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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