A Small Hill to Die On – A Book Review

A Small Hill to Die On by Elizabeth J. Duncan

A Small Hill to Die on, by  Elizabeth J. Duncan, is an excellent read.  It is Ms. Duncan’s fourth mystery in the Penny Brannigan series.

The novel is set in the small town of Llanelen in Wales.  Penny Brannigan is a transplanted Canadian who has been living in Llanelen after what was supposed to have been a short visit twenty-five years earlier.

Penny is an artist who loves sketching and has spent many happy hours on the hills surrounding Llanelen, drawing the magnificent scenery.  While on one of these sketching trips with a friend, Penny comes across a partially buried body.

So begins the mystery that this amateur sleuth is determined to solve.  The story is intriguing and involves newcomers to Llanelen, two rebellious teenagers, a husband with a gambling addiction, and several townspeople, familiar to anyone who has read the three previous novels.  Mrs. Lloyd, the town busybody is a particular favourite of mine.  Penny’s boyfriend, Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies who is assigned to the case, and even Victoria, Penny’s business partner get involved.

Another death occurs and the pace of the book increases.  Penny’s sleuthing is putting her in danger and we find ourselves wondering if the next death could be hers.  The plot twists and turns with increasing speed as Penny gets closer and closer to the truth about these two deaths as well as one which had occurred decades ago and was just recently discovered.

Can Penny do it?  Can she discover the person or persons “whodunnit” before it is too late?

She can.  And she does.

Ms. Duncan’s descriptions of the Llanelen and the surrounding countryside make us feel as if we were there, or we wish we were there.  Ms. Duncan knows Wales and it shows.

I started reading this book this afternoon and I finished it this evening. The only complaint I have is that it wasn’t longer.  How long do I have to wait for another Penny Brannigan mystery by Elizabeth J. Duncan?

It’s very British, very cozy, and very nice.


Swan Song – A Book Review

This is the first in a series of book reviews I’d like to do as part of my blog.  I’m only going to review books I have enjoyed but I am an avid reader.

The cover of Swan Song by Jo Hiestand

Murders, kidnappings, motives, clues, suspects, and detectives.  Throw in a castle or two, the charming English countryside and quaint villages, and you have yourself a Jo A. Hiestand “McLaren” Mystery.

Swan Song is the second in a series featuring Detective Michael McLaren and is set in Derbyshire in England.  The series is written by Jo A. Hiestand who, funnily enough, is an American.  Her novels are set in Britain but her command of the colloquialisms and her feel for the place is exceptional.  Jo Hiestand is fast becoming a favourite mystery writer in the same class as Deborah Crombie and Peter Robinson.

Michael McLaren is a former police detective who is now making a living at building and repairing drystone walls.  He does not intend to get involved in another “cold case” mystery but is drawn in with the help and a not-too-gentle nudge from his girlfriend, Dena.  It seems a music teacher and performer was murdered the previous year and his case was never solved.  Dena thinks that the case is just what McLaren needs to pull him out of the depression he has been suffering from since his abrupt retirement from the police department the year before.

This book was one I literally couldn’t put down.  The plot revealed itself little by little and I found myself turning the pages with eagerness to find out what was going to happen next.  Never was it predictable, but neither was it unbelievable.  Throughout the book, McLaren uses music to soothe his soul as he deals with the cast of characters he has to interview.  The ex-wife, the next-door neighbour, the teaching colleague, the students, and his singing partners are all well drawn.  Who dunnit???

My eldest daughter who is also a lover of mysteries, says that if a book has a map in it, you know it’s going to be good.

Here is the map that came with Swan Song.

I kept referring back to the map as I got deeper into the story.  I wanted to know where the pub was that he was in or where the festival was being held.  It helped bring the mystery to life.

I have a few questions about McLaren and why he resigned from the police.  Questions about his “enemy” in the police ranks and how he is going to be dealt with in future novels.

I believe there are two more McLaren novels, to join Siren Song, Hiestand’s first and Swan Song.  And someone told me today that the fifth novel has just been started.

Hiestand has another series which I am eager to try – The Taylor & Graham Mysteries.  I can hardly wait.