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A Killer's Christmas in Wales: A Penny Brannigan Mystery [Hardcover]

Elizabeth J. Duncan
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Oct. 25 2011 Penny Brannigan Mysteries (Book 3)

As the townsfolk of the Welsh valley town of Llanelen settle in for the snowiest winter in twenty-five years, an American stranger arrives. Harry Saunders charms the ladies, one of them in particular: Evelyn Lloyd, the town’s former postmistress, who was left comfortably off after the death of her husband. After Mrs. Lloyd invests a good deal of money with him, Harry goes missing, as does her money. His body is soon discovered outside the walls of Conwy Castle, and Mrs. Lloyd is implicated in the murder.

Although Penny Brannigan and her business partner, Victoria Hopkirk, are busy overseeing the grand opening of their new spa, that doesn’t stop Mrs. Lloyd from desperately seeking Penny’s help to prove her innocence. It’s quite possible that Harry made other enemies while in Llanelen and Penny’s investigation unfolds while she juggles her work at the spa, her growing relationship with Detective Inspector Davies, and the Christmas window competition that she signed up to judge.

With A Killer's Christmas in Wales, Elizabeth J. Duncan delivers a delightful holiday-themed mystery.


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A Killer's Christmas in Wales: A Penny Brannigan Mystery + A Small Hill to Die On: A Penny Brannigan Mystery + A Brush with Death: A Penny Brannigan Mystery
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Review

"Elizabeth J. Duncan’s A Killer’s Christmas in Wales (Minotaur Books), the latest in her Penny Branigan series, is a plum-pudding of a book for those of us who love comfy mysteries."—Alan Bradley, New York Times bestselling author and Agatha, Barry, Dilys, and Macavity Award winner

"Cozy fans will enjoy this light, quick read (and delight at fellow fictional crime solver Dorothy Martin’s cameo over a quick manicure)."--Library Journal

"Readers who enjoy classic English mysteries will find lots to love about A Killer's Christmas in Wales....Duncan holds the interest of her readers with snappy dialogue and a well-plotted build-up.....Duncan excels at bringing her characters to life. The author's knack for adding just the right amount of backstory for each character is exceptional. A Killer's Christmas in Wales gives off an air of enchantment as Christmas finds this small village in Wales up to its eyeballs in mystery and mayhem."--Mystery Scene Magazine

"A delightfully intriguing, fast-paced cozy, à la Agatha Christie. Penny Brannigan, a type of Miss Marple, just happens to always stumble upon murders....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."--Gumshoe

"If a cozy is your cup of tea, then A Killer’s Christmas In Wales should be high on your Christmas shopping list."--Hamilton Spectator

About the Author

Elizabeth J. Duncan is the first Canadian writer to win the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. She has been a finalist for the Agatha and Arthur Ellis Awards. She enjoys spending time each year in North Wales and lives in Toronto with her dog, Dolly. She teaches in the public relations programs at Humber College.


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3.0 out of 5 stars British mystery Jan. 2 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
While I like the characters, this one didn’t have quite as much to it as the others. The plot was a bit overused and lacked imagination.
What I do really like is Penny’s insightful character. Her ability to see what others miss makes her special. Taking one of Penny’s regulars (Evelyn Lloyd) and tying her into the central plot was good. You know both she and Florence aren’t going anywhere as suspects, regardless of the number of red herrings thrown in their direction. The incident in the doorway (which ultimately involved Glynnis and Harry) was too highly telegraphed. Huw was another red herring and too obviously so, perhaps. Good to see the new spa get going and to finally see Penny and Gareth getting off the ground. More fun to come I’m sure.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Delicious, Malicious Christmas Cozy Jan. 22 2012
By Jaya Gulhaugen, author of Diplomatic Impunity: A Viennese Christmas Mystery - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is an absolutely delightful Christmas "cozy," bursting with all of the motifs I crave when the weather is cold and the days are short: "holly bushes in the hedgerows, bursting with red bright berries displayed against their backdrop of glossy, pointed leaves," glittering Christmas trees, even a production of A Child's Christmas in Wales.

The book takes place in a somewhat exotic locale: in this case a small town in North Wales, complete with thatched cottages, tearooms, and old-fashioned shops decorated for the season. The weather is bitter, with plenty of "icy pellets of sleet," snow, and frost to send shivers up readers' spines. In contrast, the living rooms are warmly lit with candles and gas fireplaces.

