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Elizabeth J. Duncan Books In Order

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Publication Order of Penny Brannigan Books

The Cold Light of Mourning (2009)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Brush with Death (2010)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Killer's Christmas in Wales (2011)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Small Hill to Die On (2012)Description / Buy at Amazon
Never Laugh As a Hearse Goes By (2013)Description / Buy at Amazon
Slated for Death (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
Murder on the Hour (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon
Murder Is for Keeps (2017)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Marmalade Murders (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon
Remembering the Dead (2019)Description / Buy at Amazon
On Deadly Tides (2020)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Shakespeare in the Catskills Mystery Books

Untimely Death (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
Ill Met by Murder (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon
Much Ado About Murder (2017)Description / Buy at Amazon

Elizabeth J. Duncan is a Canadian author primarily known for writing Cozy mysteries. Since her first novel in 2009, Duncan’s work has received critical acclaim and won her a few significant awards.


Elizabeth J. Duncan didn’t publish her first book until 2009. Some people might presume that she took a little too long to enter the writing game. However, it would be more rational to believe that Duncan waited just long enough, marinating on her ideas and stories before finally putting pen to paper and producing her first story.

After all, her very first book won her nominations for the Agatha Award and the Arthur Ellis Award, which says a lot about her abilities. Duncan attended Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. She graduated with a degree in English.

However, rather than entering the publishing game immediately, Duncan instead worked in journalism. Fulfilling the roles of both editor and writer, Duncan was afforded the chance to work at many newspapers in Canada such as the Hamilton Spectator and the Ottawa Citizen.

The opportunities granted her ample time to hone her writing skills, this while picking up on ideas for her stories. The author also spent quite a few years living and working in London. Duncan was working in broadcasting at the time, though she also found that freelance writing could prove lucrative for someone like her who had the right connections.

Duncan’s most prominent work is a cozy mystery series of novels known as the Penny Brannigan series which began in 2009.

The fact that the story is set in North Wales isn’t surprising. After all, Duncan travels to North Wales every single year and spends some time there. Clearly, the place has a special place in Duncan’s heart.

The author’s first novel, The Cold Light of Mourning, was a recipient of the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant for unpublished Writers. Sufficing to say, the recognition gave Duncan all the drive she needed to keep pursuing her writing career in the genre of cozy mysteries.

Elizabeth J. Duncan isn’t wholly consumed with the process of writing her cozy mysteries. She also teaches at Humber College.

+The Cold Light of Mourning

Meg Wynne Thompson isn’t the most likable person in the Llanelen. The self-made beauty hasn’t made a particularly popular bride, at least not as far as the people of the picturesque North Wales Market town are concerned.

None the less, intrigue is raised when Meg seemingly disappears on her wedding day. And People are a little uncertain as to how they should react when Meg turns up dead. All eyes turn to Penny Brannigan. The attention is anything but welcome for the manicurist.

However, she was the last person to see the victim, and the expatriate Canadian who has lived in the area for more than two decades might be the one person that can decipher the truth behind Meg’s murder.

Penny is initially distracted by the recent death of her dearest friend. Upon noticing something suspicious at the funeral, Penny decides that it might be time to get her hands dirty by investigating the crime herself.

It doesn’t take Penny long to draw up a long list of the suspects who might have wanted Meg dead, this including her drunken and abusive father. However, when she continues to pull at the various threads, even Penny is surprised when the trail leads to the groom’s house.

An explosive secret is waiting to be unearthed, a secret that could shake the whole town.

Cozy mysteries typically follow old ladies as they attempt to solve relatively complicated mysteries. In that regard, this book, the first that Elizabeth J. Duncan wrote, isn’t anything new or even different.

The heroine introduced here is a middle-aged Canadian living a boring but comfortable life in North Wales. When the son of a wealthy landowner decides to marry a beautiful lady from London, Penny’s Salon is chosen as the location where the bridal party will have their nails done.

The book tries to suggest that, as the last person who saw the victim, Penny has some key that perfectly positions her to solve the crime. However, the story feels a little disjointed.

Duncan makes an effort to explain away the odd decisions and reactions of her characters but she doesn’t exactly succeed. The police are a little too clumsy at times, and things appear to come together a little too easily in some cases.

It doesn’t help that the book moves at such a slow pace. Very few characters actually bother to stand out. As the first book in a series, this Elizabeth J. Duncan novel is hardly terrible.

But it could have been far superior, especially the anti-climatic resolution.

+A Brush with Death

Penny Brannigan was pretty curious to learn that she had inherited an old-fashioned cottage in North Wales. Upon inspection of the property, Penny realizes that she might have stumbled upon something far more valuable than just a desirable period property.

There is a decades-old crime that needs solving, one complemented by memories and mysteries. It all starts with a packet of letters. Penny finds them while sorting through the belongings of a deceased teacher, her benefactor. The letters were from A. Jones, a young artist from Liverpool that had a lot of talent and promise before his accidental death in 1970.

As an artist, Penny is immediately intrigued, wondering whether she has what it takes to figure out who killed the painter. Luckily for Penny, she has help in the form of her business partner Victoria Hopkirk.

Things begin to come together when Penny encounters the work of Jones at a retrospective art exhibition in Liverpool. However, the work has been attributed to another artist.

Penny begins to wonder whether art theft might sit at the center of the dated case. If Jones’ death was no accident, then Penny is determined to prove as much.

A lot of writers typically struggle to get their first book out of the gate, but they normally find their stride and master their voice by their second book. This book, the sequel to ‘The Cold Light of Mourning’ doesn’t manifest the level of improvement one might have expected from Elizabeth J. Duncan.

In fact, the author’s weaknesses seem to shine through even more starkly, with a slow-paced story, odd character decisions and reactions, and an anticlimactic resolution.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Elizabeth J. Duncan

2 Responses to “Elizabeth J. Duncan”

  1. heather j goertzen: 2 years ago

    Are we going to be getting a new Penny Branigan novel soon? I really enjoy this series.

    • Graeme: 2 years ago

      I haven’t heard of any plans for a new one at this time


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