Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Killer's Christmas in Wales by Elizabeth J. Duncan

I’ve actually been saving some of the Christmas books to review after Thanksgiving while I’m home in Ohio. But, the Christmas mysteries have started to creep in since they’re more mystery than Christmas. And, it’s hard for me to resist Elizabeth J. Duncan’s Penny Brannigan mysteries set in Wales. A Killer’s Christmas in Wales sucked me in, with the author, the protagonist, and Doug Martin’s delightful jacket illustration.

Things are falling into place for Penny. The Canadian who moved to Llanelen, Wales after graduating from a university arts program still has a hobby painting, but made her living as a manicurist until she inherited a house and money from an old friend. Now in her fifties, she is about to open a spa with a friend and business partner, and she’s seeing Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies of the North Wales Police.

Just before the spa opens, a handsome American arrives in town and sets his sights on Evelyn Lloyd, the former postmistress and a well-off-widow. To the displeasure of her new renter, Florence Semble, Evelyn is delighted with Harry Saunders, partnering with him in bridge, encouraging him to teach dancing at the community center, and, falling a little hard for the man. It isn’t long before Evelyn agrees to a joint business investment with Harry, putting 20,000 pounds at his disposal. And, when he fails to show up for a weekend, Mrs. Lloyd blames it on a snowstorm. So, why does Florence find him on a train, heading to Conwy Castle?

As a manicurist, Penny is insightful and observant. But, she’s a little busy with the opening of the spa, judging the Christmas window competition, and her art group’s holiday trip to Conwy Castle. So, it’s not surprising that she has a hard time reconstructing the day at the castle when someone ends up dead. To add to the confusion, the murder weapon had disappeared from the owner’s home, at a time when even the local charity shop had reported thefts. When a valuable brooch is stolen from Penny’s purse at the spa itself, she begins to think the thefts and the murder might be connected.

Once again, it’s a treat to return to Penny Brannigan’s world, the small town in Wales. As I said, Penny is insightful. In this story, her observations are aided by an American who stops in for a manicure, Jeanne M. Dams’ own amateur sleuth, Dorothy Martin.

As in so many traditional mysteries, it’s a pleasure to meet familiar characters and observe justice triumph while order is restored to a world out of balance. And, Duncan provides more information about a mystery that continued from an earlier book. Gareth and Penny finally learn the identity of a skeleton that was uncovered in the renovation of the spa. There’s still more to be revealed, but I’m sure Duncan has plans for the ongoing storyline.

Readers of traditional mysteries often finish books with a sigh of satisfaction. In this case, the murderer is caught, life has changed for some of the residents of the town, and Christmas was celebrated with church services, a performance of Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales, and sharing of meals. If that’s your cup of cocoa (check out the book cover), settle in for Elizabeth J. Duncan’s A Killer’s Christmas in Wales.

Elizabeth J. Duncan’s website is

A Killer’s Christmas in Wales by Elizabeth J. Duncan. St. Martin’s Minotaur. ©2011. ISBN 9780312622831 (hardcover), 274p.

FTC Full Disclosure – The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Liz said...

Cozies and Christmas go together. Loved to watch a new Miss Marple on tv after the big dinner.

Elizabeth Duncan said...

Lesa, thank you so much for this warm review and thank you, too, for all you do to promote our beloved mystery genre.

Lesa said...


I think you'll enjoy A Killer's Christmas in Wales.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Elizabeth. And, talked to my sister yesterday who said she always enjoys your books, and she's looking forward to this one. You don't know it, but I promote the mystery genre even in our family newsletters. I write a book column for our family of over 100, and we have a number of mystery readers in the family.

Karen C said...

Sounds good! I'm assuming from your comments that I should read the Penny Brannigan Mysteries in sequence? Thanks!

Lesa said...

Yes, Karen. In this case, I would read the mysteries in order. Don't just start with the Christmas one.

Susan Bennett said...

Sounds lively.

Lesa said...

It's a fun Christmas mystery, Susan.

Teela said...

oohhhhh a fun Christmas mystery...sounds wonderful!

Lesa said...

This one definitely was a fun Christmas mystery. I hope you get a chance to read it, Teela.