This month I tried something a little different for my series talking about the most popular and recommended Cozy Mysteries – rather than start (or re-read, as the case is sometimes) a series from the beginning, I decided instead to jump right into the middle of an existing series so I could enjoy a little of the current “festive atmosphere” that Cozies are often so good at – specifically, Halloween. In doing so, I decided to read Vampires, Bones and Treacle Scones, the seventh entry in Kaitlyn Dunnett’s Liss MacCrimmon Mystery Series.
As a quick summary of how the novel starts, Liss MacCrimmon, now owner of a Scottish themed emporium in Moosetookalok, Maine, is heading up the town’s Halloween fundraiser, and as part of the festivities they plan to hold a haunted house at the old Chadwick mansion, an abandoned property long owned by the town after the death of the last of the Chadwick’s years ago. However, attempts to spruce up the old mansion are having mixed successes – the building is certainly creepy enough, still holding odd collections amassed by the eccentric residents over the decades they lived there, but a series of odd pranks and unexplained events within the mansion have unsettled everyone involved at least once. So, in classic Cozy fashion, it’s no surprise when a corpse turns up in the house – though it is more than a bit of a surprise that it turns out to be the body of someone Liss sent to jail in a previous mystery! (I don’t want to spoil which one for fans who may have read some previous entries in the series)
The good news is that I ended up liking the book quite a bit. Despite jumping into the middle of the series, all of the characters were quickly explained and made good impressions quickly enough that I had no trouble keeping them straight. Likewise, though the mystery connects to a previous case, I felt like it was explained well enough to make sure I had no trouble understanding the mystery at hand. In fact, both the identity of the victim and several other elements mentioned help make the book feel well connected to the series as a whole – a nice change to some series, where it feels like people shake off their friends, neighbors, and relatives killing each other perhaps just a bit too easily!
Unfortunately, the book did fail in one regard. I went into this book specifically to read a Halloween novel, so I was more than a bit surprised that only the first third or so of the book took place around Halloween! After that, there was a bit of a time skip, with the rest of the book taking place early in the following year. So, while the holiday theme was certainly strong for the first part, later elements certainly felt a lot less “Halloween-ey” – not entirely un-Halloween-ish, mind you, since a big spooky mansion was still featured prominently, but it was still a bit jarring.
That said, I do still strongly recommend this novel, and by extension the series as a whole. It does a good job showing continuity in a Cozy setting, something I’ve lacked lately as I’ve mostly been reading establishing novels for the site lately. It’s also quite well written, and the characters and setting are interesting and well fleshed out without feeling excessively “zany” to me. If you’re looking for a good Cozy read, feel free to pick this one up – just don’t be surprised if Halloween ends a little bit early.