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The Cold Light of Mourning: A Mystery [Hardcover]

Elizabeth J. Duncan

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Book Description

April 28 2009

Elizabeth J. Duncan spins a charming tale of murder and intrigue in this winning first novel.

The picturesque North Wales market town of Llanelen is shocked when Meg Wynne Thompson, a self-made beauty who has turned out to be something of an unpopular bride, goes missing on her wedding day…and turns up dead. The last person believed to have seen her is manicurist Penny Brannigan, an expatriate Canadian who has lived in North Wales for almost twenty-five years. When Penny notices that something is not quite right at the funeral of her dearest friend, she becomes emotionally invested in the case, and sets out to investigate.

It seems that several people, including the bride’s drunken, abusive father, had reasons to wish Meg dead, but when the trail leads to her groom’s home, an explosive secret will shake the small town.

With its bucolic Welsh setting and vivid, colorful characters, this mystery is sure to delight the most discerning of traditional-mystery fans.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (April 28 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312558538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312558536
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #508,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“Duncan’s debut is a gentle delight sure to please fans of the classic English mystery.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A runaway bride is the linchpin of Canadian writer Duncan’s delightful debut, which has won the Minotaur/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition....The scenic Welsh backdrop, village personalities and a budding romance...add color and interest.”—Publishers Weekly

The Cold Light of Mourning is a must read for 2009 with hope that another is soon to follow.”—The Hamilton Spectator

“Duncan has a fine eye for detail, plays fair with the clues and creates engaging characters.”—Globe and Mail


About the Author

Elizabeth J. Duncan has worked as a writer and editor for some of Canada's largest newspapers, including the Ottawa Citizen and Hamilton Spectator. She lives with her dog, Dolly, in Toronto where she teaches in the public relations program at Humber College.  She enjoys spending time each year in North Wales and is the first Canadian writer to win the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. The Cold Light of Mourning, her first novel, is also the winner of the William F. Deeck–Malice Domestic Grant.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars (3.5 stars) "What would a wedding be without a hitch or two?" April 28 2009
By Luan Gaines - Published on
Living in a small town in North Wales, Canadian ex-pat Penny Brannigan enjoys an uneventful, but satisfying life, busy with her nail salon and an active interest in painting. Having recently lost her best friend, Penny is still grieving. Gathering the necessary tools from her nail salon, it is not surprising when Penny arrives at the funeral parlor to give her friend, Emma, one last manicure. Penny's nail salon is a hub of social gossip, especially with regular visits from the town busybody. But Penny becomes a more critical player in the town's drama when a bride goes missing before her wedding. A Londoner, Meg Wynne Thompson has planned to wed a wealthy local landowner's son, Emyr Gryffudd, in a formal afternoon ceremony. Penny is the last person to see the bride on the Saturday morning of the wedding; after her manicure, the bride-to-be leaves the shop and is not seen again.

Everyone gathered at the church, the wedding party is disbanded, guests and participants at a loss for an explanation, although foul play is certainly considered. Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies is called in to head the investigation. Interviewing Penny as the last person to see Meg Wynne the morning of the wedding, Davies is unexpectedly charmed. Warming to his attentions, Penny becomes more intrigued with the fate of the disappeared bride and more interested than she will admit in the detective. The tale unfolds in a blend of romance and mystery, Penny collaborating with her latest acquaintance, harpist Victoria Hopkirk. The two middle-aged women engage in some amateur sleuthing that actually bears fruit, but in their enthusiasm, the ladies are careless of their own safety. Of course, the amateurs also attract the notice of the culprit. When Meg Wynne's body is discovered- thanks to Penny's intuition- DCI Davies has good reason to worry about her safety,

A light tale that focuses as much on personalities and idiosyncrasies as the crime, the author captures the intimacies of small town life in the aftershock of unexpected events. There is no shortage of suspects to choose from, or eccentric characters, from the bride's alcoholic father to the stunned groom, not to mention the voluble Mrs. Lloyd, a regular visitor at Happy Hands Nail Care. Duncan has created a charming mix of incipient middle-aged romance and mystery, tea and sympathy, spiced with a touch of "Murder She Wrote". Luan Gaines/2009.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting Welsh village police procedural May 2 2009
By Harriet Klausner - Published on
Two and a half decades ago, manicurist Penny Brannigan left Canada to relocate in Llanelen, Wales where she opened a reasonable successful manicure shop. However, the usually calm Penny is a bit disturbed to learn Meg Wynne Thompson vanished just before she was to say I do to the squire's son. Her disappearance would mean nothing to Penny except the last known place she was seen was her manicure shop.

