystery fans will be happy to return to Wales in Elizabeth J. Duncan's second mystery, A Brush with Death. She won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition with her debut, The Cold Light of Mourning. Once more, Duncan proves there may be deep secrets behind austere lives.
When Penny Brannigan first moved to Llanelen from Canada decades earlier, the manicurist found a friend in a local schoolteacher, Emma Teasdale. When Emma died, she left her small house to Penny, along with a sizable inheritance. Penny could have immediately renovated the house, but she needed to slowly remove outdated objects, while keeping traces of her beloved friend. It didn't take long to uncover a secret that Emma never revealed.
Over thirty years earlier, at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Wales, Emma had loved an artist, Alys Jones. And, that love ended in tragedy when Alys was killed by a hit-and-run driver. But, Penny, with her nose for trouble, wants to investigate the cold case, wondering if the death was actually an accident. While some friends are willing to help, the brunt of the case falls on Penny because she's the one determined to discover the truth.
Penny's business partner, though, finds her determination getting in the way of their budding business, a salon, with plans for a new building, and a spa. As work on their newly purchased property proceeds, there is even an unexpected discovery there. Could it somehow link with the cold case of Alys Jones' death?
Life in Elizabeth Duncan's small Welsh town is reminiscent of Miss Read's English villages, with the addition of a murder. Even then, it's a thirty-year-old case. But, Miss Read's fans will appreciate the kind townspeople, the ones with their idiosyncrasies, the misunderstanding between Penny and Detective Inspector Gareth Davies. Duncan's mystery is still a gentle story, although the difference in acceptance in lifestyle, and how society changes in thirty years, is an underlying theme.
Penny Brannigan is a kind woman, an amateur sleuth, an artist. As a friend, she cares about what happened to her friend, when she lost her lover. And, Elizabeth J. Duncan beautifully paints a picture of a tragic loss of life and its impact over the years on the family and friends of the victim, who are victims themselves. She illustrates for all of us the impact of A Brush with Death.