In between heavy tomes of deeply meaningful literature plumbing the depths of the “eternal verities,” I enjoy lighter fare with happy endings. I want something that I can read quickly, even skim. Can I admit that?
A fun hero doing interesting but forgettable things is essential. Other interesting people dancing around in the plot are useful . I want a dog or two in the story, a cat would be great, a parakeet or trained chicken would be wonderful.
Cozy Mysteries are one of the most popular genres. Readers can’t get enough of moms, bakers, grannies, and housewives solving a murder or two. Writers churn them out by the thousands each year. Readers devour them.
In the publishing world, I liken the Cozy to the modern sitcom. They are supposed to be fun and should be binged, frequently and often. Only occasionally should they make you stop and think.
This is a curated collection that appealed to me when I wrote it. Some will be eternal favorites and go on to greatness. Others will be forgotten until suddenly remembered with a sweet pang of nostalgia years from now. They are all enjoyable.
If you love a cozy, I want to let you in on a secret to keep you supplied with reading material for your favorite e-reader. Go over to BookBub (not a sponsor) and subscribe to their newsletter. It is filled with free and reduced priced books by great authors. Give it a try.
Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers
I love Lord Peter and Dorothy Sayers. If you want to get a debate going, ask your reading friends: Lord Peter or Hercule Poirot?
I inherited Whose Body? when I got married. My young bride brought her own collection of books into the marriage, and now 30 years later we have to stay together because we can’t divide the books. I would hate to lose Whose Body?.
The set up is fabulous. An unidentified body is found in the bathtub inside a room with no obvious way for it to get there. Good thing Lord Peter is on the job.
The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood
When I first made this list, I just wrote down Kerry Greenwood’s name, because I knew I wanted one of her books on the list. Greenwood translates the cozy to Australia and into the Jazz Age which I like a lot.
Phryne Fisher is a liberated woman…
Wait just a second.
I just this minute realized (and verified) that these books are the basis of the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on TV. I was closed-minded about that show. Now I will have to give it a chance.
I’ll be back in a bit :^) after a bit of a binge.
Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders by John Mortimer
I first met Horace Rumpole on the BBC through his good friend Leo McKern. In the early episodes the production quality was poor. The sound quality was worse. I could see microphones hanging down into the scene.
However, the characters were beautifully wonderful, so my bride and I brought several of those Penguin books printed on paper that was just a little too thin.
Rumpole fans waited a long time for the Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders to come out. This is the early case that made Rumpole his reputation. Now true fans can read the actual record of Rumpole’s most important case.
I would love to see Rumpole on the small screen again. Maybe Amazon, Netflix, or one of the others will bring us these gems.
The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
I am not sure that The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax qualifies as a cozy, maybe a spy cozy. Afterall, Mrs. Pollifax is a CIA operative. Besides, she is not sedentary, limiting her to the environs of a village. The world is Mrs. Pollifax’s oyster.
Mrs. Pollifax wants to be in a classic cozy. As The Amazing Mrs Pollifax begins, Emily is at home getting ready for Afternoon Tea with Garden Club when the man from the CIA interrupts. Next thing you know, Emily Pollifax is in Turkey.
These could stand to come to the small screen (or large) again. Angela Landbury was Mrs Pollifax decades ago. I wonder if we could start a petition.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke
Sometimes it feels like my wife and I have nothing in common. Several years ago she was off visiting her mother and the dogs and I were home alone. You know that’s bad. So I went to my go to, Hallmark Channel, and found Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen’s Murder: She Baked. It was great.
So being the purist that I am, I later read Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. Life gets real for Hannah when Ron LaSalle, the delivery man for the Cozy Cow Dairy, is found murdered with Hannah’s chocolate chip cookies surrounding the body. Makes you want to read it, doesn’t it?
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Either my wife found this on YouTube, or she found the book. I am not sure of the order. She loved it. So I read it when she went to visit family.
The good news we have 18 more to go. I love long series in the best cozies.
The Ladies Detective agency has several unique qualities that I like. Follow Precious and her sidekick Grace through the mysteries and learn a little about life in Botswana along the way. These are entertaining.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie features the 11 year old detective Flavia De Luce solving a murder. Her father is the main suspect for the authorities, so the stakes are high for young Falvia.
Flavia is one of the most fun heroines in the genre. She is precocious and has a passion for poisons. She is utterly fearless.
