Today, I’ll be using my long-running series highlighting specific mystery series recommended by readers as an excuse to go back and read another series by a specific modern author that I’m particular fond of, Laura Bradford. Specifically, I’m going to be taking a look at the first entry in her A Friend For Hire Mystery Series, titled A Plus One for Murder.
As a rather prolific author who has been writing mysteries for about two decades but doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in getting tied down to a single series, Bradford has a number of short mystery series for any reader to jump right in and enjoy from the beginning. This is her most recent, and one of the most modern Cozies I have highlighted here, with this book first being published in 2021.
At the beginning, this particular Cozy starts out with a bit of a subversion for the genre – it starts not as the sleuth begins a new venture that has been their dream business, but at its unsuccessful conclusion, as Emma Westlake has recently been fighting off the death of her travel booking job as more and more of her previous corporate clients began handling it in-house.
Fortunately, Emma already has something of a side job, having been hired by an elderly man eighteen months earlier to provide some companionship to his wife Dottie at a weekly tea get-together in exchange for a small fee. When she mentions her problems to Dottie, the elderly woman suggests that she instead begin expanding this side business, essentially becoming a friend-for-hire. At first, Emma isn’t comfortable with the idea – but she needs the money badly, so when Dottie starts lining up jobs to accompany seniors to dance lessons for her, she quickly starts taking them.
Unfortunately, one of her clients turns out to be a local writer/freelance journalist with a reputation as a conspiracy theorist named Brian who hires Emma to clap at an open-mic reading of his latest work – a poem that he claims won’t get any applause, as most of those there to hear it will want to kill him by the time he finishes reading. Suffice to say, Brian was right about that at least, as he drops dead right halfway through his reading.
I really enjoyed reading this Cozy – it has a good mix of modern Cozy trappings and slight subversions that help keep the mix a bit fresher than it might otherwise feel stale. The concept of a friend for hire sounds a bit odd at first, but it certainly gives many opportunities for the sleuth to get involved with a number of people, widening the possibilities for both “flavor” characters and potential victims and suspects in the future.
This mystery also has the big benefit of the actual murder coming in relatively early – as I have mentioned before, I’m primarily coming to Cozies for a mystery, so as much as I like the ambiance, I like it when they get to the crime relatively quickly. This was excellent in that regard, with my Kindle showing only about 10% when the murder occurred.
Laura Bradford is also the author of the Amish Mystery Series, the Emergency Dessert Squad Mystery Series (which I have already written about in another post), the Tobi Tobias Mystery Series, and the Jenkins & Burns Mystery Series. As Elizabeth Lynn Casey, Laura Bradford is also the author of the Southern Sewing Circle Mystery Series.
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.