We’re all going to have to remember to write (or type) 2015 in just a few days! Where has this past year gone?
I know this is a very busy time of year for a lot of us, but I wonder if you could find the time to tell us about an extremely good Cozy Mystery book you read during December. Also, please tell us why you consider this Cozy to be so good that it stands out from the rest of the Cozies you read during the month. Please only tell us about the Cozies that were much better than the rest of the other Cozy Mystery books you read during December. Of course, if you read only one or two Cozy Mysteries this month, and liked both of them a lot, then please tell us about them.
I’m going to start by saying I’m currently in the middle of an Inspector Wexford mystery by Ruth Rendell. I know he’s an inspector, so he doesn’t qualify for the amateur sleuth category, but I think of these mysteries as more Cozy à la Agatha Christie style than police procedural. Rather than write the reason for my recommendation, I will refer you to two entries I wrote about why I like Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford mysteries so much:
Ruth Rendell: From Doon with Death, Reginald Wexford, Revisited
There’s a reason the Crime Writers’ Association (British) added two of Ruth Rendell’s books to their Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time and the Mystery Writers of America added one of her mysteries to their Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time list!
What terrific Cozy Mystery book(s) did you read during December 2014 that you think the rest of us would definitely enjoy reading, and why did you enjoy it (them)?
Here are the current recommended books who some of you have read and recommended this past month:
Victoria Abbott (Mary Jane Maffini & Victoria Maffini): Book Collector Mystery Series
Isabella Alan (aka Amanda Flower): Amish Quilt Shop Mystery Series
Nancy Atherton: Aunt Dimity Mystery Series
Donald Bain: Capital Crimes Mystery Series
Juliet Blackwell (aka Hailey Lind): Haunted Home Renovation Mystery Series
Rhys Bowen: Royal Spyness Mystery Series
Simon Brett: Fethering Mystery Series
Duffy Brown: Cycle Path Mystery Series
Rita Mae Brown: Mrs. Murphy Mystery Series
Molly Cox Bryan: Cumberland Creek Mystery Series
Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib): Key West Food Critic Mystery Series
Lynn Cahoon: Tourist Trap Mystery Series
V.C. Clinton-Baddeley: No Case for the Police
Shelley Costa: Miracolo Mystery Series
Cleo Coyle (aka Alice Kimberly): Coffeehouse Mystery Series
Kathi Daley: Zoe Donovan Mystery Series
Evelyn David: Ghosts of Lottawatah Mystery Series
Krista Davis: Domestic Diva Mystery Series
Cyril Hare: An English Murder (Stand Alone)
Sherry Harris: Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery Series (Tagged for Death – book #1)
Carolyn Hart: Bailey Ruth Ghost Mystery Series
Betty Hechtman: Crochet Mystery Series
Lee Hollis: Hayley Powell Food & Cocktail Mystery Series
Maria Hudgins: Lacy Glass Archaeology Mystery Series
Julie Hyzy: White House Chef Mystery Series
Miranda James (aka Honor Hartman, Jimmie Ruth Evans, & Dean James): Southern Ladies Mystery Series
Miranda James (aka Honor Hartman, Jimmie Ruth Evans, & Dean James): Cats in the Stacks Mystery Series
Diane Kelly: Tara Holloway Death and Taxes Mystery Series
Sofie Kelly (aka Sofie Ryan): Magical Cats Mystery Series
Joyce and Jim Lavene (aka J.J. Cook & Ellie Grant): Retired Witches Mystery Series
Joyce and Jim Lavene (aka J.J. Cook & Ellie Grant): Pet Psychic Mystery Series
Joyce and Jim Lavene (aka J.J. Cook & Ellie Grant): Renaissance Faire Mystery Series
T.C. LoTempio: Nick and Nora Mystery Series (Meow If It’s Murder – book #1)
Charlotte MacLeod (aka Alisa Craig): Peter Shandy Mystery Series
Susan Elia MacNeal: Maggie Hope Mystery Series
Rose Pressey: A Haunted Vintage Mystery (If You’ve Got It, Haunt It – book #1)
Ann Purser: Lois Meade Mystery Series
Spencer Quinn (aka Peter Abrahams): Chet and Bernie Mystery Series
Hannah Reed (aka Deb Baker): Scottish Highlands Mystery Series
Ruth Rendell: Inspector Wexford Mystery Series
Ruth Rendell: The Girl Next Door
Connie Shelton: Samantha Sweet Mystery Series
♦To access more Cozy Mystery Books Recommendations, click on this link♦
P.S. While I try to respond to all of the comments that are made on the Cozy Mystery blog, I generally don’t respond to the comments on these monthly recommendation entries.
