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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New cozy from Cathy Ace: The Case of the Missing Morris Dancer

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The Women of the WISE Enquiries Agency are back in a witty and intriguing new mystery.


The Anwen Morris Dancers are to play a pivotal role in the imminent nuptials of Henry, eighteenth Duke of Chellingworth. But it looks as though the wedding plans might go awry unless Mavis, Annie, Carol and Christine can help Althea, the Dowager Duchess, by finding a missing Morris man and a set of ancient and valuable artefacts in time for her son’s wedding.
Anwen-by-Wye might look like an idyllic Welsh village where family values reign and traditions still mean something in a modern world, but what will the WISE women find when they peer behind the respectable net curtains?

Today we have an interview with Carol Hill from the WISE Enquiries Agency.

Q: Carol, welcome to Island Confidential, and thanks for stopping by! Why don’t you tell our readers a little bit about yourself–maybe something they might not guess?

Hello there – my name’s Carol Hill, and I’m a private investigator. I work with three other women at the WISE Enquiries Agency. We’ve moved our business from our old office in London to a converted barn on the estate of stately Chellingworth Hall, in rural Powys, Wales.  I was born and raised in Wales – in Carmarthenshire, to be exact – though I lived in London for more than ten years, where I worked as the head of computing for a large, international insurance and re-insurance company based in the City of London. I enjoyed my time in the Big Smoke, but have to say it’s just wonderful to be living in Wales again…and in such delightful surroundings. Not only do I get to wander the beautiful grounds surrounding Chellingworth Hall whenever I go to our “office” but I also pay a ridiculously low rent on a stunning Georgian house overlooking the village green in Anwen-by-Wye. In Welsh, the word Anwen means very beautiful, and it really is a lovely little village, close to the Wye River which meanders through the county. The work I do now means I get to use my computing skills and help people – people whose problems cannot be dealt with by the police, and who need the sort of help we can offer, as a team.

Q: Who’s the character you get along with the best? 

I like all my colleagues. We’re called the WISE Enquiries Agency because I’m Welsh, Christine Wilson-Smythe is Irish, Mavis MacDonald is Scottish and Annie Parker is English – see? WISE. Ha! It made us laugh. The colleague I’ve known the longest is Annie. She was the receptionist at a firm of insurance brokers in the City when I moved to London to work. We met at a wine bar one evening, when we were each out with people from our own companies, and we sort of clicked. It’s odd, really, because we aren’t at all alike. I’m pretty quiet, and Annie will talk to anyone, about anything, for hours. She’s great at putting people at their ease – when that’s what she wants to do – whereas I never know what to say. Also, some have commented that we’re physical opposites: I’m short, blond, pretty fully-figured (and was that even before I got pregnant); Annie’s almost six feet tall (so a good six or seven inches taller than me), and she’s as thin as a rake, though she’s always moaning on about how big her bum is. I don’t know how she manages to stay as skinny as she is, because she eats like a horse, whereas I only have to look at a plate of sausage and mash to put on a few pounds. Maybe it’s because she smothers almost everything she eats with hot sauce – if I did that I know I’d end up with raging indigestion all the time, and I’ve had that every day since I passed the six-months mark of my pregnancy, so I don’t think now’s the time to try. She’s also got lovely silky, dark skin (her mum and dad migrated to London from St. Lucia before Annie was born). Me? I’m not very outdoorsy, so I’m always a bit pasty-looking, and I’ve had some terrible pimples in the past few months. Annie also doesn’t look her age – well, I don’t think she does; other than all the hot flashes she has, you’d never guess she’s in her mid-fifties because she has almost no bags or wrinkles. She’s kind, warm and funny – but she’s also been pretty useless at choosing men, so not only is she single, but she’s now resolutely so…she’s built a wall around herself, so she doesn’t get hurt again. Unfortunately, that means that until you get to know her really well you might think she’s a bit prickly…okay then downright rude with a bit of a chip on her shoulder, to be more blunt. But she’s really a pussy-cat, not a tiger. We’ve been through a lot together over the years, and I’m glad I get to work with her.

