Cozy Mysteries - 2014

Buried in a Book by Lucy Arlington

When Lila Wilkins gets downsized from her newspaper job, she decides to look on it as a good thing. She immediately finds a job with a small publishing company, but her first day doesn’t go as smoothly as she hopes. When the local homeless man, who visits the company everyday trying to get his book published, dies in the lobby, Lila begins looking into his life and tries to figure out who wanted to kill him.

Lila is a believable character, not overly mettlesome or quietly demure; she investigates in a way that is proper to both her nature and her journalistic instincts. Although the characters working at the publishing company are very stereotypical – the gorgeous woman edits the romance books, the grandmotherly type is the children’s editor, etc. – they also provide a look into the small town personality and keep the reader guessing as to who might be the culprit. The plot moves quickly and there are enough red herrings thrown in to keep the reader interested even though the book is a bit predictable. Buried in a Book is a solid mystery good for women especially those who can relate to Lila’s home life with her teenaged son, a budding romance later in life and having to start over after losing a twenty-year career. This book would also be good for older teens and those looking for a mystery that’s minus graphic violence.

Barrett, Lorna – Booktown Mystery series
Brandon, Ali – Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series
Braun, Lillian Jackson – The Cat Who… mystery series

Azurée Agnello, West Babylon Public Library

Aunt Dimity & the Lost Prince by Nancy Atherton

Living in England’s legendary Cotswolds, American expatriate Lori Shepherd has been solving mysteries with the help of the not quite dead Aunt Dimity.  The conceit is that although Aunt Dimity is buried in the nearby church-yard, she communicates with Lori through a blue leather bound journal which is on a bookshelf in her study.

In this, the eighteenth mystery, author Atherton has Lori and her New Zealand born friend, Bree, searching for a Russian prince who may be secretly imprisoned nearby.  The search is on when a sterling silver sleigh turns up in the pocket of seven-year old Daisy Pickering.  Lori is convinced of the verity of Daisy’s story of Mikhail, driven from Russia by wicked men and who, when he thought he had arrived safely in England, was thrown into a dungeon.

The silver sleigh was one of his treasures and with little else to go on, Lori and Bree set out to find the imprisoned Mikhail   Unknown to Bree, they will get some  assistance from Aunt Dimity.
One of the delights of the series is the British countryside setting.  Details about the land, the people, their customs, their food, etc., immerse the reader in a modern day mystery  - with a ghost as a bonus.
Atherton has achieved this while living in Colorado Springs.  If you liked the BBC mystery series, Rosemary and Thyme, you’ll love Lori Shepherd and Nancy Atherton.

Susan Witing Albert
Helen Chappell

Grace O'Connor, West Islip Public Library

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches  (Flavia de Luce series)by Alan Bradley

What a delightful series this has been so far!  Precocious Flavia de Luce is a 12 year old novice chemist with a penchant for poisons and a knack for solving murders (more deaths occur in the small British village of Bishop’s Lacey than you would think).  Her intuition is usually spot on, though often to the chagrin of the local police inspector. 

In Bradley’s 6th outing, Flavia learns the fate of her missing mother.  There’s a little less of her saucy wit and humorous interactions with her insufferable older sisters, Feely and Daffy, but it does tie up that part of her life nicely.  In the end, we see a slightly more mature and wise Flavia.

If you like your cozies wickedly funny, start with the first of the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and don’t stop.

Joanne Kilbourn series by Gail Bowen
Murder Among Us by Joanne Jacobs
The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall

Cathi Nashak, Deer Park Public Library

Killer Librarian by Mary Lou Kirwin

Karen Nash  - mystery lover and librarian at a small town Minnesota library
Dave – her ex mid-life love of her life
Caldwell Perkins – b’n’b owner and bibliophile

On her first night, Karen, mystery lover and librarian at a small town Minnesota library, goes to the local pub with Caldwell and drunkenly tells a stranger, Guy, about being dumped by Dave and how she could just kill him. Later that night, unable to sleep, she goes to the sitting room only to find another guest dead. It’s ruled an accidental death, but enmities and past connections among the other guests cause some doubts in Karen’s mind. Meanwhile, a cryptic message from Guy makes her wonder if he took her words too literally.  Can she stop him in time before he kills Dave?
The book strikes me as more of a book of love – for the nice b’n’b owner and for classic mysteries. #1 in Karen Nash mysteries.  #2 is Death Overdue.