December Recommendations – 2014
Diva Wraps It Up – Krista Davis
Some ‘holiday themed’ books are just set in the month of the holiday with no activities (or very little) as part of the story. Other books give a much better ‘feel’ to the holiday. One such book is ‘Diva Wraps It Up’ by Krista Davis. There’s an outdoor lighting contest, cookie swap, Christmas food, and even a few snow flurries (in VA) talked about throughout the story.
There are many new characters as part of the story to keep track of in this book, but Davis makes it easy for the reader to do so. The diverse personalities of these new characters keeps the story really moving along, although there are some simplistic (dragged out?) parts to the writing (unusual for this author).
There’s an attempted murder of one neighbor and a murder of another. This story focuses on the attempted murder and the murder without any side stories. However, there is a LOT of complexity in the story line itself. Because of this, it is difficult for the reader to figure out who is the culprit, and the whys and wherefores. The romantic angle, present in previous books, is pretty much non-existent in this book.
I don’t understand why the publisher decided to release this book last June, but I’m glad I waited until December to read it. The ‘ambiance’ was worth the wait!!
BTW, this same publisher (Berkley) also didn’t release the Halloween themed, ‘Ghost and Mrs. Mewer’, (by same author) until December. I think it was discussed earlier whether we wait to read them in context of the holiday or read them when released. However, I had another curious thought — I wonder if either a VERY early or late release date of a themed mystery affect the sales in a negative way? I would assume publishers keep track of things like that.
A Midwinters’ Tale — Sofie Kelly
This is another story with a holiday themed setting where the reader can feel the atmosphere of the season. This series is often recommended on this blog and this book is no exception. In fact, it’s probably the best one of the series. However, the author doesn’t explain the recurring characters well, (at least to start out with), thus making it somewhat necessary to read the series sequentially. I even got confused, and I’ve read all the books in order.
Kathleen (protagonist/main character) is a librarian in Minnesota. Actually, alluding to Kathleen as the main character is unfair — the two ‘magical’ cats are probably the main characters! The focus is on a library fund raiser, but a wedding is also being planned. Of course, a murder takes place – a former resident who has returned to this small community. There’s quite a few twists and turns to this story, thus creating a very surprising ending. This is a light, quick, and enjoyable read.
Murder Served Simply — Isabella Allen
This is the third book in the Amish Quilt Shop series. It is set in an Amish community in northeastern Ohio. Protagonist Angie Braddock moved to this community from Texas because she inherited a quilt shop from her aunt.
An actress falls to her death during a Christmas play performance. There are so many layers to this story with multi-faceted, well developed characters (an asset this author does well). In addition, there is an interesting (sometimes irritating) side story when Angie’s parents come to visit for the holidays along with her former fiancé, hoping for a reconciliation.
There is more focus on the Amish in this book, as opposed to the previous stories in this series. Again, a light, quick read with a very ‘homey/comfy’ ending.
Death With All the Trimmings — Lucy Burdette
Because it’s a ‘holiday’ theme, I also want to mention that I’m in the middle of Lucy Burdette’s, “Death With All The Trimmings”. However, so far, there isn’t the same ‘ambiance or feel’ of the holidays, perhaps because it’s set in Key West.
