Monday, August 5, 2013

The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan

I liked this book, The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan, that introduces Penny Brannigan, watercolor artist and owner of the Happy Hands nail salon. She lives in the North Wales town of Llanalen. Originally from Canada, Penny came to the small market town as a backpacker in her twenties and just never left. Now in her fifties, she is still enchanted with the people, the town, and the landscape.

When we meet Penny, her long-time best friend Emma Teasdale has just died. Penny is grieving but still continues to serve her customers in the salon. She has an appointment to give a manicure to bride Meg Wynne Thompson, a not-well-liked stranger to the community who is going to marry the wealthy landowner, Emyr Gruffydd, later in the day. 

Only, after her manicure, Meg Wynne disappears and doesn't show up to walk down the aisle. For a while it is thought that she has just gotten cold feet and has run back to London. But there proves to be a much more serious reason for her absence - she is dead. Murdered.

So off we go. Penny, it turns out, may have been the last person to see Meg Wynne before her disappearance and she and a new friend Victoria get into all sorts of trouble when they try to 'help' the police in tracking down the killer or killers.

In the end, all turns out very well for Penny. There is romance in the air with Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies who is in charge of investigating the case. Penny and Victoria become close friends before the murderer is discovered. And, there is another surprise, which I won't spoil, in store for Penny.

Some of the plot turns on happenstance and coincidence and of course Penny recognizes clues that no one else does, but I liked the characters, especially the busy-body Mrs. Lloyd, the retired postmistress. (I have a fondness for postmistresses!) There are plenty of chats over tea, pastoral descriptions of the landscape, and the names of the colors of the nail polish that Penny offers to her customers are fun: Chocolate Moose from the Canadian collection; Embrace for the bridesmaids; and, Altar Ego, her friend Emma's favorite hue.

The author, who is from Canada, writes an exchange between DCI Davies and Penny in which he tells her how he can tell she is from Canada and not America: "You say 'aboot', not 'about.'"

A Brush with Death is the next in the series. I look forward to reading how Ms. Brannigan solves her next crime.


  1. This sounds like great fun and I will have to look for it. I have a fondness for postmistresses, now that you mention it. Especially Mary Minor Haristeen (Rita Mae Brown's Crozet, VA postmistress) and Dorcas Lane (from Lark Rise to Candleford).

    1. Yes, Kathy, Dorcas is a favorite. I had forgotten about Brown's books featuring Ms. Harristeen. Thanks for the reminder.