Though it may be a case of a runaway bride filled with trepidation, Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies does not rule out foul play and considers the wedding guests as potential suspects. Penny informs Gareth about the strange client whom she now believes was not Meg but someone pretending to be the missing woman. As the police arrest the fiancé whose father suddenly dies Meg and her buddy Victoria Hopkird begin asking questions that bring them to the attention of someone who prefers the case to stay the way the police see it; especially since Davies pays heed to Penny's tips.

THE COLD LIGHT OF MOURNING is an interesting Welsh village police procedural with an amateur sleuth subplot. In some ways the star of the story line is Llanelen as Elizbath J. Duncan provides a vivid look at a seemingly remote sleepy rustic hamlet; this gives the mystery a cozy feel until the dramatic ending. Well written and the winner of the Minotaur/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel award, fans of Welsh village mysteries will enjoy this tale and want more whodunits starring the hamlet, the two amateurs and the DCI.

Harriet Klausner
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing June 10 2010
By B. Zimmer - Published on
I thought this book would be interesting because of its north Wales setting. At first it wasn't too bad, but Duncan's writing--and especially the plot--deteriorated quickly. She uses lots of adjectives in place of good writing; her characters are stock and unimaginative; and she has the romance writers' propensity to add an amateurish plastic sheen and polish to characters and setting: expensive brand names; characters slim and healthy; wealthy protagonists; silver this and platinum that. The book is trite, and you would have to be really bored to read it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great first book in series June 17 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on
I really enjoyed this book, I read it in 2 nites, had to make myself put it down at 2am first nite.

Great "main" characters, I am really looking forward to the book in series A Brush with Death due out end of

I hope this is the beginning of a long series - would love to see lots of books if they are as well written as the

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Welsh country charm...and mayhem. Aug. 14 2009
By corglacier7 - Published on
I admit I always find something odd about the term "cozy mystery". Discovery of a dead body and the solving of a murder hardly seem like "cozy" fare to me. So what term to use for mysteries that focus less on gritty, dark details and instead on portraying the sheer humor and ordinariness of the human condition as well as the tragedy? I'd say: bloody good reading.

Duncan opens a new mystery series set in North Wales' beautiful River Conwy region with this entry, introducing Canadian ex-pat Penny Brannigan. A manicurist and amateur painter by trade, decidedly on the far side of forty, and frequently asked by British citizens where in America she hails from, Penny is an unusual and engaging heroine. As a long-term resident of Llanelen, she offers elements of both an insider's and outsider's perspective of the village, the Clwyd region, and the North Welsh people.

Feeling the loss of her longtime best friend Emma Teasdale, the local schoolteacher, that story is soon old news in favor of the disappearance and murder of Meg Wynn Thompson, the elegant young fiancée of the local landowner's son. Penny, unlike most other sleuths, takes little interest in the case to begin and is only gradually and believably drawn into the investigation. Her common sense and observant nature provide some vital links to the case, as well as a few amusing scenes of eureka, much to the bewilderment of one of her long-term customers.

As well, we're introduced to Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies, who investigates the bride's vanishing and finds much to admire in Penny as her intuition provides a vital break in the case. Their initial friendship and growing romance is quiet, subtle, a well-drawn and rather gentle sort of thing between two mature and likable people. It makes for a nice change from the frequent love/hate and tension-thick romance found in mysteries.

"The Cold Light of Mourning" is a poignant sort of read, encompassing passion and murder, but also finding room for love, loss, friendship, and the gentle and unique charm of the Welsh country life. The story, in the end, is not as much about Meg Wynn and the circumstances of her murder so much as the ripples it creates in Llanelen and its people. So while I still need to find a good term for a mystery that focuses as much on the facts of living as those of dying, I highly recommend "Mourning" as a great debut read.

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