It’s an enjoyable story as Hayley’s (protagonist) mother (from NJ) has decided to move to Key West for the winter (she’s made ‘appearances’ in previous books when she visited the area). A well-known chef from NYC has decided to open a restaurant on the island. But someone doesn’t want her to succeed. A fire is set in a shed behind the new restaurant with body found in it.
This is the 5th book in the series and I’ve enjoyed them all (quite sure I’ve recommended each one, too).
BUT there’s a HUGE twist in this one that I’m excited about…………………….so follow me in this convoluted explanation:
Lucy Burdette is a pseudonym for Roberta Isleib. Isleib has written two cozy series. One is the ‘Advice Column Mystery series where the protagonist is a psychologist (as is the author). The other series is the Golf Lover’s Mysteries. The protagonist in that series is Cassie Burdette, an aspiring pro golfer.
Is it a COINCIDENCE that the author’s pseudonym’s last name is the same as the character’s name in the golf series? Nope……………..but I JUST caught on to the connection! I imagine there are blog readers (much smarter than me) who saw this correlation a long time ago.
HERE’S the twist — character Cassie Burdette is visiting in Key West with her husband (he even mentions she solved several mysteries). Evidently Cassie is Hayley’s second cousin (ah-h-h only in the world of fiction!). I’m guessing (??) that both will be involved in the solution of the mystery………but won’t know for sure until I read the second half.
I feel very confident in recommending this book even though I haven’t finished it yet, because I’ve enjoyed ALL the cozy mysteries by this author. Very intelligent writing, twisted plots, and smart, savvy sleuths. There’s a lot of depth to all her characters (some are a little quaint) which makes the stories that much more engaging. Always, always a good read!! (Recipes look tasty, too.)
Danna - cozy mystery list says
MJ, with all of your house-guests, I’m surprised you got any reading done!
You’re right, we did discuss the publisher releasing these books in a “topsy-turvy” manner. I would have thought that it affects the sales, but you’re also right about the publishing house knowing what it’s doing. (Anyone one would hope they know!) I wondered how many people would wait and read the Christmas book during December, and then wait until October 2015 to read the Halloween theme book, making them fall behind on the series. (I save my holiday theme mysteries until the appropriate holiday, which messes me up for keeping current with my favorite series.)
Wow! Where did the year go. The books I read in December are:
Dead Bolt – Juliet Blackwell
Meow If It’s Murder (Nick and Nora Mystery) – Toni LoTempio
Spell Book (Retired Witch Mystery Series) – Joyce & Jim Lavene
Plainly Murder – Isabella Alan
Murder, Plain and Simple – Isabella Alan
Murder, Simply Stitched – Isabella Alan
Murder Served Simply – Isabella Alan
Hooked on Murder – Betty Hechtman
Dead Men Don’t Crochet – Betty Hechtman
Linda MH says
I didn’t get a lot of reading done this month–December is always so busy. I really enjoyed the following books:
The Wolf Widow by Victoria Abbott
The third Book Collector Mystery, The Wolf Widow, is an entertaining read. Jordan Bingham is crushed and confused when she gets fired from her dream job. When it becomes clear her difficult ex-boss may be in danger, she knows she has to do something. With the help of her Uncle Kev, the signora, and a cable company installer, she sets out to rescue her ex-boss.
I enjoy this series. These well-crafted mysteries are filled with humor and likable characters. Jordan is a capable protagonist, and the signora cracks me up, but I truly love Jordan’s uncles. Such characters! I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.
Geared For the Grave by Duffy Brown
Evie Bloomfield (our protagonist) arrives on Mackinac Island with the intention of helping her boss Abigail’s father, Rudy, manage his run-down bike shop while he recuperates from an accident. When a woman is found murdered and Rudy becomes a suspect, Evie sets out to prove Rudy is innocent.
I thoroughly enjoyed Geared For The Grave. It boasts an amazing setting (I googled Mackinac Island–it looks so beautiful!), extremely engaging characters, a capable and very likable protagonist, the beginnings of a sweet little romance, and a solid mystery to solve. Ms. Brown has given Evie plenty of viable suspects, and it is fun following along as she eliminates them one by one. The author’s wonderfully humorous voice made me chuckle frequently. (I also strongly recommend Ms. Brown’s Consignment Shop Mysteries.)
