There are a lot of good Cozy mystery series out there, many of them new even to me despite running this website. Still, sometimes, instead of trying out something new, I have the urge to go back to a series that I have particularly fond memories of, both to see how it holds up today and to have an opportunity to present it to an audience that may not be as familiar with it. Today I’ll be revisiting an old favorite, a mystery series that started in the 1990s, making it something of a “blast from the past” now, almost thirty years later – which certainly makes me feel old, as I believe I was reading most of these as they came out originally! Specifically, the book I’ll be discussing is The Good Friday Murder, the first entry in Lee Harris’s Christine Bennett Holiday Mystery Series.
As in so many other modern Cozies, Christine Bennett is in the middle of a change of lifestyle, but not from the now-normalized transition from “big city professional” to “small town hobby-shop owner”. Instead, Christine has recently left convent life, having spent the last fifteen years of her life as a nun at St. Stephen’s. Though she had planned to leave the convent for a year, when the book begins she has only recently moved to Oakwood, New York, where her recently deceased Aunt Meg left her a house.
One of the reasons she is determined to stay in Oakwood is that her cousin Gene, a mentally disabled man living in the nearby community of Greenwillow. Greenwillow wants to move to Oakwood, but the Oakwood city council objects on a number of reasons – the largest of which is that, forty years ago, another resident of the community was accused of the murder of his mother. Christine doesn’t believe that the murder was committed by the resident, and agrees to try to change the council’s mind – even if that means investigating a murder now over forty years old.
As you can probably tell from the above description, this particular brand of Cozy is a bit less “kooky” and “zany” than many of its modern equivalents. There’s a far more restrained atmosphere to Oakwood than most modern Cozy neighborhoods – the residents are mostly sympathetic, but hardly as “colorful” as is often the case nowadays.
All told, I’d recommend this book as both a “blast from the past” and an “oldie but goodie”. It’s definitely not quite in the same mold as modern Cozies, but if you’re looking for something with a bit of a more serious angle to it, this is definitely a great series to pick up.
One thing I’ll warn readers is that some of the terminology in the book is quite dated. Now the term “retarded” is generally intended as a juvenile insult, but it was considered an accurate medical term both at the time that the novel was written and in the era that the murder took place, so please keep that in mind when reading.