Sweetness is Alan Bradley’s first novel. It was published when he was 70, so if you are working on something, don’t let age be a deterrent. Right now you can relax with Flavia through 10 capers. Have fun and let her do the work.
Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye by Victoria Laurie
Abby is a full featured character. You won’t always like her. You may find her self-centered. But she does feel real. Even her unique psychic abilities (she calls herself a psychic intuitive) seem plausible. I love how she treats her clients. She refuses to allow them to become dependent.
Victoria Laurie makes her character feel more real than I am use to the cozy genre. When she introduces a character it is like meeting them in person. They also grow and develop over time. All this character makes the book long for my taste, but you get better characters. So?
There is also a fair amount of romance between Abby and Dutch. Read the series to see more of the relationship.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
I hope that I am not a heretic. Maybe I am. Let me explain.
We all love Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot, but I am actually recommending the audiobook in the case. Now you see why I may be a heretic.
The audiobook is narrated by a superstar of book narrators, Wanda McCaddon. Her voice is wonderful to listen to. She has done Elizabeth Gaskell, Marcus Aurelius, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence. Check out this page to see some of her work.
The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lillian Jackson Braun
Jim Qwilleran and Koko are very popular at my house. I read the first one of these so many years ago that I still had curly, dark hair. I shelved book at my local library and I kept shelving these “Cat Who…” books. I simply had to know what they were about. Later in life I introduced them to my wife and children.
Qwill is a down on his luck newspaper reporter trying to make a come back with the Daily Fluxion. That sentence sounds so dated, but this book and I are the same age. Is it a coincidence that my hair has gone from dark and curly to thick and white?
Qwill lives in a garage apartment that he rents from the paper’ art critic, who is very unpleasant. Qwill does have the advantage of getting to cat sit Koko, a super genius Siamese with a nose for clues.
Come along and begin this series and get to know Koko.
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
I am not sure how I ran up on this one. Maybe Bookbub.
This series ticks the boxes of a lot of what I want in a cozy. Amelia Peadody is a Victorian Egyptologist. There is a bit of Indiana Jones in her character.
Amelia’s adventures begin even before she gets to the dig site. She must rescue her sidekick for this book, Evelyn. At the dig site the women meet the likeable Walter and his made for trouble but dashing brother Radcliffe. Amelia and Radcliffe are peas in a pod. Read the next one.
The book kicks into high gear when they find a lively mummy. Have fun.
Elizabeth Peters also writes under the name, Barbara Michaels, and her real name, Barbara Mertz.
Murder On a Girls’ Night Out by Anne George
Sometimes the formula for the cozy can become boring. I am thankful for authors like Anne George who come in and shake up the genre a bit.
A long time ago, I lived in Alabama and my bride found these “Southern Sisters” mysteries. When I told her that I was writing this, bride said, “Make sure you include that one about Murder on a Bad Hair Day.” I thought I got you covered, but I picked a different one. She’ll find out when she edits this.
Patricia Anne “Mouse” and Mary Alice “Sister” are very different. Mouse, the perfect Southern woman, is a retired teacher. Sister is what would be called a “hot mess.” The contrast is part of the joy of this series.
Sister thinks that it would be a good idea to buy a bar, Skoot and Boot, since she likes to hang out there anyway. Sober Mouse disagrees. She is proven right when a patron turns up murdered in the bar’s wishing well. And the sisters are prime suspects because they were the last to see the victim alive.
Sadly, Anne George died in 2001, but she left behind 8 in this series. Make my bride happy and try Murder on a Bad Hair Day to.
The Cat, the Sneak, and the Secret by Leann Sweeney
I originally had The Cat, the Quilt, and the Corpse on the list, but I changed it to The Cat, the Sneak, and the Secret because Jillian, our heroine, marries Tom, the police chief, in this book. Sorry for the spoiler if you want to start at the beginning.
The Cats In Troubles Series has very pleasant formula. Jill is minding her own business living a nice life when a cat in trouble needs help. Eventually a body is found, a murder is solved, and a cat is rescued. I like it.
The people that populate Sweeney’s novels are nice people that you would like to know. I wouldn’t mind living in Mercy, South Carolina. Except, maybe in the heat of the Summer.
