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A Brush with Death (Penny Brannigan) by Elizabeth J. Duncan
Cover Artist: Doug Martin
Review by Lynne LeGrow
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312622824
Date: 20 July 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

"Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius".-- Fulton J. Sheen.

When we are jealous our feeling of self-worth is low. Some would wish that others fail so that they might be deemed greater. Some might wish that the genius not only fail, but that they are removed from the picture altogetherů

Set in an idyllic Welsh village, this second installment in the Penny Brannigan mystery series is the perfect cozy for a crisp fall evening. We first met Penny in The Cold Light of Mourning which won the Malice Domestic First Traditional Mystery Competition.

Penny is a painter, of landscapes--and fingernails. Her main occupation is as a manicurist, though her first love is the painting of landscapes. An ex-pat Canadian from Truro, Nova Scotia, Penny visited Wales as a young woman and loved it so much she stayed. Now middle-aged, her appreciation of the Welsh countryside and the people who reside there has not waned with time.

A long-time friend has passed away and bequeathed her period Welsh cottage to Penny. Upon moving in and sorting through her friend's possessions, Penny discovers a piece of art that sparks her interest. Whilst visiting the solicitor regarding her new inheritance she spies a similar piece of art on his office wall. She inquires about the painting and discovers that the artist was the solicitor's late sister, Alys Jones. The artist died thirty years ago when she was just a young woman, of a hit-and-run accident in the village. The driver was never identified.

This fact, along with a packet of letters she finds in her cottage from the same artist to her late friend is all Penny needs to get her penchant for detecting fully aroused. She enlists some of her village friends along with her policeman boyfriend and sets about devoting most of her time to solving the crime. She discovers that although the artist was scheduled to hold a showing of her art just weeks after the date of her death, her family did not find any of her art. What could have happened to the art of this promising young woman?

During her investigations, Penny attends an art show and comes across a piece of art that her artist's eye makes her believe has been painted by Alys Jones. However, another signature adorns the work. Now Penny is sure that the hit-and-run was deliberate. Her keen sense of justice will not rest until she discovers the motive and reveals the killer.

A brush with Death was well-plotted and the story moved along nicely. A fitting sequel to The Cold Light of Mourning this story furthered the characterization of the protagonist, Penny Brannigan. A typical cozy with an amateur sleuth, it is exactly what you would want from this sub-genre of the traditional mystery novel. I keenly await the third novel in the series so that I might once again visit Penny Brannigan and her friends in the picturesque Welsh town of Llanelen.

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