I just reread one of The Body in the Transept, the first book in Jeanne M. Dams‘s Dorothy Martin Mystery Series. as part of my ongoing and long-standing series on the most popular and recommended Cozy Mystery series.
This is a series that started in the mid-90s and that is still regularly getting new entries, with the 24th entry due out in less than a week. In many ways, this and other series like it in the mid-to-late-nineties really established the current Cozy formula, and many of the modern elements can be seen in The Body in the Transept.
Dorothy Martin is a retired, recently widowed woman who has uprooted her life to make a move to a new town – though the move is further than in many cases – across the Atlantic, from a midwestern American town to the (fictional) small town of Sherebury, in southeast England. Unlike the majority of her neighbors, Dorothy isn’t a life-long member of the town, and has only been a member of the community for a year – long enough that she has a wide network of acquaintances, but not long enough to have forged many truly strong friendships or rivalries.
Still, this is a benefit in at least one way, in that she hasn’t yet had the time to truly come at odds with one of the local priests, Canon Billings – a difficult man that most of the community seems to have had one argument or another over the long years. Unfortunately, she has one unforgettable brush with him when she discovers his dead body in the cathedral, as she is leaving midnight mass by one of the back exits that leads to a faster route to her home. Between the death – and the appearance of a ghostly monk, supposedly one who has appeared periodically for hundreds of years, Dorothy is quite busy for the holiday season.
On the other hand, there are also several very important divergences from modern Cozies. First, at least at the beginning of this first novel, Dorothy is still having difficulty acclimating both to her new surroundings and to the recent death of her husband. Modern Cozies often minimalize the transitions that their protagonists go through, but this one does a much better job of portraying a “semi-realistic” portrayal of the sort of grief and discomfort an individual would experience in such a situation.
As a result, The Body in the Transept is an interesting mixture of older and newer Cozy trends, offering a sort of transition between some of the older Cozes of the past and the newer Cozy series on the market today. I thoroughly enjoyed rereading this book, and can strongly recommend it to enthusiasts of both classic and modern Cozies.
If you’re interested in reading more of these brief revisits of some of the more popular Cozy Mystery Series that I’ve written in the past, you can find them at the Most Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page on my site.