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The Cold Light of Mourning: A Mystery Hardcover – Apr 28 2009

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The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (April 28 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312558538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312558536
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.8 x 21.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #469,242 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.

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By gm on Sept. 28 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
a good one day read
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 32 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
(3.5 stars) "What would a wedding be without a hitch or two?" April 28 2009
By Luan Gaines - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
interesting Welsh village police procedural May 2 2009
By Harriet Klausner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By Marlene Homer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The publisher's blurb set the scene:

"The picturesque North West 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. The last person believed to have seen her is
manicurist Penny Brannigan, an ex-patriate Canadian . . . .
After seeing a photograph of Meg in a local newspaper, Penny
realizes that the well-groomed woman who presented herself at
her salon was an imposter."

The title appealed to me as did the fact that the
author won an award for this book. I expected more than I
got, promising but, . . . so four stars instead of five.

I found the prose slow and stilted. And I had hoped
to see Wales in wonderful historical detail through the eyes of
this author-journalist. I did not. However, I did learn that
Welsh Rose Gold, the rarest in the world, was discovered in
1854 and is used in the wedding bands of the British Royal
Family. (Large Print Edition. Page 152).

I liked some of the names of the local businesses,
such as the Red Dragon Hotel and the local pub, The Leek and
the Lilly. But, speaking of names, I found the constant use
of the victim's first and middle name annoying. "Meg Wynne"
rather than "Meg" tripped me up. Ruined the story's flow.
And I was confused by the name, "Reverend Evans" on one
page and "Reverend Thomas" on another. The man's name:
Thomas Evans.

For me, the author's character sketches saved the
book. I liked her villagers. So did she. The main ones
were: Penny, of course, who is a manicurist and an artist;
Evelyn Lloyd, former postmistress and present busy body; Morwyn
Lloyd, niece of Evelyn and news reporter; Victoria Hopkirk, the
house-mate of Penny and harpist; Reverend Thomas Evans and his
wife, Bronwyn; and, finally, a possible love interest for Penny,
Detective Chief Inspector,Gareth Davies, and his much younger
partner, Detective Sergeant Bethan Morgan.

Character sketches follow:

(1)Penny: "She had had a difficult, complicated childhood
in Nova Scotia, in and out of foster homes, and found affection
hard to give and harder to receive, although she certainly tried to
be kind and considerate in a genuine, sincere way. . . . Her boy
friends wondered vaguely why she always seemed to sell herself short,
and why she had apparently settled for so little. But her life was
what she had made it. {Pages 100-101}

(2)Gareth: "The Detective Chief Inspector was tall, in
his mid-fifties, with a handsome head of grey hair neatly but not
fussily trimmed. His face had a kindly, understanding look about
it, which made him seem approachable, congenial even, but prime
suspects in the past had learned the hard way that he was not the
collegial fellow he seemed." {Page 116}

(3)Bethan: "Detective Sergeant Bethan Morgan was
considerably younger and blessed with a head of dark curls and
a ready smile which gave her a fresh, uncomplicated look. She
was keen to get on in her career and radiated the kind of enthusiasm
that her superiors found both endearing and mildly alarming."
{Page 116)

(4)Victoria: "The two women smiled shyly at each other.
They were about the same age, but Victoria was slightly taller, with
a somewhat serious, anxious look about her. Her blond hair was
pulled back and held at the nape of her neck with a large black
bow that matched black leather court shoes that looked expensive
and well cared for. . . . 'Well,' said Penny, 'why don't you tell
me what you're really doing here.' 'That's easy,' said Victoria,
'I'm getting over a bad divorce. . . . I guess I'm a bit age-
sensitive because my husband left me for a younger woman, an
American he met on a flight to New York." {Pages 168, 238]

A second book in the series is: A BRUSH WITH DEATH.
It seems to me there are many story lines, more waiting to
be said, so I shall give Duncan a second chance. thank you.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Welsh country charm...and mayhem. Aug. 14 2009
By corglacier7 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing June 10 2010
By B. Zimmer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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.