Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Remembering the Dead (A Penny Brannigan Mystery #10)

Author:  Elizabeth J. Duncan
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781643851136
Crooked Lane Publishing
$26.56; $12.99 Amazon
September 10, 2019


Artist and spa owner Penny Brannigan has been asked to organize a formal dinner to mark the centenary of the armistice that ended World War One.  After dinner, the guests adjourn to the library for a private exhibition of the Black Chair, a precious piece of Welsh literary history awarded in 1917 to poet Hedd Wyn.  But to the guests' shock, the newly restored bardic chair is missing.  And then Penny discovers the rain-soaked body of a waiter.

When Penny learns that the victim was the nephew of one of her employees, she is determined to find the killer.  Meanwhile, the local police search for the Black Chair.  The Prince of Wales is due to open an exhibit featuring the chair in three weeks, so time is not on their side.  A visit to a nursing home to consult with an ex-thief convinces Penny that the theft of the Black Chair and the waiter's murder are connected.  She rushes to Dublin to consult a disagreeable antiquarian, who might know more than he lets on, and during the course of her investigation confronts a gaggle of suspicious travelers and an eccentric herbalist who seems to have something to hide.  Can Penny find the chair and the culprit before she is laid to rest in the green grass of Wales?


When Penny is asked by her friend Emyr to help plan a dinner party in order to show a select few the famed Welsh treasure, the Black Chair, she agrees.  With the help of several locals, everything seems to be going swimmingly.  She's also pleased that her young friend Lane is able to help as a server, and seems to be doing well, until he falls in the back pantry and spills drinks.  Although he insists he's fine, Penny's not so sure when Lane disappears.  And when the showing finally arrives, so does the Black Chair. 

But it doesn't stop there - a young waiter is found fatally injured, and so the house becomes a crime scene, and everyone is a suspect.  Worse still, they need to find the chair in three weeks' time, when the Prince of Wales is going to dedicate it where it will stand in a museum.  Penny also discovers that the dead waiter is the nephew of one of her employees, and the woman asks her to help find the killer.

Now Penny's on the trail of a missing chair, a missing young man, and a missing killer.  With the clock ticking against her, will she find the murderer or will he or she get away with stealing a national treasure and a killing?

This was basically a closed-door mystery without actually being closed-door.  To wit:  the murderer had to be someone in the home at the time of the theft of the chair, or a person who allowed the murderer to enter.  Thus, we set the stage for Penny to eliminate guests and decide who the murderer might be.

When she acknowledges that she knows nearly all the guests, we have it narrowed down quite quickly.  But then there's the sticking point of figuring out why the chair was targeted, and why the young man was murdered.  Thus begins the investigation.

However, a couple of things irritated me.  The host, Emyr, was an idiot.  He should never have allowed his guests to leave, instead telling them that the police would, in all likelihood, wish to speak with them before they went home.  But nooo  ---  he didn't want to inconvenience his guests, of course, so he'd rather lose a national treasure and possibly allow a murderer time to escape somewhere else.  I ask you, does this make any sense at all?  Anyone with any sense would know to keep their guests in the home, inconvenience be damned.  After all, it was a matter of time, and if any of them - including the servers - knew anything, one would think that the police would be able to tell from body language.  Honestly, the police didn't even seem to be really concerned that Lane was missing, which seemed odd as well. 

Even if they were townspeople, time is of the essence in a murder, and I have never known the police to be happy when people were just allowed to leave and go their own way - nor a host who would rather them do so than be upset with him.  I also didn't understand when, later on, he was upset that the forensics team was combing his house and grounds when a murder occurred.  What did he expect them to do?  Just say, 'oh, well, he'll be upset, and the killer may turn up eventually.'  One would think he'd want to be helpful to find the killer and the Black Chair, not be annoyed.

I have several of the Penny Brannigan mysteries, and while I admit that Penny is intelligent and knows what she's about, she's well, rather dull as a person.  There's no spark to her.  She was perfect to organize the evening as she's methodical, but she doesn't have any real life within her.  I can't imagine us being friends as she'd more than likely put me to sleep on a regular basis.  (Which is why I am glad the mysteries are well written!).

I also didn't understand why we were told that Penny was a 'fulfilled, independent woman' but then admitted how it would be nice to come home to someone; if she wants that, all she has to do is put herself out there and date once in a while.  Also, why was Gareth even in the book?  If she had no regrets about losing him, it seemed odd that he should appear in a couple of scenes.  There was also another person Penny was once fond of who showed up here, but this book seemed a bit to be about Penny burning bridges behind her.  Maybe others didn't notice, but I certainly did.  Either that, or the author was trying to show us how much better off Penny was 'without a man in her life.' 

Other than that, I felt the book was written well, and the plot was done nicely, too.  There weren't a lot of red herrings; but then there probably wasn't meant to be.  It was more that there were a number of threads which, when pulled upon, lead to even more threads, and all those threads finally wound up together to weave the story into a final fabric that came together in one piece. 

Once we discovered the reason for everything happening, you have to wonder why people think the way they do.  Every action has a consequence, and every consequence leads to another action on someone else's part.  It's an inescapable part of life; and in this case it lead to a tragic outcome that could have been prevented but wasn't.

All in all, the story kept me reading throughout the night, and I do like that; Penny is very clever and is able to hear one bit of information that leads her to several 'aha' moments, which is a good trait to have; and I liked the fact that she didn't run headlong into situations that could cause her danger.  She actually thought about her course of action before she decided to take it.  In the end, I liked the resolution to the story, and everything, of course, was tied up nicely.  Recommended.


Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2862999941

More on Elizabeth J. Duncan's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/elizabeth-j-duncan/

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