A Charming Clutch of Cozies

Cozy fans sometimes accuse us of not paying quite enough attention to their favorite mystery subgenre. I plead guilty but with extenuating circumstances. It’s true that Bill Ott and I prefer our crime fiction straight, no chaser—I guess the cozy equivalent would be saying “no thank you” to a spot of cream—but we do our best to cover charming tales of detection, too. Bear in mind that many cozies are published as mass-market paperbacks, not the favorite format of acquisitions librarians, and that some of these publishers don’t even submit to us for review. But as I look back at the previous year’s crime-fiction reviews, from May 15, 2011 to May 1, 2012, I find ample evidence that our reviewers have a keen eye for cozies.

A Bedlam of Bones, by Suzette A. Hill

“This series effectively combines the ambience of the English village cozy with the high jinks of talking (and sleuthing) animals . . . An excellent choice for both Agatha Christie loyalists and fans of Lilian Jackson Braun and Rita Mae Brown.” —Barbara Bibel

A Charitable Body, by Robert Barnard

“Barnard is at his cozy best in this deftly executed murder-near-the-manor whodunit . . . an old-fashioned mystery sure to appeal to fans of traditional crime novels plotted in the grand style of Agatha Christie.” —Margaret Flanagan

As the Pig Turns, by M. C. Beaton

While there is nothing cozy about Agatha herself, with her meddling ways, acid tongue, and bad choices in men, Beaton proves again her mastery of the genre by weaving in gripping plots among the idiosyncrasies of British small-town life. The series stays fresh and fun even in this twenty-second entry (so does Beaton’s other series, starring Scottish village copper Hamish MacBeth). —Amy Alessio

Blotto, Twinks, and the Dead Dowager Duchess, by Simon Brett

“As in his other novels, Brett is a devastating social critic (he nicely skewers his upper-class characters’ blithe acceptance of the suffering of the lower classes) and master of devastating physical characterization. This is the kind of book you’ll have to put down, frequently, as you roar with laughter.” —Connie Fletcher

Bones under the Beach Hut, by Simon Brett

“Brett’s Fethering mysteries conceal incisive send-ups of social climbing under the guise of the traditional cozy. . . As always, Brett delivers a cozy that is both suspenseful and laugh-out-loud funny.” —Connie Fletcher

Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains, by Catriona McPherson

“The upstairs-downstairs milieu of 1926 Scotland provides a delightful backdrop for this entertaining cozy, and Dandy, in her fifth outing (after The Winter Ground, 2009), is as canny and captivating as ever.” —Michele Leber

The Devil’s Puzzle, by Clare O’Donohue

“Quilting details, a sharp picture of small-town life, likable characters, and two appealing romantic relationships add to the enjoyment of this mainstream cozy mystery.” —Sue O’Brien

Gone West, by Carola Dunn

“Dunn has once again written a charming cozy featuring an intelligent, strong woman. A treat for Daisy’s fans as well as those who enjoy Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs.” —Barbara Bibel

Grace Interrupted, by Julie Hyzy

“Minor characters and the charming setting add strong support to this engrossing read. The excellent pacing and writing will also be recognizable to fans of Hyzy’s White House Chef series.” —Amy Alessio

Granddad, There’s a Head on the Beach, by Colin Cotterill

“The fast-paced plot finishes with a particularly tense climax (broadcast live online!), as Cotterill masterfully blends real-world issues (the terrrible condition endured by Burmese refugees in Thailand) with appealing cozy elements and his trademark humor. Series readers will be thrilled with this installment and anxious for the next one. Must reading.” —Jessica Moyer

The Herring in the Library, by L. C. Tyler

“Biting social satire and loads of fun detective work.” —Connie Fletcher

Jane and the Canterbury Tale, by Stephanie Barron

“Barron channels Jane Austen beautifully in this charming series. . . Austen fans, cozy lovers, and historical-mystery readers will all enjoy this delightful story.” —Barbara Bibel

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, by Alexander McCall Smith

“Part of the brilliance of this series (now in its thirteenth entry) is that what may seem like tiny cases expand into considerations of virtue, love, ambition, greed, and evil. And these meditations on life come as naturally as Precious looking up into the blue Botswana sky. . . McCall Smith’s novels are both very meditative and laugh-out-loud funny. If you’ve never read a “No. 1 Ladies’,” now’s the time.” —Connie Fletcher

Mystery in Prior’s Ford, by Evelyn Hood

“Fans of M. C. Beaton and Rhys Bowen will adore Hood’s Prior’s Ford series.” —Pat Henshaw

Swift Edge, by Laura DiSilverio

“Charlie and Gigi are both wonderful characters, flawed but appealing. This well-crafted, zany mystery will appeal, especially, to fans of Janet Evanovich, Laura Levine, and Lisa Lutz, whose work displays the same kind of humor.” — Amy Alessio

Wicked Autumn, by G. M. Malliet

“Malliet has mastered the delights of the cozy mystery so completely that she seems to be channeling Agatha Christie, albeit with a hero who adds sex appeal to the mix. She also includes snippets of ironic humor that contribute a little spice to the village charm, making the story even more delicious. Religion, espionage, tea, and crumpets: a winning menu.” —Ilene Cooper

 

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

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