Lottawatah Repossessed by Evelyn David
The 12th novella in the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries is a great addition to this very enjoyable series. Brianna (our protagonist) has psychic abilities and is frequently visited by ghosts who need something from her—and it is never anything as simple as guiding them “to the light”.
In this book, Brianna has to rid her new home of a very unwanted houseguest–the ghost of a murdered man. What starts off as a difficult and annoying task turns potentially deadly when the man’s murderer targets Brianna and someone she loves.
The Lottawatah books (all novellas) are quick, fun, and engaging reads. I always love spending time with Brianna and the gang. Although you don’t have to read these in order, I do recommend it.
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2015!!
I’ve read so, so many amazing books this month, and many became favorites, but I’ going to limit myself to two recommendations.
First, the Southern Sisters series by Miranda James – I have never read the Cat in the Stacks mysteries but this book was one of my favorite cozies I have ever read. It was fast paced and full of laughs.
And, the Scottish Highlands series by Hannah Reed – this one was another fast paced mystery that was filled with well-built characters and an amazing setting
both of these series only have one book out, but the Scottish Highland series has another one coming out in 2015. Both are solid, well-built starts to what is going to be a great series.
Stash Empress says
I did not read as many books as usual this month, probably because my daughter got engaged at the beginning of the month & just didn’t have too much free time since then & also was just too distracted to read when I did!
Carolyn Hart — Ghost Wanted — A Bailey Ruth Ghost mystery — I do love this series, its too bad they don’t come out more often! I love the sleuth, feisty redheaded ghost, Bailey Ruth Raeburn who manages to break all the rules in the interest of justice — and makes it all come out right in the end. This most recent installment is even better than the last, they just keep getting better & better!
Joyce & Jim Lavene — Spell Booked — What can I say — this new series is the BEST from the Lavenes so far! (And I’m a HUGE fan of pretty much all their series!) — in this new series aging & ready to retire witches get involved in a magical murder — think loveable but muddled old Aunt Clara (of Bewitched) meets Harry Potter.
Diane Kelly — Death, Taxes, and Silver Spurs – Tara Holloway mystery — another good one — though I could do without the steamy scenes (this one actually had less of those than some of the previous titles in the series) but I love the gutsy IRS/cop Tara Holloway & the scrapes she gets into.
Susan Elia MacNeal — The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent — Maggie Hope mystery. Though this one didn’t get such great reviews on Amazon, I thoroughly enjoyed this next installment in this WW2 (gutsy woman) spy series. But though its supposedly a “stand-alone”, they’re really best read in order.
Molly Cox Bryan — A Crafty Christmas — Cumberland Creek mystery — another good installment in this series — scrapbooking mystery — cruise mystery — holiday mystery — scrapbooking holiday cruise mystery — what could be better?
Rhys Bowen — Queen of Hearts (Royal Spyness Mystery) — Another one of my “most favorite” series — love the character of Georgie (Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 35th in line to the British throne). She’s fun, she’s feisty, she’s smart, and unlike her more famous cousins, she’s broke & has to live by her wits. So much fun!
Maria Hudgins — Scorpion House — Lacy Glass Archaeology Mystery — This series was new to me, having already read a book from the author’s other series (Dotsy Lamb Travel mysteries). I did enjoy it because of the exotic locale. I have to admit that my daughter got engaged just after I started this book & so instead of polishing it off in a couple of hours like I normally would, rather it dragged on for over 2 weeks both because I was constantly being interrupted by all the “goings on” and also because I was just too distracted to read a book in one sitting like usual!
Donald Bain — Margaret Truman’s Experiment in Murder — A Capital Crimes Novel –I did like this book very much, found it very gripping & suspenseful, however I was not happy with the ending — but then in real life endings are never neat & tidy & wrapped with a bow, which is probably why I read cozies to begin with!
