Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Crazy for Cozy Mysteries

When it comes to fiction, my hubby says I don't read books as much as I devour them! With my current job, I often have an hour or two to read, albeit with lots of background noise. Thankfully, I  discovered the Cozy Mystery genre.

Usually written as a series, in a cozy mystery the sleuth is typically an intelligent, observant woman whose business finds her in various locations where a mysterious death occurs. The cast of characters are family, neighbors, friends, and other business owners in a small town and recur in each of the books. [Think: Murder, She Wrote or Nancy Drew] These are fun books I can usually finish off in two to three hours. Cozy mysteries typically also feature a romance and very little, if any, objectionable material. When purchased as an eBook, they are also very affordable. I have gotten books on eBook promotional sites for free or under $1, but usually they are under $10 and often under $5.

Nancy Drew's The Mysterious Mansion taught me about Persian rugs. I was introduced to falconry in the Hardy Boys' The Hooded Hawk Mystery. Cozy mysteries continue this education by offering up tidbits pertaining to the heroine's line or work or interest and sometimes offer recipes as well.  Here are some of my favorite series:

Raine Stockton Dog Mysteries by Donna Ball
     The first cozy series I read and probably still my favorite. Raine Stockton, formerly with Search and Rescue, finds herself investigating mysteries in her small North Carolina community located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains while navigating a complicated love life.
     I'm a dog lover and what I appreciate the most about Ball's writing is the way she captures the personality of animals. Cisco and the other canines are characters, while never being more than dogs.  Another plus: Balls writes like she has actually been to North Carolina and knows Southerners! Her books don't pile on southern stereotype. As a southerner myself, I recognize the traits and tendencies of her characters. As a side benefit, each book contains within the story helpful dog training tips.
     [While not mysteries, another charming series by Ms. Ball is the Lady Bug Farm books and the accompanying Hummingbird House books. These books feature well-developed characters and uplifting stories.]

Tourist Trap Mysteries by Lynn Cahoon
     Jill Gardner relocates to South Cove, California and opens Coffee, Books, and More. She is the business community liaison to the city council, which often puts her at odds with her nemesis, the major. Along with this and selling books, Jill gets involved in solving murders much to the dismay of her police officer boyfriend.
     This is a very close second to the Raine Stockton series. I read these books as much to catch up on the goings on in South Cove as for the mysteries.

Caprice De Luca Home Staging Mysteries by Karen Rose Smith
     Caprice De Luca is an aficionada of all things vintage and the owner of a home-staging business. The De Lucas are a tight-knit family and Caprice's siblings and other family members always play a role in the stories. This series is set in Pennsylvania.
     I'm not as big a fan of  the author's writing style as I am of the above authors, but Smith's stories have a wonderful sweetness to them. I have come to care about the De Lucas and look forward to a return visit with them in each book. As an added bonus, each book features recipes.

Caught Dead in Wyoming by Patricia McLinn
     Former big-time TV journalist Elizabeth "E.M." Danniher finds herself doing consumer protection stories for podunk KWMT-TV in Sherman, Wyoming after a messy breakup with her vindictive ex-husband, a powerful news executive. In between her "Helping Out!" segments, she finds herself investigating murders and juggling love interests while learning the ways of the West.
     After I finished the first book of the series, I quickly downloaded the other three and had read all four books within a week. This series caught my imagination and the characters won me over quickly. I am rooting for E. M. Danniher to get the best of her station's pompous anchor (a written version of Ted Baxter from the old Mary Tyler Moore series).

Mainely Needlepoint Mysteries by Lea Wait
     Angie Curtis returns to her hometown after her long-vanished mother's body is found.Another murder is tied to her mother's case and soon Angie is stitching together clues while working with the Mainely Needlepointers in her needlework business.  Set in the fictional mid-coastal town of Haven Harbor, Maine, the books' location is very picturesque. Plenty of needlework history and tidbits are woven into each story.

Hampton Home & Gardens Mysteries by Kathleen Bridge
     After a rough breakup with her fiance, Meg Barrett flees glamorous Manhattan and her job at a top home and garden magazine to the small to the small town of Montauk on the outskirts of the tony communities of the Hamptons where she begins Cottages by the Sea, an interior design business.  She soon finds herself in the middle of murder mysteries among the rich and famous.
     This new series (two books as of this writing) captured my attention quickly and I finished both books in short order, which means I now must twiddle my thumbs impatiently while waiting for the next entry.  Meg Barrett and her cohorts are fun characters and the location is intriguing. The books include interior design tips and recipes.

These are my favorite cozy series, but I'm always open to suggestions for new ones!

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