Have you ever noticed that most amateur sleuths aren’t locked into rigid nine to five jobs?

We need flexibility in our working lives (or the daytime situation as a good friend of ours calls it) because when a detecting opportunity knocks, we have to spring into action. So most of us are entrepreneurs and run our own businesses – restaurants, bakeries, and shops that trade in products of every description: antiques; books; Christmas decorations; collectibles; hats; flowers; sewing, knitting and craft supplies; and goodness knows what else. As for me, I co-own a spa with my business partner Victoria Hopkirk in the North Wales town of Llanelen. I’m also an amateur watercolour artist.

We used to do the sleuthing together, Victoria and I, but over the last couple of years, because I’ve been more involved with Gareth Davies, now a retired police officer, Victoria and I haven’t been doing as much. I missed her involvement on my most recent cases. She’s wonderful for exploring scenarios: ‘what if the killer did this . . . because . . .?’

I’ll admit that sleuthing occasionally gets in the way of my work at the Llanelen Spa; Victoria gave me a right ticking off about this in my most recent outing, Murder Is for Keeps. She reminded me that the rest of the staff shouldn’t be expected to hold the fort while I’m hot on the trail of a local killer. But hey, I’m entitled to a day off every now and then!

And then, when I really needed her, and for reasons that are a bit too complicated to go into here, Victoria decided that we should have a day off together, and drive through the lush Welsh countryside to the town of Llanddulas, where I wanted to speak to someone who might know something about a recent murder. Not only did we have a great day out, but our little adventure put me the right track to catching a killer.

There’s an old saying that a good friend is the one who helps you hide the body. My good friends are the ones who help me unmask the killer.

You can read more about Penny Brannigan and her friend and business partner Victoria Hopkirk in Murder Is for Keeps, number eight in the “Penny Brannigan” mystery series set in North Wales.

Local artist Penny Brannigan has been spending her summer painting Gwrych Castle and its surrounding landscapes. A privately owned, castellated Welsh country house, Gwrych has been sadly neglected for decades and is in a heartbreaking state of disrepair. So when she learns architectural historian Mark Baker is leading a team of enthusiastic volunteers to restore the castle grounds and gardens to their former grandeur, Penny is thrilled.

But it’s not long before disagreements over the restoration turn deadly, and Penny is horrified to discover the body of a volunteer hidden in a castle outbuilding. Penny enlists her friend Gareth Davies, recently retired from the North Wales Police Service, to help investigate. As the two dig deeper into the castle’s history, including its glamorous heyday in the 1920s, they find startling connections between an old, unsolved murder and Gareth’s own family, and as they solve the present-day murder, Penny recovers a stunning piece of the castle’s architectural heritage.

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Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy of Murder Is for Keeps. Open to Canada, USA, and UK residents. The giveaway ends July 14, 2017. Good luck everyone!

About the author
Elizabeth J. Duncan is a two-time winner of the Bloody Words Light Mystery Award (Canada) and has been nominated for Agatha and Arthur Ellis awards. She is the author of the long-running Penny Brannigan series set in North Wales (St. Martins Press), and the Shakespeare in the Catskills series (Crooked Lane Books). She lives in Toronto.

Visit her website at www.elizabethjduncan.com, like her Facebook page: and follow her on Twitter: @elizabethduncan

All comments are welcomed.

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