As part of my ongoing series highlighting the most recommended and popular Cozy Mystery series suggested by site readers, this month I will be discussing the first entry in Libby Klein‘s first entry in her Poppy McAllister Mystery Series, titled Class Reunions are Murder.
This book is another relatively recent Cozy, released in 2018, though the series already has seven entries – some authors really have a talent for writing quickly! Though it’s also possible she had a few written before getting them published. As such, it definitely has a lot of the hallmarks of a modern Cozy – specifically, a down-on-her-luck sleuth who is ready to move on to a new career, new town, etc.
In this case, Poppy isn’t actually looking to move back home at the beginning – she’s a recent widow in her early 40s who is still going through the grieving process for her husband, and only intends to go back to her childhood home of Cape May, New Jersey, to attend her high school class reunion. She doesn’t really even want to go to that, but is pressured by her old high school friends. All of them were former nerds/outcasts in their high school experience, and have received personal invitations to the reunion from their mutual bully, Barbie, who wanted to meet with them privately at some point during the reunion.
When Poppy and friends do run into Barbie at the reunion, she’s combative and insulting not only to them, but to the majority of her other former classmates. Naturally, as in many Cozies, the meanest person introduced is given cosmic karma for their attitude by being killed after antagonizing a large group of people who already have no reason to love her. Poppy is the person who locates her body – and naturally becomes the primary suspect.
A bit of a warning – a few of the reasons Poppy’s life is a mess at the beginning of the novel are a bit darker than in most Cozies (even for the “grieving widow” subset of Cozy sleuths), so if you’re looking for a more pure “good-times” sort of Cozy, this might not be at the top of your list. Indeed, the fact that Poppy’s life legitimately seems depressing at the beginning of the novel is one of the big differences between this and other Cozies. Most Cozy protagonists have already gotten over the worst of their emotional issues before becoming determined to make a fresh start, but Poppy feels like a much more realistic depiction of someone who really legitimately needs to make a big change to start to get their life back on track.
Naturally, this being a Cozy, a lot of those problems start to unravel as Poppy is exposed to her old hometown, though they become replaced by new problems – most obviously the murder accusation, but also other complications like her bail being covered by her old high school boyfriend, her eccentric Great-Aunt Ginny needing more supervision now that she’s in her eighties, and other similar Cozy-ish sort of developments. The final takeaway is that Poppy does indeed start at a relatively low place – but in this case, it’s a good thing, because it gives the character a real ability to grow through the course of the novel. This is definitely a transition that’s worth seeing, and one that is surprisingly rare in protagonists of the Cozy genre.
If you’re interested in seeing other most recommended or popular Cozy Mystery authors/series, please visit the Most Popular & Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page on my site.
PS: If this tips the scales for any recipe fanatics out there, this novel does include seven recipes at the end.