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A Small Hill to Die On (Penny Brannigan, #4)

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The North Wales market town of Llanelen is abuzz when a Vietnamese family moves into Ty Brith Hall. It isn’t long before the family’s business dealings have the townsfolk wondering what’s really going on up at the big house on the hill.  Things take a sinister turn when Penny Brannigan, spending a midwinter afternoon sketching the magnificent views that surround the town, d The North Wales market town of Llanelen is abuzz when a Vietnamese family moves into Ty Brith Hall. It isn’t long before the family’s business dealings have the townsfolk wondering what’s really going on up at the big house on the hill.  Things take a sinister turn when Penny Brannigan, spending a midwinter afternoon sketching the magnificent views that surround the town, discovers the body of the new family’s teenage daughter. Many secrets lie buried in the shallow grave, along with the girl, who Penny identifies by the snakeskin manicure she received at Penny’s salon.  When an elderly woman returns to Llanelen to care for her ailing brother, Penny discovers the truth about another death at Ty Brith Hall, one that hits very close to home. Though Penny's romantic interest, Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies, warns her to stay away, Penny can't resist getting involved, and her urge to help will ultimately put her in danger. Elizabeth J. Duncan's latest offering in this engaging series is filled with memorable characters, great escapes, explosive plot twists, and plenty of Welsh charm.  


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The North Wales market town of Llanelen is abuzz when a Vietnamese family moves into Ty Brith Hall. It isn’t long before the family’s business dealings have the townsfolk wondering what’s really going on up at the big house on the hill.  Things take a sinister turn when Penny Brannigan, spending a midwinter afternoon sketching the magnificent views that surround the town, d The North Wales market town of Llanelen is abuzz when a Vietnamese family moves into Ty Brith Hall. It isn’t long before the family’s business dealings have the townsfolk wondering what’s really going on up at the big house on the hill.  Things take a sinister turn when Penny Brannigan, spending a midwinter afternoon sketching the magnificent views that surround the town, discovers the body of the new family’s teenage daughter. Many secrets lie buried in the shallow grave, along with the girl, who Penny identifies by the snakeskin manicure she received at Penny’s salon.  When an elderly woman returns to Llanelen to care for her ailing brother, Penny discovers the truth about another death at Ty Brith Hall, one that hits very close to home. Though Penny's romantic interest, Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Davies, warns her to stay away, Penny can't resist getting involved, and her urge to help will ultimately put her in danger. Elizabeth J. Duncan's latest offering in this engaging series is filled with memorable characters, great escapes, explosive plot twists, and plenty of Welsh charm.  

30 review for A Small Hill to Die On (Penny Brannigan, #4)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Shaeri

    Dunno what to say about this book. It is a mystery that I liked reading after a long time, good old fashioned cozy, charming. A good book to cozy up with a cup a good tea, a few cushions. This is also the only Penny Brannigan book I read and I will try to get my hands on the rest. My one star rating is for the content. I found the book racist! yes! I know it is not a serious book pointing fingers at races, I understand those books but this one I did not. Calling someone 'foreigner', making them v Dunno what to say about this book. It is a mystery that I liked reading after a long time, good old fashioned cozy, charming. A good book to cozy up with a cup a good tea, a few cushions. This is also the only Penny Brannigan book I read and I will try to get my hands on the rest. My one star rating is for the content. I found the book racist! yes! I know it is not a serious book pointing fingers at races, I understand those books but this one I did not. Calling someone 'foreigner', making them villains, sounded silly. I know many people are involved in marijuana production and they belong to certain countries but it sure would have looked better if there was at least one person from a different race helping the police, or was made to feel accepted. I know it is just a story but just making a bunch of Asian people villains, murderers with garish color choices made put me off!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Things get complicated in Penny's small Welsh town after a Vietnamese family moves into the local manor. The wife owns and runs a string of nail salons, which might take a bite out of Penny's spa business. Then Penny finds the daughter, brutally beaten to death, in the countryside near the town. Penny's boyfriend, a police inspector, won't tell her anything, so Penny pokes around herself. There are also dognappings going on; are they connected with what's going on at the manor? Many plot threads Things get complicated in Penny's small Welsh town after a Vietnamese family moves into the local manor. The wife owns and runs a string of nail salons, which might take a bite out of Penny's spa business. Then Penny finds the daughter, brutally beaten to death, in the countryside near the town. Penny's boyfriend, a police inspector, won't tell her anything, so Penny pokes around herself. There are also dognappings going on; are they connected with what's going on at the manor? Many plot threads weave in and out as Penny gets herself into more and more trouble. I nearly gave up on this one once I realized it wasn't actually the cozy it purported to be--it's a hybrid cozy/police procedural, with international criminal gangs, drugs, violence, kidnapping, etc. If I'd wanted that kind of book, I would have gone looking for it, and was ticked off to find it hiding in a supposedly cozy mystery. I did like that the book didn't follow a traditional structure, and I liked the description of the countryside. I didn't like that the main message of this book and the one after it is that immigrants other than Penny are just plain Bad News, and are at the bottom of all the current crimes in the UK. Nice message. (Yes, I'm being sarcastic.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    BeParticular

