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  Penny could have immediately renovated the house, but she needed to slowly remove outdated objects, while keeping traces of her beloved friend.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.

Elizabeth J. Duncan's website is

A Brush with Death by Elizabeth J. Duncan.  Minotaur Books, ©2010. ISBN 9780312622824 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a review copy, in hopes I would review the book.


bermudaonion said...

Your review is lovely. The book sounds good too!

Lesa said...

Thank you, kathy. I'm off today, slept in (to a whole 6:15 for me), and didn't realize the blog entry didn't automatically publish at 3 a.m. as it usually does. That will teach me to sleep in!

kathy d. said...

The review is very good. This book is now on my TBR list.

Am wondering, Lesa, if you are going to write a top 10 summer reads list, or top 5 and post it here.

I'm finding these on the international mystery websites and found that Jen had made such a list (hers isn't limited to this summer) and would like to see if you had a current "top" list.

Lesa said...

I can do that, kathy. I haven't done it yet, but I can put together a list of my top reads. I'll plan it to run Saturday. Of course, mine might not be all mysteries, but we'll see. I'll have to go back and look. And, I know mine won't be the same as Jen's. She reads more thrillers than I do.

kathy d. said...

Yes, Jen reads an amazing amount of thrillers, many of them by named named "Craig"!

However, I have written some of her top reads down--thrillers and a legal mystery. I'm going to give some a try in August.

And I've gotten names of more European and other international mysteries which I'll have to turn to Book Depository to buy; they are great--fast, fairly inexpensive and do NOT charge shipping worldwide.

Also, Lesa, I remember you going through Spring book releases by month and I had seen several good books there. How can I find these on your blog?

Lesa said...

You're right about Jen's fondness for Craig Johnson!

If you're looking for some of those book releases, you can put two different topics in the search box at the top. One - Forthcoming Books, will take you to my hot books titles. The other search, Treasures in My Closet, will take you to the forthcoming books I already own, by month.

I hope that helps, kathy!

Beth Hoffman said...

Excellent review, Lesa. I will definitely read this one! Thanks.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Beth. And, just to let you know, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt didn't make my list of the best books I read this year, since I read it last year. It made ALL of my favorite lists last year!