Rose Pressey – If You’ve Got It, Haunt It — A Haunted Vintage Mystery — I loved this new series — its got all the favorite elements — vintage clothing store, a ghost & even a psychic cat!
Joyce & Jim Lavene — The Telltale Turtle — a Pet Psychic mystery — Loads of fun, this series was never continued, but the main character, Mary Catherine Roberts, has appeared in the latest installment of the authors’ Missing Pieces series (Dae’s Christmas Past) & looks to being a regular character in that series.
Sherry Harris — Tagged For Death — A Sarah Winston Garage Sale mystery — Not yet finished with this one, which is first in a new series, but shaping up to be a good read.
Danna - cozy mystery list says
Stash, what wonderful news for your family! It’s always nice to know your children are happy…
hi. my new favourite cozies are…. the lois meade series, written by ann purser. british cozies, set in a small town about a woman who runs a cleaning service, and has plots that involve clients, staff and her family. there are about 12 of these, but since i read them all in december, i hope it still qualifies. oh, ann purser also has a cozy series about some “oldies” who operate a detective agency, in between naps and various other activities. these are the ivy beesley series. 3 of them. read them in december too.
Earlier this year, I belatedly discovered Miranda James’ series, “Cats In The Stacks”. I’ve an affinity for cats and this was perfect! I think I read the entire series in about 3 weeks (slow, I know!!!!). Can’t wait for the next installment – January, I think. His (MJ is actually a guy, as I suspect you’ve all learned way ahead of me) newest series which came out this fall is really good, too. Highly recommend this!!!! While not exactly a knuckle biter, it fit me completely!
I quite enjoyed Shelley Costa’s Basil Instinct. There is a fun cast of characters and the tone is light despite murder and mayhem
Another was Death of a Christmas Caterer by Lee Hollis. Light quick read.
Karen L. says
According to my book log, I read 67 books this year (cozies and others). I love being retired!
I read mostly seasonal cozies this month ( in one series, I read the Halloween and Thanksgiving books, so I could read the Christmas book in order). Here are the ones I really liked:
On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle – very intelligent main character who manages a coffee shop for her ex mother-in-law in New York.
State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy – fast read about a White House Chef. I read this book in one day. The author did a lot of research about the inner workings of the staff in the White House. This is my new favorite series.
Halloween Hijinks, The Trouble With Turkeys, and Christmas Crazy by Kathi Daly – I love the setting which is in the mountains. The series takes place in a small mountain town which depends on festivals and holiday celebrations for the town’s financial success. Most of the characters are business owners in the town and are likable.
Mission To Murder by Lynn Cahoon – Love this series.
If The Shoe Kills by Lynn Cahoon (Thanksgiving/Christmas cozy) – This series takes place in a small California coastal town. The main character owns a coffee/book store and is dating the town police officer.
Hail To the Chef by Julie Hyzy (Thanksgiving/Christmas cozy). This was about getting the White House decorated for Christmas and finding the murderer. Right after I read this, I watched the special on HGTV about the White House decorations and a news clip on C-SPAN showing Mrs. Obama with children making crafts and decorating cookies.
Danna, I did not see this book listed with the Christmas book list and it could definitely be included.
Danna - cozy mystery list says
Karen L, thank you for the Hail to the Chef tip. I just added it to the Christmas page.
I read Legends Can be Murder which is the newest Connie Shelton mystery which features Charlie Parker in Alaska. Excellent book with an usual structure. I’ve read all her books but this is one of the very best of them.
I would highly recommend it.
My two favorite books this month are the first two Chet and Bernie books. So imaginative and clever to write from the dog’s POV. I am fascinated, and slightly in love.
Danna - cozy mystery list says
Susy, isn’t Chet a cutie? This series is a joy to read, even with all of the murders/crimes!
Joyce and Jim Lavene have already featured in the list, I see. Well, I’m adding them again – a third different series. 🙂
I was lucky enough to receive two books from the ‘Renaissance Faire Mystery’ series for Christmas, as well as two of Nancy Atherton’s ‘Aunt Dimity’ series.
