This month, as part of my long-running monthly series highlighting some of the most popular and recommended Cozy Mystery Series, which are drawn from the many suggestion sent in by site readers, I will be highlighting the Cranberry Cove Mystery Series by Peg Cochran, starting with the first in the series, Berried Secrets. This is a relatively new series, starting in 2015, and is still running today. It is one of multiple series by Cochran, who also writes under the names Margaret Loudon and Meg London.
As the novel begins, Monica Albertson has recently left Chicago come to the small town of Cranberry Cove, located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Both Monica and her half-brother Jeff have recently suffered serious losses – Jeff had returned from deployment overseas with a serious injury, leaving one of his arms paralyzed, while Monica was at loose ends since the closing of the cafe she owned and the death of her fiance. This left her more than willing to leave the big city and its unpleasant memories to help out Jeff on his cranberry farm, Sassamanash Farm.
Unfortunately, he really does need the help in more ways than Monica thought. The farm’s former owner before Jeff bought it, the town’s mayor Sam Culbert, had been running it for Jeff while he was deployed overseas, and apparently had been doing a poor job of it. Not only was the farm in very poor conditions due to Culbert’s oversight, but the accounts Monica reviews indicate that Culbert might have been embezzling from the farm’s profits.
Naturally, the day after Monica tells Jeff about the embezzlement, Culbert turns up dead in the cranberry pond, and naturally, Jeff turns into a prime suspect. Whether for good or ill, it quickly turns out that Culbert had plenty of other people who might be out to murder him, so Monica has no shortage of suspects to look into in the course of clearing her brother’s name.
Cozies often either succeed or fail based on the strength of their specific hook, and the cranberry farming industry is one hook that I found myself particularly fascinated by. I like knitting and cooking and antiques as much as the next Cozy reader, but over the years, I’ve read an awful lot of novels that include details on those sort of material. In contrast, I’ve never really known much about cranberry farming, so the introduction to various terms and methods, as well as their integration into the story, was much more novel than more well-explored material.
As I have mentioned in other Cozy discussions, I also appreciate when the murder in a mystery comes up relatively quickly. This one definitely qualifies, with the body being discovered quite early in the novel.
Between an interesting premise, likeable characters, and a strong mystery, I enjoyed Berried Secrets quite a bit, and I would recommend it to fans of modern Cozies with a somewhat unusual theme like cranberry farming.
If you’d like to see other entries about some of the most recommended Cozy Mystery authors, be sure to check out the Most Popular and Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page on my site.
PS: For those who may be swayed by such things, there are several cranberry-themed recipes at the end of the book.