    This was a surprising disappointment. I can hardly believe it was written by the same author as the three previous books. The murder made no sense and even though it was not graphically described, it was extremely brutal. Characters were so thinly drawn that they were ridiculous cartoons. Even established characters were stuck in the same repetitive storyline ruts. The "let's supplement our billion-pound criminal enterprise by stealing local dogs" side plot was preposterous. And I found it to ha This was a surprising disappointment. I can hardly believe it was written by the same author as the three previous books. The murder made no sense and even though it was not graphically described, it was extremely brutal. Characters were so thinly drawn that they were ridiculous cartoons. Even established characters were stuck in the same repetitive storyline ruts. The "let's supplement our billion-pound criminal enterprise by stealing local dogs" side plot was preposterous. And I found it to have a racist undertone. A member of the police force says, "You wouldn't believe the things people get away with by playing the racism card." What in the world happened here? There is absolutely no point to reading this book. Do not waste your time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    April

    “You wouldn’t believe what people get up to by playing the racism card.” This is a racist book about nice racists whose world is ticked by having a Vietnamese family move into the neighborhood to run a nail salon and marijuana grow op. Of course. Also there’s murder and gangs and other shenanigans that in vitally happen when your lively racist white neighborhoods gets infected with scary people of color. Cue giant eye roll.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Cozy. Good not great. I didn't really connect to the characters. The "newcomers as outsiders" aspect came across as racism which I found a bit disturbing. Cozy. Good not great. I didn't really connect to the characters. The "newcomers as outsiders" aspect came across as racism which I found a bit disturbing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Aditi Dubey

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I bought few books from this series at the used book store on a whim, and unfortunately I don't think I'll be reading the rest of them. While it wasn't a bad cozy mystery, the racist overtones of this book left an incredibly bad taste in my mouth. The book centers around a Vietnamese family that move into the large manor house in the village, and even before they're revealed to be the cartoonishly evil bad guys (we're told that they're involved in marijuana growing, prostitution, human trafficki I bought few books from this series at the used book store on a whim, and unfortunately I don't think I'll be reading the rest of them. While it wasn't a bad cozy mystery, the racist overtones of this book left an incredibly bad taste in my mouth. The book centers around a Vietnamese family that move into the large manor house in the village, and even before they're revealed to be the cartoonishly evil bad guys (we're told that they're involved in marijuana growing, prostitution, human trafficking and dog napping), the attitude towards them is one of suspicion and distaste. They are constantly referred to as foreigners (I quote - "Those politicians are letting these foreigners come in and steal our country") even as the main character also expresses surprise that they have British accents and comments on the mismatch between a woman's Asian features and her Birmingham accent (It seems wildly unlikely that she's never encountered a British person of Asian descent with a British accent before). Her detective boyfriend talks about the good old days when criminals were all British and spoke the same language, and also says, and this is another direct quote - "The gang were also likely counting on the overly politically correct times we live in. If anyone had complained about them, they would have just cried racism. You wouldn't believe the things people get away with by playing the racism card." All of this wouldn't seem quite as bad if the author had included even one non-white character who wasn't part of the criminal gang, just to provide a balanced perspective. I was looking forward to reading the rest of these books, but the racism card has lost this author at least one reader.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bookista

    Proficient enough as a cozy, I guess, but definitely the weakest in the series. Kind of racist, and the remarks about “how far you can get by playing the race card” are extremely obnoxious. If this was the only book I’d read in the series, I wouldn’t read another.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Debby Hammer

    A sweet mystery, not too intense, yet with a good mixture of 'intrigo'. A sweet mystery, not too intense, yet with a good mixture of 'intrigo'.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeanie

    I had to begin this series with the fourth book because Audible didn't have the first three. The story is completely comprehendable starting here and the author does quite a good job at bringing the reader up to speed in just a few sentences here and there where needed. The story is told economically--in the same way M. C. Beaton does with the Hamish Macbeth oor Agatha Raisin series--and does a fairly good job of hiding the solution... although I actually guessed part of the solution the moment I had to begin this series with the fourth book because Audible didn't have the first three. The story is completely comprehendable starting here and the author does quite a good job at bringing the reader up to speed in just a few sentences here and there where needed. The story is told economically--in the same way M. C. Beaton does with the Hamish Macbeth oor Agatha Raisin series--and does a fairly good job of hiding the solution... although I actually guessed part of the solution the moment I met the character because sometimes I just see it and there you are. I like the setting in Whales and wouldn't mind getting to know more about it. I did find that jumping into the middle of the series did feel a little like coming in during the middle of a symphony... you feel that lack of flow in the characters lives and stories even though the main themes have been repeated for you. Ann Flosnick narrated this one and I enjoyed the light Welsh accent she gave the characters who spoke with one. The pace of this one was a little fast and I found I had to listen even more attentively, especially since I was playing catch up. Sometimes I had a little trouble knowing who was speaking, especially when the dialogue was between Penny and Victoria, when there were no attributions as to speaker or when the words didn't contain telltales that would distinguish between a British and Canadian speaker. I'm going to watch Audible to see if the first three stories appear and then maybe start--or re-start--from there.

  10. 5 out of 5

    ❂ Murder by Death

    A very well crafted, well written cozy mystery that remains true to the strictest definition of a cozy. This is not an assembly line run-of-the-mill plot; it's obvious when reading it that the author spent a lot of time crafting this book, as well as the previous books in this series. I'd readily recommend this series and book to cozy readers; especially those who prefer their reads without language, sex, or overt violence. Having said all of that, I'll most likely not continue this series myself A very well crafted, well written cozy mystery that remains true to the strictest definition of a cozy. This is not an assembly line run-of-the-mill plot; it's obvious when reading it that the author spent a lot of time crafting this book, as well as the previous books in this series. I'd readily recommend this series and book to cozy readers; especially those who prefer their reads without language, sex, or overt violence. Having said all of that, I'll most likely not continue this series myself. Not because I think it needs language, or sex, or overt violence, but because I'm personally not connecting with the characters. I love that it takes place in Wales, in a market town. I love that the main character is an artist who owns a day spa. And I can't point to anything specific about the characters save a tiny bit of dialogue that felt stilted. I'm just not connecting. And that's the only reason I gave this 3 stars and not a higher rating. I think a lot of cozy lovers would genuinely enjoy reading this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nellie Kampmann

    There was a lot I liked about the story. The characters were interesting and there were a few seemingly unrelated threads to the plot that wove together by the end. As an American of Welsh ancestry, I was delighted to hear the soft Welsh accent in the audio version. Duncan does a lovely job of describing the Welsh countryside. This was the first book of hers that I read, and I will be reading more on that count. However, my rating got knocked down by the inherent racism in the book. Sure, in rea There was a lot I liked about the story. The characters were interesting and there were a few seemingly unrelated threads to the plot that wove together by the end. As an American of Welsh ancestry, I was delighted to hear the soft Welsh accent in the audio version. Duncan does a lovely job of describing the Welsh countryside. This was the first book of hers that I read, and I will be reading more on that count. However, my rating got knocked down by the inherent racism in the book. Sure, in real life, some immigrants are bad people and some people are extremely prejudiced against them. I wouldn't have found it so offputting if there was some balance with other characters, both the townspeople and the immigrants themselves, being more sympaththic.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Gumz

    The racist undertones in this book were horrible. I can’t believe it got published. I’m not reading any more of her books after this.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mystereity Reviews

    Love this series, and liked this book, but I didn't think it was as good as the other books in the series. It meandered a bit, the MC had a TSTL moment, and the whole thing felt rushed. Good, but not great. Love this series, and liked this book, but I didn't think it was as good as the other books in the series. It meandered a bit, the MC had a TSTL moment, and the whole thing felt rushed. Good, but not great.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    wonderful. all the perfect elements of an intriguing, interesting cozy mystery. love this series! read in one day!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Johanna

    A nice cozy and a quick read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Madelyn

    This is an intriguing tale with a clever plot. I thoroughly enjoyed the read!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Books

    I read the preceding books and was entertained enough to keep going. Very disappointed that it was so blatantly racist. I don't know if I wish to read more of hers. I read the preceding books and was entertained enough to keep going. Very disappointed that it was so blatantly racist. I don't know if I wish to read more of hers.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    My first Elizabeth Duncan mystery and I'm hooked. I listened to the audio and loved the accents. It was a good mystery with lots of intrigue and well developed characters. My first Elizabeth Duncan mystery and I'm hooked. I listened to the audio and loved the accents. It was a good mystery with lots of intrigue and well developed characters.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    weirdly racist

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This is the 4th book in the series. The village is surprised when a Vietnamese family moves into the Hall and begins to stir things up by planning a salon with tanning. There is a lot of activity and the family pays in cash for many things. When the teenaged daughter comes in for a nail treatment, Penny tries a new snakeskin technique on her which delights her. However, this new technique comes back to haunt Penny when she later discovers a body with the distinctive nail treatment. In digging in This is the 4th book in the series. The village is surprised when a Vietnamese family moves into the Hall and begins to stir things up by planning a salon with tanning. There is a lot of activity and the family pays in cash for many things. When the teenaged daughter comes in for a nail treatment, Penny tries a new snakeskin technique on her which delights her. However, this new technique comes back to haunt Penny when she later discovers a body with the distinctive nail treatment. In digging in to the death, Penny finds out about an old mystery at the Hall. This time Penny’s inquisitive behavior gets her into a heap of trouble, one that even Gareth may not be help her with before it is too late.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nese

    I enjoy this series that seems to get better with each book, since one gets to know the characters better and the relationships of the characters develop gradually and become more intimate. Reading the book is like taking a walk in the breathtakingly beautiful countryside in Wales and having a visit with the characters since the author does a wonderful job of describing the nature. I didn’t really read the book for the murder mysteries but because of the wonderful storytelling and having such a I enjoy this series that seems to get better with each book, since one gets to know the characters better and the relationships of the characters develop gradually and become more intimate. Reading the book is like taking a walk in the breathtakingly beautiful countryside in Wales and having a visit with the characters since the author does a wonderful job of describing the nature. I didn’t really read the book for the murder mysteries but because of the wonderful storytelling and having such a wonderful tone throughout, describing loving and close relationships.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ann Boytim

    Penny and her friend Victoria have opened their new spa in the North Wales market town of Llanelen. Penny's boyfriend is in the police force and it seems that Penny is always involved in solving some mystery or murder. Penny's hobby is sketching and she discovers the body of a young girl who had recently moved into the town with her family. The head of this family is a Vietnamese woman who has also opened a nail/tanning salon. All is not what is seems at the new salon and an undercover business Penny and her friend Victoria have opened their new spa in the North Wales market town of Llanelen. Penny's boyfriend is in the police force and it seems that Penny is always involved in solving some mystery or murder. Penny's hobby is sketching and she discovers the body of a young girl who had recently moved into the town with her family. The head of this family is a Vietnamese woman who has also opened a nail/tanning salon. All is not what is seems at the new salon and an undercover business involves money laundering etc.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    I am not sure I would want to be a friend of Penny's, she finds too many bodies. This story clears up some mysteries that were left unanswered in some of the other books. The new spa is doing well, but a new nail and tanning salon is opening in town. There aren't many customers at the new place but the deposit bags are very full.........what are they doing to earn so much??? Guess you will have to find out!!! These books, even if they are fiction, make me want to go to Wales sometime. Not to fin I am not sure I would want to be a friend of Penny's, she finds too many bodies. This story clears up some mysteries that were left unanswered in some of the other books. The new spa is doing well, but a new nail and tanning salon is opening in town. There aren't many customers at the new place but the deposit bags are very full.........what are they doing to earn so much??? Guess you will have to find out!!! These books, even if they are fiction, make me want to go to Wales sometime. Not to find a body, just to visit some of the small towns!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    I wonder if Ms. Duncan is ashamed of this installment of Penny Brannigan? I would be! More than one character speaking about how they hope something isn't racist means there's a high probability it IS racist. The pro- Brexit comments were annoying as well. Keep your English only bull out of our cozies! I wonder if Ms. Duncan is ashamed of this installment of Penny Brannigan? I would be! More than one character speaking about how they hope something isn't racist means there's a high probability it IS racist. The pro- Brexit comments were annoying as well. Keep your English only bull out of our cozies!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    The origin of the word "cozy" is Scottish and even though this series is set in Wales...it's a "cozy" read. Penny continues to be up to her usual "sticking her nose in where it doesn't belong" while she runs her new spa. On to book #5. The origin of the word "cozy" is Scottish and even though this series is set in Wales...it's a "cozy" read. Penny continues to be up to her usual "sticking her nose in where it doesn't belong" while she runs her new spa. On to book #5.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Corinne

    As I was listening to the audiobook, it sounded familiar. I guess I read it before and didn't add it to Goodreads. I enjoyed the characters, who were people I'd like to meet. Not the criminals, of course. As I was listening to the audiobook, it sounded familiar. I guess I read it before and didn't add it to Goodreads. I enjoyed the characters, who were people I'd like to meet. Not the criminals, of course.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stelepami

    Ugh. I was enjoying these quaintly old-fashioned cozy mysteries and not grumbling too much over the outdated gender roles but this one went over the line by being racist on top of it. "The gang were also likely counting on the overly politically correct times we live in. If anyone had complained about them, they would have just cried racism. You wouldn't believe the things people get away with by playing the racism card." - location 2971 of the kindle edition Enough said. Ugh. I was enjoying these quaintly old-fashioned cozy mysteries and not grumbling too much over the outdated gender roles but this one went over the line by being racist on top of it. "The gang were also likely counting on the overly politically correct times we live in. If anyone had complained about them, they would have just cried racism. You wouldn't believe the things people get away with by playing the racism card." - location 2971 of the kindle edition Enough said.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mary K.

    A stable murder mystery. And a dog-napping mystery. Not great but okay

  29. 5 out of 5

    Janice

    So far, the Penny Brannigan series continues to be a good read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Haddock

    I figured out much of the plot early, but there was a great twist. I really enjoy these "gentle" traditional mysteries set in Wales! I figured out much of the plot early, but there was a great twist. I really enjoy these "gentle" traditional mysteries set in Wales!

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