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The latest book in an award-winning mystery series, celebrated for its small-town charm and picturesque Welsh setting and starring amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan.
The competition is friendly and just a little fierce at the annual Llanelen agricultural show as town and country folk gather for the outdoor judging of farm animals and indoor judging of cakes, pies, pastries, chutneys, jams and jellies, along with vegetables, fruit and flowers. But this year, there’s a new show category: murder.
Local artist, Spa owner, and amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan agrees to help with the intake of the domestic arts entries and to judge the children’s pet competition on show day. When the president of the Welsh Women’s Guild isn’t on hand to see her granddaughter and pet pug win a prize, the family becomes concerned. When a carrot cake entered in the competition goes missing, something is clearly amiss.
A black Labrador Retriever belonging to the agricultural show’s president discovers the body of the missing woman under the baked goods table. A newcomer to town, a transgender woman, is suspected, but amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan believes her to be innocent. She sets out to find the real killer, but when a second body is discovered days later, the case is thrown into confusion, and Penny knows it’s up to her to figure out what happened—and why.
The Art of the Cover
Elizabeth J. Duncan
To be honest, I didn’t love the cover art of the hardback edition of my first book, The Cold Light of Mourning, but I was so thrilled and grateful just to have been published, to hold a book I’d written in my hands, the cover didn’t seem all that important.
But apparently the publisher (St Martin’s Press) wanted a different look going forward because they commissioned another artist to create fresh, new art for the paperback edition of the book.
And that cover art, I loved.
So happily for me, from 2009’s paperback edition of The Cold Light of Mourning, until 2018’s The Marmalade Murders, the covers of all nine titles in the Penny Brannigan mystery series have been painted by Toronto artist Doug Martin.
The cover art begins with a real, original painting (acrylic paint on illustration board using a variety of fine brushes) and features a window motif. Sometimes the viewer is outside, looking in, and sometimes the viewer is inside, looking out. Doug captures the essence, the spirit of the book, and more importantly, he lays out a scenario that invites the viewer into the story. From a bloody poker on the hearth (Murder on the Hour) to a broken jar of marmalade (The Marmalade Murders) the cover art concept is to intrigue, to convert a viewer into a reader. Something happened here, the art work says. And if you open this book, step into the pages, and start reading, you’ll discover what.
The covers also display a little of Doug’s sly, understated wit. Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By features a knotty skull in the woodwork, but it was covered up by the book’s title. The cracked mug of cocoa on the cover of A Killer’s Christmas in Wales includes a skull-shaped marshmallow.
Doug has also unknowing contributed to the stories themselves. When I’m about two-thirds of the way through a book, my editor contacts me, letting me know it’s time to start thinking about the cover art, and asking for a few details about the story and if I have any suggestions for the cover art. I then receive a pencil sketch, showing what the artist has in mind, and finally, a coloured image of the finished cover art, when the whole thing comes to life. Sometimes, the cover art is done before I’ve finished writing the manuscript.
I was stuck on a certain plot point while I was writing Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By, when the finished cover arrived. Doug had painted a few ordinary items on a desk…a paperclip, a crumpled piece of paper, an envelope, reading glasses…and one of them sparked an idea that suggested how I could point the amateur sleuth in the direction of the killer.
I’m sometimes asked which cover is my favourite and although I love all of them, that’s an easy question to answer — the newest one is always the one I like best!
In fact, I love them so much, I bought them. All nine of Doug Martin’s original paintings that became my book covers hang in my home, where I can see and enjoy them every day. There is no title or author’s name covering them – they are just beautiful paintings by a talented Canadian artist. So the great thing is, when you buy a book in the Penny Brannigan series, you’ve also bought a copy of a lovely painting!
About the Author
Elizabeth J Duncan is the author of two mystery series – Shakespeare in the Catskills and the Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales. She is a two-time winner of the Bloody Words Award for Canada’s best light mystery and lives in Toronto.
I’m so excited to have the chance to give away one print copy of The Marmalade Murders by Elizabeth J. Duncan! For your chance to win, please enter using the giveaway widget below. This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on 5/1/18. Winner will be randomly selected from all eligible entries and must respond to winner notification email within 48 hours or a new winner will be selected. Brooke Blogs is not responsible for prize fulfillment in this giveaway. Good luck!!