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Penny Brannigan Mystery Books In Order

Publication Order of Penny Brannigan Mystery Books

The Cold Light of Mourning (2009) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
A Brush with Death (2010) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
A Killer's Christmas in Wales (2011) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
A Small Hill to Die On (2012) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Never Laugh As a Hearse Goes By (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Slated for Death (2015) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Murder on the Hour (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Murder Is for Keeps (2017) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Marmalade Murders (2018) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

The Penny Brannigan Mystery series is a series of novels by former journalist and college Professor turned cozy mystery author, the Canadian Elizabeth J. Duncan. The first of the Brannigan Mysteries was the award-winning, The Cold Light of Mourning, published in 2009 to much critical acclaim and commercial success. Set in the fictional town of Llanelen in North Wales, the novels feature Penny Brannigan a manicurist and expatriate from Canada. Penny moved to the small town in Wales alongside her friend Victoria to set up a small manicure shop. She is first introduced as an ordinary manicure shop owner who has been living in an enchanting out-of-the-way town of Llanelen for over 25 years. Over the course of the series, she finds herself in the center gruesome tales of murder and intrigue, in which she acts as an amateur sleuth, assisted by her sidekick and business partner Victoria Hopkirk. The novels see the protagonist seek absolution and justice for strangers, friends, herself, and her business as either a matter of necessity, chance or when she is invited to. In these mysteries reminiscent of the cozies by Louise Penny and M.C. Beaton, Elizabeth Duncan writes narratives full of colorful characters in the vivid and bucolic Welsh settings that would delight any traditional cozy mystery enthusiast.

While Elizabeth J. Duncan is a relatively new writer with only the Penny Brannigan Mystery series as her major series, the series has become highly popular among mystery fans across the globe. The first novel in the series, The Cold Light of Mourning is one of the most popular in the series, going on to win and be nominated for several awards after publication. It won the 2009 best first novel category at the Malice Domestic Awards and made the shortlist for the Agatha Awards for Best First Novel, and Best First Crime Novel at the Arthur Ellis Awards. A Small Hill to Die On won the 2013 Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award, while Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By made the 2014 shortlist. A college professor and journalist, Duncan has to be one of the best cozy mystery writers, particularly when it comes to plot, setting, and characterization. The Penny Brannigan series has settings, plot, and characters that are so vivid that you could almost touch them. What is so great about the series is that Duncan writes such great backstories while at the same time creating highly distinctive characters in well-paced narratives that will keep the reader’s attention. Given how prolific the author has been it is highly likely that the trend of releasing a new novel in the series each year will continue for the near future.

The chief protagonist in the series, Penny Brannigan is a down to earth business owner with a predilection for amateur sleuthing. Nonetheless, while Brannigan is very much attracted to amateur sleuthing, it must be noted that most of the time, she is forced into investigation by circumstances including ethical, emotional and justice compulsions. As the operator and owner of a manicure shop, there is very little in the town that she does not know. While she is a Canadian, she has lived long enough in Northern Wales, which feels more like home than her native Canada. As the series moves along, Penny develops a love interest in Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies, who ultimately becomes her boyfriend that plays a significantly bigger role in the latter novels. While she possesses no qualifications and experience in detective work, this does not deter her in any way. She employs the services of her boyfriend, DCI Davies, her business partner Victoria, and several other characters in solving a range of murder mysteries. Over time she actually becomes quite good at ferreting out age-old secrets, and decrypting clues that help her unravel some of the most complex of cases.

The award-winning first novel in the series, The Cold Light of Mourning is the most popular of the Penny Brannigan Mystery novels. It opens to a picturesque small town of Llanelen in Northern Wales, where Meg Wynne Thompson a local beauty whose attitudes have made her one of the most unpopular persons in town, goes missing on her wedding day, only to turn up dead the following day. Penny Brannigan the Canadian expat manicurist that has been resident in the town for more than 25 years happens to be the last person to have been with the dead girl. Thompson had been one of Penny’s dearest friends and she feels that there is something deeper to the story of her death. Emotionally invested, she knows that there is no one better to investigate the case and bring the killers to justice. But given the dead bride’s reputation, there are several people who would have wished ill of her, including her abusive drunken father. However, a little clue that could make the groom complicit may reveal an explosive secret that the small town has kept in the shadows for far too long.

The second novel in the series, A Brush with Death opens with Penny Brannigan as the new owner of an old-fashioned yet charming cottage in Llanelen, a small town in Northern Wales. She has just inherited the house at a time of boom when prices are good and rising. However, the old property also comes with its own baggage having mystery, memories, and most important, it is the scene of a decades old crime. As she rummages through the belongings of the previous owner, a dead teacher, she stumbles upon a stack of letter written by a fledgling Liverpool artist, A, Jone,s who died in 1970. Being an artist, Penny feels compelled to investigate how the young painter met his death, and if it was a homicide. Enlisting the support of a few interested townspeople and Victoria her business partner, she sets out to unravel the decades old mystery. Attending an art exhibition in a nearby town, Brannigan sees what she thinks is one of Jones works. The interesting thing is that the signature and attribution in the work is that of a different artist, which makes her believe that art theft may have had something to do with the protégé’s death. With a tantalizing puzzle and lyrical prose, this mystery will get the pulses of any cozy mystery fan racing.

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