cover image Murder Is for Keeps: A Penny Brannigan Mystery

Murder Is for Keeps: A Penny Brannigan Mystery

Elizabeth J. Duncan. Minotaur, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-10147-1

In Duncan’s lackluster eighth mystery featuring spa owner and artist Penny Brannigan (after 2016’s Murder on the Hour), Penny finds a body in the grounds of Gwrych Castle, near her home in North Wales. The dead man volunteered with a crew renovating the castle, and after his developmentally challenged son disappears, Penny pieces together a connection between their family, the renovation’s site manager, and a 20-year-old theft. Meanwhile, a skeleton turns up in the castle garden, and Penny’s friend Gareth Davies, recently retired from the police force, investigates. Duncan’s reliance on dialogue to explicate plot points sometimes leads to stilted conversations and a facile treatment of the characters’ emotions, such as when Gareth tells Penny about a new romance. Newcomers might be bewildered by the array of secondary characters, but longtime fans should enjoy cameos from many of Llanelan’s quirky residents, whose participation in a pub quiz to raise money for the castle restoration provides a humorous interlude. Anglophiles will savor details about the castle’s history and gardens. [em]Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary Agency. (Apr.) [/em]