Penny Branningan, the amateur sleuth in her fifties, is the engaging, believable owner of the Happy Hands manicure salon. I'd love to meet her the next time I get my nails done. I'd definitely join her Stretch and Sketch Club and scramble over the Welsh hills to find stunning landscapes to paint. The book deftly probes the relationships among various denizens of Llanelen and, of course, the tumult that ensues when an American (!) man suddenly enters their lives. Several of the women are involved in romantic entanglements with men, but the strongest and most interesting relationships seem to be friendships between women, which is refreshing!

The perfect Christmas dinner (I can't get myself to say "lunch") of oven-browned turkey, Brussels sprouts, and roasted potatoes is interrupted by the shocking news that someone has acted on his or her darkest impulse. Sigh...no rest for the local constabulary.

Perhaps what I like best is being able to experience the ordinary details of everyday life, the cups of tea, the buttered scones, the cobbled stones of the town square, the warm sweater to wear under the raincoat, the linoleum on the kitchen floor, all of the minutiae that make it possible to believe in the murder and mayhem!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thievery and Murder Abound in Elizabeth J. Duncan's Intriguing Holiday Cozy, "A Killer's Christmas in Wales" Jan. 8 2012
By J. B. Hoyos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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 lifesavings. 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, à 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" (The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan) and "A Brush with Death" (A Brush with Death: A Penny Brannigan Mystery (Penny Brannigan Mysteries)).

Joseph B. Hoyos
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tad Slow Paced for Me Nov. 29 2011
By Avid Mystery Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I can see from a couple of the reviews already written that those reviewers are familiar with this author's other works. I do know this is #3 in the series but this is the first one that I have read. Penny Brannigan (a co-partner in a spa) is the sleuth who tries to find out who the murderer of an American schmoozer and swindler is. The deceased was not a particularly likable character in that he tried to bilk a poor widow out of several hundred pounds. Without giving away too much of the story, I do have to say that I did not figure out who did it until just a few pages before the killer was actually revealed. This is really unusual for me and for that reason, I liked the novel. What I did not like was (and this is just my opinion) too much description of common life events that did not add much to the novel. Again, this is my opinion, others may find that having a lot of interaction of the characters and having a good look-see into the character's lives adds to the story. I felt it just slowed it down a lot (of course this tends to be a common theme for British-based novels). What is interesting is that after I finished the book, I gave it to my mom who also likes murder mysteries but she only read about 2-3 chapters and said it just did not make sense to her. She got lost in the detail as well and chose not to continue reading it. So, I'm not sure that everyone will find this book to their liking. Overall, it was a pleasant diversion from the work-a-day world.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I like the pace Sept. 30 2012
By Annova - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I guess I like the slower pace of the Penny Brannigan mysteries. IMO it's all part of the "cozy" style and since I've never been to Wales (had to Google the country so I could see what the towns and countryside actually look like), it's been a nice "visit" for me while reading Duncan's first two novels. My only criticism is that in both books I've read, I feel as though the author is sharing (via her characters' comments) her opinions about lifestyles, fashions, food, mores, etc., which I find a bit annoying. I'm sure other authors are doing this all the time but maybe not so blatantly. Additionally, frequently I have no idea which character is "speaking" since the author doesn't let us know (something her editor should pick up on but doesn't). But I like Penny and her significant other, Gareth, Florence and Mrs. Lloyd, and the hilarious Bronwyn and her husband, and look forward to reading more in this series.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Welsh Cozy Murder Nov. 26 2011
By L. Rigod - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Co-Spa owners, Penny Brannigan and Victoria Hopkirk are excitedly preparing to open their new Spa at the same time one of their customers, Mrs. Lloyd meets a newcomer to town, Harry Saunders.

Mrs. Lloyd is a middle-aged woman who has opened her home to a less fortunate woman, Florence.They have settled into a comfortable routine as more and more maintenance of the home falls to Florence's capable shoulders. Florence is a sensible woman and realizes that her new situation is far better than before so she accepts Mrs. Lloyd's 'graciousness.'

Harry Saunders, from Palm Beach or is it Palm Springs, is making himself rather important in Mrs. Lloyd's life after only one meeting. Florence is concerned but when she tries to discuss the matter, she is told perhaps she is 'jealous.'

Penny attends one of her art sketching events and is shocked when a man falls from the walkways. The man is Harry Saunders and it makes Mrs. Lloyd look suspicious as he is found with her former husband's letter opener in his back!

Penny is asked to help find the truth and trips upon a theft from the village charity. When her brooch is stolen, the pace to find the killer and the thief speeds up.

Many lessons are taught to the villagers and especially Mrs. Lloyd. I shall leave it up to you to discover what they are. A charming Welsh cozy murder mystery.
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