I recommend both series.
Both are absorbing, with plausible settings and continuing characters. Not so much so that you feel excluded if you’re not familiar with them, but enough to make returning readers feel immediately at home.
Atherton in particular puts the ‘cosy’ in ‘Cosy Mysteries’.
The best book I read last month was Rita Mae Brown’s The Litter of the Law. The motive behind the murders was fairly clear, but I didn’t figure out who the killer was. There were also a few fairly large false clues that complicated the plot. As always, the book was well written and the characters entertaining. Although I do wish the animals had been more active in this particular book in the series.
Margaret Anne says
This month I focused on reading Christmas cozies, which helped me get into the Christmas spirit! My favorites were gleaned from recommendations on this site, so probably a lot of people have already read these- but they were new to me! The best mystery I read this month was Rest You Merry by Charlotte MacLeod. This is very truly the funniest cozy I have read. Peter Shandy’s attempt to upset the organizers of the annual Illumination had me laughing out loud (alarming some of the people on my morning commute)! Having worked in academia for a while, he reminds me of several professors I once knew. The mystery was also well-written, and both he and Helen Marsh were very likeable.
I also really liked An English Murder by Cyril Hare (another excellent recommendation from previous blog entries!) Although I think the resolution of the mystery was a bit of a stretch, I enjoyed the English manor house setting and the side plots involving the party goers/suspects.
I am going to miss reading Christmas cozies now that the holiday is over.
Danna - cozy mystery list says
Margaret Anne, those are two of my favorite Christmas Cozies!
An Unexamined Wife: The second Charlotte Anthony mystery
This second book (1st, An Uncollected Death, by Meg Wolfe) takes place in the two weeks leading up to the new year, which though we are just hours away from the new year, (it was released on x-mass day) still makes a great winter read. The Unexamined Wife, which portrays the shocking murder of a respected college professor, is a complex puzzle that has so many twists and turns I could hardly put it down. Ms. Wolfe’s ability to mine a sense of place portrays both a staid midwestern town and its shocking underbelly. Add some romance, high culture, the intrigues of university life/politics, and you have a unique novel that is highly credible. Having loved her first book, (An Uncollected Death), the Unexamined Wife takes place where the other left off, and gives a more in depth portrait of the wonderfully odd mix of characters. Characters that most would love to enter into their world. I highly recommend it.
I love Ann Purser. I will admit I had trouble getting through the beginning of the first book but I kept with it and couldn’t put it down. Once I start I read it all day.
Also Jessica Beck ( Donut maker) I read book 10, 11 and 12 last weekend, again couldn’t put them down.
Danna - cozy mystery list says
Rita, I put down the Ann Purser’s Lois Meade Mystery Series. (I hope I guessed the correct one!)
Glad I found your blog. I love cozy mysteries!
Danna - cozy mystery list says
Debbie, welcome to the Cozy Mystery site! I hope you enjoy looking around and finding new authors, as well as the themes.
My best “cosy” read in December was Ruth Rendell’s latest “The Girl Next Door.” A murder commited in WW2 comes to light in the present day and has repercussions for a group of 70-somethings who were children at the time. It starts with a dark deed but the novel is anything but dark. I was completely absorbed from the very 1st word to the last.
Sad to hear of Ruth Rendell’s recent stroke. Like all her fans I hope she recovers, and soon.
My next was “No Case for the Police” by V.C. Clinton-Baddeley. Although it was written in the late 60s we are in Agatha Christie land here where everyone has perfect manners and young men call their elders “Sir.” Wonderfully idiosyncratic, he’s more interested in character than plot. Delightful.
The 3rd good cosy was “The Tomb in Turkey” by Simon Brett. “Fethering” abroad; daft plot but characters better than ever and lots of local colour.
Danna - cozy mystery list says
Anne, I am very sad about Ruth Rendell’s recent stroke. She and her family have been in my thoughts the last two days.