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by Elizabeth J. Duncan
Minotaur Books, April 2009
288 pages
ISBN: 0312558538

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Penny Brannigan, an expatriate Canadian, has been living quite happily in Llanelen, Wales for many years and has established her own routine and friendships. Her nail salon is very successful and she has many long-standing customers. Penny still likes to meet new people and is always happy to make appointments outside her standard hours for special occasions. For example, she is hired to do the nails for the wedding party at the upcoming Gruffydd-Thompson wedding. The bride, Meg Wynne Thompson, decides to have her nails done the day of the wedding. This is unusual but Penny is more than willing to help out.

Unfortunately, shortly after her nail appointment, Meg Wynne disappears. The prospective bride was a social climber and made no bones about her goals in life. Therefore many people - including some of her wedding party - disliked her. In fact, many people in the wedding party believe that Meg Wynne had cold feet so had simply decided not to marry and had returned to London. It is not until her body is discovered that foul play is mentioned.

In fact, Detective Chief Inspector Davies has his hands full with the snobbish wedding party who look down on the 'backward' Welsh. If this is not difficult enough, he has to find an imposter as well. When Penny views the body, she is shocked to find that whoever kept Meg Wynne's nail appointment was not the person who was to have been married. Not being willing to stand on the sidelines, Penny and her new friend Victoria decide to do some investigating of their own. While the two keep Davies up to date regarding their findings, both still manage to put their own lives at risk. Penny and Victoria must help the police catch the murderer before they end up as the murderer's next two victims.

THE COLD LIGHT OF MOURNING is the debut novel by Elizabeth J Duncan who is the first Canadian winner of the Minotaur/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel competition. It does have some of the weaknesses expected in a first novel. The storyline does not move smoothly, there are starts in stops in the narrative, parts of the book feel forced, and the love interest is apparent from the very beginning. THE COLD LIGHT OF MOURNING is character driven, though some of the characters are stock characters and are not well developed.

The one thing about this book that I found the most annoying was the way Meg Wynne Thompson was referred to throughout as 'Meg Wynne.' I had problems accepting that a well- dressed, beautiful and driven social climber would go by a double name, which for me suggests not a driven seeker but someone from a simpler, unsophisticated background. Though my feeling about this may simply come from a cultural difference, it did not ring true but it bothered me enough that it distracted from the plot and the mystery.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, August 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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