by Cathy Ace
If I ask you to think of a cozy British murder mystery, maybe you’ll think of your favorite Miss Marple, or other Christie classics. Now what about a Welsh cozy murder mystery?
When I was fortunate enough to sign a contract for the first two WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries, I had a looooong conversation (no, no food was thrown, and there was no blood on the carpet!) with my publisher about the setting for the series. My plan was to have the first book center upon a case for the four, soft-boiled, female private investigators in Wales and to allow them to relocate from their London office to the Welsh countryside at the end of the book. But he wanted them to move to the Cotswolds where I have a feeling cozy sleuths trip over each other as they find corpses killed by the most peculiar methods imaginable in every possible nook and cranny!
I stuck to my guns (being Welsh I would…LOL!), and the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency did relocate to Wales, where, for four books, and soon a fifth, they’ve run their business out of a converted barn (originally built in the 1600s) on the Chellingworth Estate, home to the Dukes of Chellingworth since the late 1400s.
Obviously, as a Welshwoman, I’m thrilled to be able to take my readers to visit Wales whenever they fancy reading about a stately home where the duke is constantly worried about something, and where his mother – the Dowager Duchess Althea – is only too happy to “help” with the cases faced by the agency. One of the four women who run the business is Welsh, too; Carol Hill is a techno-whizz who left her pressurized job in the City of London to allow her and her husband to become the happy parents of baby Albert. The others are: from Ireland (Christine – who’s in her late twenties, the daughter of a penniless Irish viscount, with a sharp brain, a carefree approach to life, and a penchant for dangerous men); Scotland (Mavis – a retired army nurse in her sixties who’s widowed, with two grown sons), and Annie (sweating her way through her fifties, she’s the daughter of St. Lucian parents, born within the sound of Bow Bells…so a true Cockney, English through and through).
So how does a Welsh cozy murder mystery differ from an English one, you might wonder…well, it’s all in the backstories and in the layers of history that run throughout the books. Wales has an amazing heritage (just think of all those castles!) and is an incredibly beautiful place, but most of it is remote (away from large cities like Cardiff or Swansea) which means that there’s no difficulty in isolating characters without cellphone signals when needed (it happens in real life all the time, which always worries me!), and there are any number of wonderful locations for the books to use.
For example, the fifth book in the series is centered upon historic Chellingworth Hall itself because Henry Twyst (the eighteenth duke) is trying to get to the bottom of some murderous rumors about one of his ancestors before his wife gives birth to their first child. There’s also the lovely village of Anwen-by-Wye (the Wye is a real river that runs through some idyllic parts of Wales, though Chellingworth and Anwen are fictitious) for the characters to enjoy. In this book, I’ve sent Annie off to do some undercover work in a place called Langland, which is close to where I grew up and one of my favorite parts of the Swansea and Gower coastline.
The delight for me? I can bring readers to places that mean so much to me, and I’ll actually be in Swansea and Langland during August as the book is launched. I’ll be able to enjoy the laverbread and bacon that Annie thinks is disgusting, take in the view across the rolling hills and mountains of Powys and the Brecon Beacons while folks around the world are reading and thinking about them. And that, for me, is a wonderful feeling.
If I could, I’d pack everyone into my suitcase and take them to Wales with me. It’s not a part of the UK that folks visit as often as I think they might, so, if you’re able to, think about visiting Wales…even if it’s only in a book!
The Case of the Disgraced Duke by Cathy Ace is the fifth WISE Enquiries Agency Mystery released on 1 August, 2022, on digital platforms, in paperback, and as a hardcover.
The Duke’s reputation is in peril — Can the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency save the day?
Henry Devereaux Twyst, eighteenth duke of Chellingworth, is desperate to disprove murderous rumors about his ancestor before his first child is born, so he enlists the help of the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency.
However, Annie is working undercover on a case that turns out to be more deadly than anyone had imagined, and Carol is finding it difficult to juggle her responsibilities, especially when faced with a puzzling theft in the village. Meanwhile, Christine is consumed with fears about Alexander’s shady colleagues, and Mavis is trying to manage the dowager’s dispute with the local vicar.
In the fifth WISE Enquiries Agency Mystery stately Chellingworth Hall and the charming Welsh village of Anwen-by-Wye, both of which have more than their fair share of quirky inhabitants, are once again subjected to a host of problems that need to be solved…and the WISE women are ready to use their considerable skills to do so.
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