Murder at Bray Manor by Lee Strauss
I may be shallow, or Lee Strauss may be a master of symbols. I loved this book from the time I saw its cover. In the top left corner, you will see the Ginger Gold Logo. As a cozy reader, that logo tells me fun, witty, clever, Jazz Age. The manor house and title give me the setting. Boss, the boston terrier, is straining ever so slightly to join me as I read the book. Do you see how his paws escape the picture and mingle with the title?
I vote that Strauss is a master of symbols. Besides, her covers are consistently great.
Lee Strauss is a leisurely story teller. She is not in a hurry to shove you through the book and on to the next one. Strauss will pull you into the story leaving you with the desire to dress up in era appropriate attire and join Ginger at Bray Manor.
She also doesn’t telegraph who did it. I can’t tell you how important this is for my enjoyment of a cozy.
Spies and Spells by Tonya Kappes
Tonya Kappes’s Spies and Spells Series feels like a fresh take on a trope filled genre that can sink under its old formularies. Maggie is the woman on the bottom of a Southern matriarchy. She is hemmed in on every side by women with big personalities. She is ready to escape the clutches and spread her wings.
Maggie does break free. When the capers begin and the bodies pile up she meets Mick, an undercover agent of a secret organization, and the fun gets going. Wait til you meet Vinnie.
My one complaint is common to the genre. She telegraphs the culprit, but not in a Columbo way, more of a average detective sort of way.
This book is fun, witty, and clever.
Murder at Hawthorne Cottage by Betty Rowlands
I would love to meet Betty Rowlands and have a chat with her. She began writing in her 60’s and she is now in her 90’s! From her books, I can tell that our conversation would be delightful.
Murder at Hawthorne Cottage is Rowlands first Melissa Craig Mystery. In the opening pages, we quickly learn that Melissa lives in the Cotswolds, writes cozy mysteries, and is moving house. At once, I am wondering if it is the titular Hawthorne Cottage. I am fully engaged and only a couple of hundred words in.
A body is found, so Melissa starts poking and prodding which gives a glimpse of the secrets in Upper Benbury.
This is not bed time reading. You will be saying to yourself, “Just one more chapter” until it is 3 AM and you might as well finish.
Thirty-one and a Half Regrets by Denise Grover Swank
I am amazed that I ever picked this one up. Except for the title, it doesn’t tick any of my cozy boxes. I like a whimsical illustrated cover. Thirty-one and Half Regrets has a photograph with a sitting woman holding a shotgun. It is almost twice as long as my favorite length. It’s a middle book in a series. Yet there is that title. It’s the “half” that intrigues me.
So I started reading. Swank does a great job at easing me into the Rose Gardner series. She gives me enough background that I don’t feel like an invader.
The cover gives a lot of insight into Rose. Rose is a hot mess. I found her character compelling. I got to know her in a way that makes some of her non-genre standard choices understandable. Without giving too much away, it involves Joe.
While the mystery is pretty good, I feel like Thirty-one and Half regrets is about the characters. I am glad to have read it.
The Deep End by Julie Mulhern
This book is set in 1974 and it feels like it. There will references to Watergate and Tab, but not in a ditracting was. Sometimes in this genre the time of the book only serves to change the costumes. In the Deep End, it makes a difference that we are in 1974.
The heroine, Ellison, Ellie, is trapped in a bad marriage with an unfaithful, mean, and hateful husband, when his mistress is found dead.
This book gets a little racy. Ellie’s husband likes kinky sex (references not descriptions) and he blackmails people with dirty pictures (again references not descriptions). There is a surprise in who is being blackmailed.
The Deep End may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you value a good writer and great characters, you should try the Deep End.
Murder She Reported by Peg Cochran
Peg Cochran has created a character that I like. Elizabeth Adams is a socialite in Manhattan in the 30’s, who shocks her family by getting a very junior job working on the society page. Elizabeth’s world changes when Kaminski, crime reporter, needs a photographer. Elizabeth volunteers.
Murder She Reported feels like it is set in the 30’s. The characters are real. I would love know which of the male supporting roles you prefer, the reporter/mentor Kaminski, or Marino, the hunky detective. They are both fleshed out.
Mum’s the Word by Kate Collins
Mum’s the Word is long for my taste in cozies (300+ pages), but the length is made up for in the main character. Abby, who owns a flower shop and drives an old corvette, is one of the most interesting characters in a cozy.
I also love the covers and titles for the Flower Shop Mysteries. I am amazed at how consistent the cover genre symbols are for Collins’s cozies.
If you like Mum’s the Word, you are in luck. There are 19 at this writing.