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Cozy Mysteries

 

By Kathy Pillatzki
Assistant Director
Henry County Library System

  I love a cozy mystery. I enjoy a gritty, challenging read as much as the next person, but sometimes you just want to curl up with a mental puzzle that’s good, clean fun. You may not feel up to detailed autopsy information a la Patricia Cornwell or Kathy Reichs, but you’re up for a little amateur sleuthing. Cozies are a sub-genre of the murder mystery category with a minimum of bloodshed. Dead bodies aplenty, but nothing too graphic, and not much overt violence or profanity.

  Think of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series, or the TV show Murder, She Wrote, and you’ll have the idea. There are even sub-sub-genres such as the British cozy, the historical cozy, and others centered on particular hobbies or occupations. They all have some elements in common, though. The main characters are always amateurs who just happen to get involved in a murder investigation. Often they are innocent-bystander type witnesses to a crime. They usually have a personal connection to a professional investigator: a close friend or significant other who’s a detective, journalist, or medical examiner, which gives them access to inside information about the crime.

  One of my particular favorites is the Charles Lenox historical series by Charles Finch. Lenox is a well-to-do Victorian gentleman who solves crimes as a hobby. Not for money, mind you, because that would be vulgar, but merely as a pastime and out of a sense of personal honor. The entire series, beginning with The September Society, is reminiscent of the Sherlock Holmes tales, in the best possible way.

  Another popular cozy series with a contemporary setting is Laura Childs’ Tea Shop Mysteries. Set in Charleston and beginning with Death by Darjeeling, this series follows tea shop owner Theodosia Browning and her friends and employees as they navigate the many mysteries that crop up among the elite of Charleston society. I’m not much of a tea drinker, but Childs’ books inevitably make me crave a hot cup of something exotic. Recipes for the delights served at the tearoom are included.

  Child has also launched two other series, the Scrapbooking Mysteries, set amid a shop that sells scrapbook supplies, and The Cackleberry Club series, which takes place in a café dedicated to egg dishes but also includes information about knitting and books. Book lovers will also appreciate the Booktown Mysteries by Lorna Barrett, beginning with Murder is Binding.

  Antiques lovers will enjoy the Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries by Jane K. Cleland. Set in a New Hampshire auction house, this series features intriguing mysteries, well-developed characters, and a wealth of information about antiques. Similarly, Lea Wait’s Antique Print Mysteries will guarantee that you never look at an old book the same way again, starting with Shadows at the Fair.

  Simon Brett is one of the modern masters of the British cozy. His Feathering Series, beginning with The Body on the Beach, features a truly odd couple: prim and proper retiree Carol and her new-agey, free spirit neighbor, Jude. This unlikely pair keeps both readers and suspects on their toes. Fans might also enjoy the Constable Evans series by Rhys Bowen.

  This is by no means a comprehensive list. Cozy mysteries are enormously popular, and your nearest library has shelves full for your enjoyment. Ask about these, or ask the staff to recommend their favorites!

 

 

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