The Marmalade Murders
By Elizabeth J. Duncan
A Penny Brannigan Mystery #9
Minotaur Books, 2018
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.
The Marmalade Murders by Elizabeth J. Duncan is a well-written, utterly satisfying cozy mystery, book #9 in one of my favorite series. The author has a gift for conveying the beautiful Welsh scenery and making you feel the setting with your senses. The main characters could be someone you’d meet in your neighborhood, and the mystery is well crafted as backstories are slowly revealed. Although part of a series, this story stands alone.
As a lead character, Penny Brannigan is someone I’m very comfortable with. Penny, co-owner of a Spa in Llanelen, Wales, is an expatriate Canadian who feels she still needs to prove she belongs to the community after 30 years of residence. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Penny and Florence, who has a similar need. The framework of Llanelen’s agricultural show provides some great scenes, such as Penny’s judging of the children’s animal contest. Some fascinating historical detail is revealed on a coach trip to Speke Hall in England.
The Marmalade Murders has all the elements I enjoy in a cozy mystery. The mystery itself is easy to follow as layers of information are peeled back. Penny’s friendship with a police detective provides a vehicle for the sharing of information, which seems logical for this small rural community. I had no idea as to the killer’s identity and enjoyed the way everything unfolded.
British mysteries are a favorite of mine, both to read and watch on TV. There’s a wonderful website called Stop You're Killing Me, which is how I discovered this series several years ago. It’s a mystery database where you can search in many ways – such as location, job, award nominees/winners – and I’ve found some real gems in the British section.
The Marmalade Murders is a great addition to the award-winning Penny Brannigan series and I hope there will be many more stories. Highly recommended to cozy mystery fans.
I received a copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
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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