Cats in the Stacks series by Miranda James
New York Library series by David R. Beasley
Aurora Roe Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris

Kathy Carter, Mastics Moriches Library, Retired

Pagan Spring by G.M. Malliet

Thaddeus Bottle, esteemed playwright and actor, and his wife Melinda are newcomers to the little, English village of Nether Monkslip.  The longtime residents make an effort to welcome newcomers like the Bottles and hairdresser Gabby Crew, but Thaddeus Bottle quickly alienates almost everyone in the village.  When he is found murdered, it falls to Vicar Max Tudor to investigate. As the vicar is ex-MI5, the local police bring him in as an unofficial assistant.
Max had hoped that his greatest challenge would be composing his Easter sermon.  Instead he finds himself using his skills to pull clues from the gossipy inhabitants of the village.  As no one seemed to like the deceased, there is a large pool of suspects to choose from.  When not assisting in the investigation, Max is developing a relationship with neo-Pagan Awena Owens.
There are many twists, turns and red herrings in this gentle read.  The violence is minimal and the character development is excellent.  There is a strong sense of place; you will feel that you have walked the streets of Nether Monkslip. This is the 3rd in the Max Tudor Mystery Series.

Agatha Raisin and the Case of the Curious Curate by M.C. Beaton
A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen
Aunt Dimity Digs In by Nancy Atherton

Terry Z. Lucas, Rogers Memorial Library

Dog On It  by Spencer Quinn

Bernie, a down on his luck private detective and his canine partner Chet make a formidable crime solving team.  Bernie is quick to take on the disappearance of a young teenage girl, Madison, “something about cash flow” Chet observes, but Madison reappears a few days later only to disappear again a few days after that.  Chet leads the way through the investigation with his superior trained nose and Bernie and Chet find themselves in a series of perilous situations.  Chet is a charming narrator and at times the reader will laugh out loud at the accuracy of Chet’s observations and we get a glimmer of “if only dogs could talk.”  This is the first installment of the Chet and Bernie Mysteries and I for one will be reading more of their adventures.

Peg McCarthy, Commack Public Library

Dogs Don't Lie by Clea Simon

Animal lovers will enjoy Clea Simon’s Dogs Don’t Lie. The main character, Pru Marlowe, is trained as an animal behaviorist and is involved in dog training and animal rescue. Marlowe also has an additional talent—the ability to hear the thoughts of the animals that surround her. In that respect, her closest confidant and friend is her tabby Wallis.

As Pru returns to her small New England home town, she looks up a client who had adopted one of her rescues. She finds her client dead and Lily, a pit bull, standing over the ravaged body—Lily becomes a prime suspect. But Pru knows better. She knows that Lily’s owner always kept the pit in her crate and someone would have had to let her out in an attempt to frame the dog. Through communications with Wallis, a tiny kitten, and a Bichon that may have witnessed the crime, Pru slowly begins to piece together possible suspects and scenarios that may have led to the murder of her client. In the process, she also uncovers some dirty little home town secrets.

This cozy is a light read, pure entertainment—the plot is formulaic; there is a hint of romance; and the writing style is simplistic. But the animals are fun, and watching Pru untangle relationships and possible motives carries the reader through to a tidy conclusion—it’s a cozy after all.

Read-alikes would include: titles in Simon’s other pet noir series; any title in The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun; or any title in the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown. A reader may also be interested in the nonfiction titles When the Horses Whisper by Rosalyn W. Berne; The Possibility Dogs by Susannah Charleson; and Rescue Ink by Denise Flaim.

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library

Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu

Aunty Lee is an Asian Miss Marple, observant, opinionated, determined, hospitable, and a longtime resident of Singapore.  Offended when thr bodies of two women who had patronized her cafe' wash up on nearby beaches, she pulls strings to insinuate herself into the police investigation.  Singapore, a cultural crossroads and foodie destination, co-stars, with emphasis on uits relative sophistication and tolerance for those who face discrimination elsewhere.

Like Christie's village cozies, the book is fast-paced, written in a direct style in simple language with characters who are pawns in a straight line plot..  The villain's values are out of place in such a cosmopoliltan society.  A recipe for Aunty Lee's Amazing Achar (pickles) is appended.

The book should appeal to readers looking for old fashioned entertainment, foodie lore, or a gentle read in an exotic setting.

Agatha Christie, Murder at the Vicarage.
Cleo Coyle, Billionaire Blend
Shamini Flint, The Singapore School of Villainy.
Tarquin Hall, The Case of the Missing Servant
S. P. Hozy, The Scarlet Macaw.

Jackie Malone, North Bellmore Public Library