Review: A Killer’s Christmas in Wales by Elizabeth J. Duncan


A Killer’s Christmas in Wales
by Elizabeth J. Duncan
Series: Penny Brannigan #3
Genre: Mystery (cozy)
Published by Minotaur Books
Library book
274 pages
Grade: C+
Synopsis: As the townsfolk of the Welsh valley town of Llanelen settle in for the snowiest winter in twenty-five years, an American stranger arrives. Harry Saunders charms the ladies, one of them in particular: Evelyn Lloyd, the town’s former postmistress, who was left comfortably off after the death of her husband. After Mrs. Lloyd invests a good deal of money with him, Harry goes missing, as does her money. His body is soon discovered outside the walls of Conwy Castle, and Mrs. Lloyd is implicated in the murder.

Although Penny Brannigan and her business partner, Victoria Hopkirk, are busy overseeing the grand opening of their new spa, that doesn’t stop Mrs. Lloyd from desperately seeking Penny’s help to prove her innocence. It’s quite possible that Harry made other enemies while in Llanelen and Penny’s investigation unfolds while she juggles her work at the spa, her growing relationship with Detective Inspector Davies, and the Christmas window competition that she signed up to judge.

She was not bothered that he would recognize her even if he did turn around. He hadn’t paid much attention to her when they’d met in Evelyn Lloyd’s home, today she was wearing a hat, and as she had learned a long time ago, women her age are almost invisible to the rest of the world.


“. . . If we can find the time to read at all, we are looking for a book with well-developed characters and a complicated plot that still promises to be a fast, easy read. We have learned to be multitaskers. We talk on the phone while we draft an e-mail. We eat and text while we drive.

“So I would ask you on this beautiful Christmas morning to consider those three wise men who made that journey to Bethlehem two thousand years ago and . . .”

Penny’s attention drifted away. She shifted in her seat and gazed slowly around the church.


  • I like the Christmas details in the book.
  • I picked this book up because it was a Christmas book and was on a display at my library. The cover was cute and caught my eye. I didn’t know where the book fell in the series and it didn’t really matter for the mystery that I read the third book first.
  • I like the setting in Wales. Not too many contemporary books about Wales.
  • I like Penny and Victoria, but didn’t get enough of them in this book. I might like the relationship between Penny and Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies, but didn’t see them together very much. We don’t get his point-of-view. Again, this might just be because it’s the third book in the series.


  • The beginning is a little slow.
  • I am puzzled about who Dorothy Martin is. She appears in one scene, gives Penny some helpful advice and goes on her way. It just seems too convenient. She comes into the book like someone the reader should know, but I didn’t! She and Penny seem to have immediate rapport, but she’s only on two pages of the book?!
  • Penny is in a relationship with a policeman, but I felt it was more convenience so she could ask questions and get answers.
  • It may just be that I started with the third book in the series, but I didn’t feel there was a lot of characterization. I didn’t really feel I knew the characters other than Evelyn Lloyd and Florence who were the focus of the first half of the book.
  • Some parts of the mystery seem to come out of left field and others aren’t really followed up.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I felt the first part of the book went on for too long. I was a bit bored, but even though there were problems with the book and the mystery I read the second half quickly. I will probably try another one by the author and see how I like it.
  • I gave the book a C+, because I did like the second half of the book quite well.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

  • 2014 Goodreads Challenge
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog