Fascination with a ruined faux castle involves an artist in a case of murder in North Wales.
Despite its pretensions, Gwrych Castle is not ancient. It’s a Victorian castellated mansion, sadly in ruins. As part of the ongoing attempt to clean and re-create its formerly magnificent gardens, expatriate Canadian artist Penny Brannigan is doing a series of paintings to be auctioned off for the cause. After retired DCI Gareth Davies drops her off at the castle, Penny follows a fox and finds a body. She wastes no time in reporting her discovery to Gareth, a dear friend who’d prefer to be Penny’s romantic interest. Although Gareth is very interested indeed, he carefully leaves the police work to his former assistant, DI Bethan Morgan, so as not to step on any toes. Penny, however, has no such constraints, and after the dead man is identified as retired landscape architect John Hardwick, his wife, Christina, familiar with Penny’s reputation for crime solving (Murder On The Hour, 2016, etc.), asks her to investigate. Christina is convinced that John was murdered. The inability of the police to come up with a cause of death doesn’t prevent her from suspecting his former wife, who lives nearby with their mentally challenged son, a volunteer at Gwrych. Penny and Gareth’s fascination with what went on when the castle was in its prime keep them in the hunt until they find an unexpected clue courtesy of Gareth’s late grandmother, who worked at Gwrych as a seamstress.
Duncan’s character-driven series delivers again. While the story telegraphs the killer’s identity pretty clearly, the information on the real-life Welsh estate and gardens makes up for the simple mystery.