The Cold Light of Mourning Review
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Manicurist Penny Brannigan has just lost her best friend, Emma Teasdale—the first person who welcomed her to the small North Wales town of Llanelen 25 years ago, when Penny was just a backpacking young Canadian. But as Penny mourns her friend, the rest of the town is busy gossiping about the town’s big wedding. Wealthy young Emyr Gruffydd has returned from London with his fiancée, Meg Wynne Thompson, and their wedding’s just days away.

On the morning of the wedding, Meg Wynne stops by Penny’s Happy Hands Nail Care shop for a manicure—then she disappears. When two detectives from the nearby town of Llandudno are called in to investigate the bride’s disappearance, they find their way to Penny. At first, she’s sure that she didn’t notice anything strange about the bride’s visit—but the more she thinks about the case, the more she begins to put the pieces together.

First-time author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s The Cold Light of Mourning is a delightfully cozy read, complete with a lovably quirky cast of small-town characters. In fact, while the mystery does make for an interesting read, the characters often take center stage.

Penny, especially, is a charming character—and the more you get to know her, the more you’ll like her. She’s sweet and thoughtful, and she’s inquisitive without being pushy. You’ll be relieved when she meets harp-playing divorcee Victoria—because she deserves to find a new friend. And you’ll be even more relieved when awkward little sparks begin to fly between Penny and Detective Chief Inspector Davies—because they seem to make such an adorable couple. Perhaps my favorite character, though, is spunky ex-postmistress Mrs. Lloyd, the incurable gossip whose regular visits to the shop always seem to spark Penny’s recollections and observations.

Duncan’s relaxed style also helps to make The Cold Light such an enjoyable read. She does a wonderful job of making seamless transitions from one character’s point-of-view to the next. And, despite the small-town Welsh setting, she doesn’t try to inject too much of the local dialect into her dialogue—for which I was extremely grateful. Because while that may add a touch of authenticity to the story, it’s also tends to be a major distraction for readers. Instead, Duncan manages to make the story feel folksy and authentic without giving her readers the added linguistic challenge.

Though the mystery seemed just a bit too simple and straightforward for my taste, The Cold Light of Mourning is a light and entertaining read that makes a literary getaway for a relaxing Sunday afternoon. I hope Ms. Duncan’s working on a follow-up—because I’d love to make a return trip to Llanelen.

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