Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan

Title: The Cold Light of Mourning
Author: Elizabeth J. Duncan
ISBN: 9780312558536
Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2009
Hardcover, 288 pages
Genre: Cozy, Amateur Sleuth, #1 Penny Brannigan
Rating: B
Source: Purchased from Bookcloseouts.

First Line: Emma Teasdale had been ill for some time and on a cool evening in early June, alone and peacefully, she died.

When visiting the market town of Llanelen in North Wales as a young student, Penny Brannigan was taken under schoolteacher Emma Teasdale's wing. They became fast friends, and Penny moved from Nova Scotia in Canada to Llanelen where she opened a small nail salon. As the years passed, the two women shared their lives with each other just as a mother and daughter might. Emma's death, although expected, has greatly shaken Penny, leaving her feeling at loose ends.

Perhaps that's why she takes such an interest in the disappearance of bride-to-be Meg Wynne Thompson. Self-made Meg Wynne was about to be married to the local landowner, and townspeople didn't like her much. But when the young woman vanishes on the morning of her wedding and Penny is the last person to see her alive, Penny feels that she should do everything she can to help the police solve the mystery.

Although the identity of the person responsible for Meg Wynne's disappearance was rather transparent to me, there was so much that I liked about this book that I didn't care.

Starting out with the stock characters of a typical small town, Duncan has added layers to them and created a wonderful cast. Penny's troubled youth in Canada has made her an adult who prefers to be in her own company, but she is a genuinely observant and caring person. Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies and Detective Sergeant Bethan Morgan are the sort of police officers you want to show up in your town to look for a missing person. Davies in particular quickly learns to appreciate Penny's eye for detail.

Penny isn't the typical amateur sleuth that she describes to friends:

"What, you mean like those dotty middle-aged amateur lady sleuths that you see in books? Tramping all over the evidence, touching things they shouldn't, putting themselves in harm's way, and just generally annoying the police?"

When she feels that she has something important that will help the police find Meg Wynne, she immediately calls them. It certainly is refreshing to have an amateur sleuth be level-headed and sensible, and it's fun to watch the inspector start to take a shine to her.

Although the villain of the piece was easily guessed, what wasn't easy was figuring out how it was all done. Between the characters and the crime details, this was a very enjoyable, light mystery, and I look forward to meeting Penny again.


  1. I have not come across this author before but she sounds like she provides an interesting light read.

  2. Cathy - Glad you liked this one. You put your finger on one of my pet peeves - amateur sleuths who get in the way of an investigation. I like amateur sleuths to be, as you put it, "clear headed" and work with the police rather than get in their way.

  3. Wales? Ah, this one sounds good, and like you, I don´t care too much about guessing the villain as long as setting and characters are good.

  4. This one sounds really good. I'm not familiar with the author. I love finding new to me books!

  5. Lindy-- This particular book was certainly good.

    Margot-- So do I!

    Dorte-- Besides, we need to feel "smarter than the average bear" once in a while, don't we? ;)

    Holly-- So do I!!!

  6. She sounds like an interesting protag. I'll have to keep an eye out for this.

  7. Pepper-- Thanks for reminding me that I have to look up the title for the next book in the series!

  8. Sounds like a great start to a new cozy series, I'm adding it to my wish list. Like you, it's good to see a sleuth you uses their good sense.

  9. Kris-- Yes. The silly ones work my last nerve and often wind up in DNFs!


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