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A Killer's Christmas in Wales (Penny Brannigan) by Elizabeth J. Duncan
Cover Artist: Doug Martin
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312622831
Date: 25 October 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In the quaint, North Welsh village of Llanelen, everyone is busy preparing for a cozy Christmas. Feasts, parties, grand openings and window decorating contests are planned. However, there is a Grinch who is threatening to ruin everyone's holiday. Homes are being robbed and a conniving gigolo is swindling elderly women out of their life savings. Penny Brannigan, amateur detective, has an expensive brooch stolen on the day she is preparing to open her new salon. She is also endeavoring to learn who pushed Harry Saunders from the wall walk of the medieval Conwy Castle. Soon after, there is another gruesome murder and Penny realizes her life is also in danger.

Elizabeth J. Duncan's A Killer's Christmas in Wales was a most pleasant surprise. I found it a delightfully intriguing, fast-paced cozy, la Agatha Christie. Penny Brannigan, a type of Miss Marple, just happens to always stumble upon murders. She is aided by her best friend and business partner, Victoria Hopkins. However, the focus for most of the novel's first half is placed on a widow, Evelyn Lloyd, and how she is conned by the slimy Harry Saunders. There ensues a tremendous amount of emotional drama. The citizens of Llanelen don't feel much sympathy for Harry upon learning he's been murdered. In fact, it wasn't until the second murder victim is discovered that I wanted the killer apprehended. There are plenty of suspects and red herrings to keep readers guessing.

Llanelen is the type of quiet, friendly, picturesque village in which I would love to live. The landscape is gorgeous, even in winter, and there are historical sites, such as nearby Conwy Castle, which draw the tourists. Penny, who is a longtime transplant from Nova Scotia, Canada, fell in love with the scenery and couldn't leave. She is a member of the Stretch and Sketch Club which travels the countryside, drawing portraits of the natural beauty. The club is at Conwy Castle when Harry Saunders meets his untimely death. Many of the other villagers, including the bamboozled Evelyn Lloyd, were also present.

Penny Brannigan and her friend Victoria Hopkins are kind, hardworking women who are always eager to please. They have been extremely busy preparing to open up their new nail and hair salon--the same one in which a human skeleton was found in the ductwork during renovations. Villagers often seek Penny for good advice. Penny's romantic interest, Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies, is falling in love with her. Their budding romance counterbalances the disastrous deception that is performed on poor Evelyn. Unfortunately, a thief threatens their holiday cheer as well.

While visiting the rental office of Holly Point Apartments, I told an employee/friend that I was reading A Killer's Christmas in Wales. She, like myself, loves holiday-themed cozies. I promised I'd inform her as to whether or not I liked it. Well, I'm going to have to say I loved it. With its gorgeous, small-town setting; friendly, interesting characters; and baffling murders, it's a holiday cozy that is sure to please most everyone. A Killer's Christmas in Wales would make a great gift for the cozy lover. Reading it makes me wish I had also indulged myself with Duncan's previous Penny Brannigan mysteries: The Cold Light of Mourning and A Brush with Death.

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