Elizabeth J. Duncan's debut novel is set in Llanelen, a bucolic village in Wales. That is to say, it could be just about any small village in Wales. (Having once traveled through Wales, I must say that the small villages of Wales define the word "bucolic.") Within view of the shining Conwy River, Llanelen's beauty captured the heart of a young Canadian backpacker, who decided to stay and become the village manicurist.
Many years later, Penny Brannigan, the young backpacker, is now a fifty-year-old woman whose best friend, Emma, has just died. Emma was the first person to welcome Penny to the village. While Penny mourns, others are celebrating the imminent marriage of the local scion to a sophisticated woman – with humble origins – from London.
On the day of her wedding, right after Penny gives her a manicure, the bride disappears. A police inspector and his assistant do more than try to solve the case; they become Penny's friends. And, with great intuitive leaps and eagle-eye observation, Penny helps them find the bride.
Don't shake your head. It could happen …
This book reminds me so much of Louise Penny's series set in Quebec. They both have a slow pace, and give you a definite sense of place and neatness of character. We watch the main characters deliberately and carefully go about their day's work and play.
It's not deep stuff and I think there's a loose thread dangling at the end, but it's charming and I really, really liked Penny.