Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan

There's nothing I enjoy more than discovering a new mystery author. Elizabeth J. Duncan's debut, The Cold Light of Mourning, will be welcomed by all of us who appreciate an old-fashioned traditional mystery. In fact, it's the winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. Very satisfying winner!

Penny Brannigan is the town manicurist in the charming North Wales town of Llanelen. She moved there from Canada almost twenty-five years earlier, and found friends, including Emma Teasdale, who taught school in the town for years. The two women were close friends, and even after Emma's death, Penny has one more gift to give her friend. It's the time she spends with her friend that enables her to help the police when trouble occurs in Llanelen.

None of the townspeople were very happy with Meg Wynne Thompson, the prospective bride of Emyr Gruffydd, son of the town's wealthiest landowner. Penny's as curious as everyone else, but she has the chance to do the bride's nails the morning of her wedding. So, when the bride fails to show for her hair appointment, and then her own wedding, Penny's the last one known to have seen her. The time they spent together in Penny's salon becomes crucial to the police investigation, led by Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies and Detective Sergeant Bethan Morgan.

As a manicurist, Penny is an astute observer of human nature, and human hands. She's an excellent police witness, one the police, and many readers will appreciate. My gosh! Here's a witness who actually calls the police when she remembers something or has a hunch. It's a pleasure to read about such a character. In fact, when a new friend suggests they investigate, Penny pokes fun at that cliché. Penny responded with, "What, you mean like those dotty middle-aged amateur lady sleuths that you see in books? Tramping all over the evidence, touching things they shouldn't, putting themselves in harm's way, and just generally annoying the police?"

The Cold Light of Mourning is a breath of fresh air, with its female sleuth who shows some intelligence in her dealing with the police. It's a mystery with an interesting collection of characters, including the local minister and his wife, and the investigating police officers. There's even a touch of romance in this story. And, although it becomes obvious who the villain is, there are surprises throughout the book, including the whereabouts of the missing woman.

Duncan's website says, "The Cold Light of Mourning has won both the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant for unpublished writers and the St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic award for best first novel. Elizabeth is the first person to win both awards and the first Canadian to win either award." Let's hope she'll bring Penny Brannigan, and us, back to Llanelen, North Wales, soon.

Elizabeth J. Duncan's website is www.elizabethjduncan.com

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The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan. St. Martin's Press, ©2009. ISBN 9780312558536 (hardcover), 288p.


Diane said...

This mystery sounds like one I'd enjoy. Thanks for the post.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Diane. As I said, it's a very satisfying traditional mystery.

Belle said...

This sounds like the start of a great cozy. I find the best cozies are the ones that have really interesting side characters as well as an interesting sleuth.

Lesa said...


I just sent Elizabeth a set of interview questions. Hopefully, I'll get her answers back and run the interview next week. I asked her to tell us if there's another book coming. Keep watching for the interview! Next Tuesday at the earliest.