The Marmalade Murders: A Penny Brannigan Mystery by Elizabeth J. Duncan

The latest book in an award-winning mystery series, celebrated for its small-town charm and picturesque Welsh setting and starring amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan.

The competition is friendly and just a little fierce at the annual Llanelen agricultural show as town and country folk gather for the outdoor judging of farm animals and indoor judging of cakes, pies, pastries, chutneys, jams and jellies, along with vegetables, fruit and flowers. But this year, there’s a new show category: murder.

Local artist, Spa owner, and amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan agrees to help with the intake of the domestic arts entries and to judge the children’s pet competition on show day. When the president of the Welsh Women’s Guild isn’t on hand to see her granddaughter and pet pug win a prize, the family becomes concerned. When a carrot cake entered in the competition goes missing, something is clearly amiss.

A black Labrador Retriever belonging to the agricultural show’s president discovers the body of the missing woman under the baked goods table. A newcomer to town, a transgender woman, is suspected, but amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan believes her to be innocent. She sets out to find the real killer, but when a second body is discovered days later, the case is thrown into confusion, and Penny knows it’s up to her to figure out what happened—and why.


Character Guest Post: Why Wales?

by amateur sleuth, artist, business woman and main character, Penny Brannigan

Elizabeth J. Duncan found me here in North Wales by accident. She was her way to lunch with friends when the driver took a wrong turn and they all ended up in the market town of Llanrwst, where I’d been living for about 25 years. I didn’t meet Elizabeth that day, but I was here.

I found my way to this town by accident, too. As a young Canadian backpacker, I was making my way around Europe, the way you do when you’ve just finished uni and have no job lined up and no prospects of one. But more than that, my degree is in art history and I longed to see the great European masterpieces. So I was on my way through Wales to Holyhead to catch the ferry to Dublin, when I heard about the picturesque stone three-arched bridge in Llanrwst, and as an amateur watercolour artist, I wanted to paint it. As I was sketching, a lovely woman stopped to talk to me and before I knew it, we were chatting away in the tea room beside the bridge over cups of Earl Grey and warm scones with jam and clotted cream.

 

The woman offered to put me up for the night and on my tight budget, I leapt at the chance! Her name was Emma Teasdale, she was a retired school teacher, and probably the kindest person I’ve ever met. Well, that day turned into a week, and a week turned into a month, and I never left Llanrwst. To earn a bit of money I started doing manicures for the ladies in the nursing home, and pretty soon I was running my own little nail bar. Oh, don’t worry. I was legally entitled to work because I was in the UK on a patrial rights visa that some citizens of Commonwealth countries are entitled to, or at least they were back then.

I’m estranged from my family back in Canada. I had a rough childhood, and I was never close to them, so staying on to build a life for myself in the UK made sense at the time, although I never thought too much about it. I just drifted into it, really, and one day I realized I’d never return to Canada. Wales had become my home.

So when Elizabeth eventually found me, I was well established, with a close circle of friends, and although some might think of me as an underachiever, I think of myself as content. The way of life here suits me. The pace may be slower, but I’ve built deep connections with people, who really care about me, as I do them. They’re my family now.

A year or so after discovering the town, Elizabeth started writing the first book in the Penny Brannigan series set in North Wales, and a few months after that, she returned to Llanrwst. The other characters and I watched her walking through the town, as if she were looking for something. She didn’t see us, but we saw her. And now I know what she was looking for. She was looking for us. She might not have seen us, but we were here. In the shops, in the pub, in the tea room, in our homes.

Elizabeth spends the winter in North Wales with us now, and returns to Canada in the spring. But she knows I’ll always be here, right where she found me, waiting to welcome her back in November.



About The Author

Elizabeth J Duncan is the author of two mystery series – Shakespeare in the Catskills and the Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales. She is a two-time winner of the Bloody Words Award for Canada’s best light mystery and lives in Toronto.

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A new Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery with character interview: Much Ado about Murder by Elizabeth J. Duncan

Enter to win a print copy of Much Ado about Murder (US only)


Costume designer Charlotte Fairfax has another murder on her hands as she prepares for the latest performance of the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company, Much Ado About Nothing. The company’s steady growth enables them to cast star British actress Audrey Ashley, who arrives on scene to play the lead role of Beatrice. But things immediately get more complicated when Audrey insists the company replace the current director with new, up and coming British director Edmund Albright.

Edmund plans to change the popular romantic comedy, which alienates several people associated with the production. And the list of people he upsets only grows: the laid off former director, the hotel owner’s secretary, and even Audrey herself. Just as Edmund’s plans are about to come to fruition, his body is discovered on his sofa, holding a gun in his hand. His death is quickly ruled a suicide but Charlotte thinks otherwise. Why would Edmund, on the brink of greatness, kill himself? And in such an American way?

With a whole cast of characters to investigate, Charlotte is determined to unmask each one before it’s final curtain call on the whole production in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery, Much Ado About Murder.


Character Interview

Charlotte Fairfax, costume designer and amateur sleuth, welcome to Island Confidential! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

I began my career with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon and found myself in New York about ten years ago when the RSC performed on Broadway. I was engaged to marry the leading actor, but when he broke the engagement, I just couldn’t face going home to the UK with the rest of the Company. So I stayed in the States and eventually made a new life for myself with the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company in upstate New York. While I love living here, I miss quite a few things about Britain, including the quiet beauty of villages, fields of grazing sheep enclosed in stone walls, and shopping at Marks.

I was just starting to think about returning to the UK when I met Ray, the local chief of police here in Walkers Ridge. And then everything changed, for the better. I’m at a good place in my life right now. So if people think I’m stuck in a provincial backwater, yearning for the bright lights of the big city, I’m perfectly content. Besides, the bright lights of Manhattan are just a train ride away.

Who’s your favorite character in Much Ado about Murder?

That’s an easy one. You probably thought my answer would be Ray, but no, it’s the other man in my life. Rupert. He’s my tri-color corgi, and I love him to bits. I’ve had him since he was a pup and anyone who’s ever loved a dog will know why he’s so special to me. If you’ve ever loved a dog, you’ll know what I’m talking about. He’s been such a comfort, and he’s given my life purpose.

Is there anyone you don’ get along with so well? 

There is usually tension between the costume designer and the director. He (and it’s usually a he although thankfully that’s changing) wants things that are difficult to deliver on a tight budget. In our most recent play, Much Ado About Nothing, things got really out of hand and just about everybody was in conflict with the director and he ended up dead! But fortunately that doesn’t happen too often or we’d never get a production up on its legs!

Just between you and me: What do you really think of your author?

As far as the books go, I like Elizabeth J. Duncan. But I’m not sure I trust her personally. I think she wants to steal my dog.

Charlotte, what’s next for you?

As you’re reading this, I’m back in the UK, with Ray. He’s meeting my mum, and we’re planning to get engaged while we’re here. When we return to the Catskills, we’ll start work on our next project, a production of The Merchant of Menace. Did I really say that? Of course I meant The Merchant of Venice.


About The Author  

Elizabeth J Duncan is the author of two mystery series – Shakespeare in the Catskills and the Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales. She is a two-time winner of the Bloody Words Award for Canada’s best light mystery and lives in Toronto.

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