Q:  Is there anyone with whom you might not get on so nicely?

I’m not the sort of person who likes confrontation – I feel happier working with computers and data than I do mixing with lots of people I don’t know, so I avoid conflict like the plague. One thing that does concern me a bit is the position we’ve found ourselves in, here in Wales. We were called in by the duke some time ago to look into a problem he had with his mother…she claimed to have found a dead body in the Dower House where she lives, but when he checked, there wasn’t one. All she had to support her story was a bloody bobble hat, so he thought she was losing her marbles and called us in to investigate. Once we’d cleared up that mess (and what a mess it was…you can read about it in THE CASE OF THE DOTTY DOWAGER) Althea Twyst – that’s the dowager’s name – invited us all to move here. When we’d unpacked and settled in, she made it clear she’d like to become our “helper”, but I agree with Mavis who says Althea isn’t at all clear about the difference between professional investigating and sleuthing, so I’m just hoping that situation doesn’t blow up in our faces as we try to establish our business here.

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

I quite like our author – she’s short, round and Welsh, like me, so I suppose we’ve got a few things in common. That said, I happen to know she’s pretty useless when it comes to computers. How do I know? I see all the research she has to do just to be able to understand what they can and cannot do so she can write about them properly. How can a person exists in the twenty first century without just knowing all that? It’s not as though it’s complicated. That said, I couldn’t do what she does. It takes me forever to write a simple letter, let alone string all those thousands of words together to write a whole book. Oh yes, and she has dogs, not a cat…I never quite trust people who don’t have a cat, though I understand my Bunty is an extraordinary creature, so maybe Cathy just hasn’t found the right cat yet.

Q: What’s next for you?

I suppose the only thing I can be certain of these days is that I’m due to have a baby – and pretty soon! I’m going to keep working as long as I can, even though my husband, David, wants me to stop and put my feet up. I keep telling him I’ll go bonkers if I just sit about every day – I need to keep my brain ticking over.  There’s a big local event about to happen, too…Henry, the eighteenth duke of Chellingworth, is about to get married. He’s marrying a nice young woman, Stephanie. She used to be the public relations manager at Chellingworth Hall, and now she’s about to become the duchess. The entire village is involved with preparing for the wedding, in some way or other, and I’m due to be helping to make thousands of Welsh cakes for the guests…we’re all invited to the ceremony and the reception, you see. It should be quite a day. Let’s just hope nothing happens to spoil the whole thing – though what could do that, I cannot imagine.

You can find out how the disappearance of one man threatens to spoil the duke’s wedding, and how the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency step in to help, in THE CASE OF THE MISSING MORRIS DANCER.




About The Author  

Cathy Ace

Cathy Ace loves crime! It’s true – she discovered Nancy Drew in her local library, then found Agatha Christie on her Mum’s bookshelves, and she never looked back. Cathy happily admits that the characters she met between the book-covers as a child have influenced her writing. “Nancy Drew was plucky, strong and independent, and Agatha Christie’s puzzles engaged me every time. I love the sort of book that mixes intricate plotting with a dash of danger, and that’s what I’ve tried to create with my Cait Morgan Mystery Series. Beginning my new series, featuring the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency, I have been able to indulge my love of stately homes, village life and the interplay between characters that can take place in that sort of setting.”

Cathy Ace was born and raised in Swansea, South Wales, and worked in marketing communications for decades across Europe. Having migrated to Canada in 2000, she now lives in beautiful British Columbia, where her ever-supportive husband (and two chocolate Labradors) ensure she’s able to write full-time. Bestselling author Ace writes two series of mystery books: the Cait Morgan Mysteries, and the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries. Her fourth Cait Morgan Mystery, The Corpse with the Platinum Hair, won the 2015 Bony Blithe Award for Best Canadian Light Mystery.

Keep up with Cathy


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