It’s time once again for me to write another past in my series highlighting the most popular and recommended Cozy Mystery series. This month, I’ll be reading another very new Cozy mystery series, the Avery Ayers Mystery Series by Tracy Gardner. This series is so new that the book I’m reading, Ruby Red Herring, the first in the series, came out last year (which is 2021, for those of you reading in the future).
The titular Avery Ayers is a 25 year old woman taking over the family business of Antiquities & Artifacts Appraised after the death of her parents about a year before the start of the novel. The business has offices both in Lilac Grove, a small upstate town less than an hour outside New York City, and a branch office in Manhattan. Avery had moved back to Lilac Grove from Philadelphia after the death of her parents to take care of her much younger sister Tilly, still in high school, as had their eccentric Aunt Midge, a sixty year old woman with a wide and diverse network of contacts in art and culture.
The book certainly starts out fast with a mystery – a note, apparently written by the siblings deceased father, arrives one morning warning them from taking a contract, though which contract is vague. Avery has no doubt that their father is deceased, but the note is hard to shake entirely, using nicknames that few other people outside the family would have known.
The only obvious upcoming “contract” that could prove troublesome is an offer from the New York Museum of Antiquities to appraise a large ruby, an obviously potentially valuable item but also one well within Avery’s area of expertise. The ruby seems potentially to be a match for a missing gem from another art piece, a dragon medallion which had already been missing a ruby eye before coming into possession of the Museum of Antiquities. When the ruby goes missing, suddenly coworkers, museum employees, and even visiting actors shooting a movie in a closed part of the museum all suddenly start looking like potential suspects… not only in the missing ruby, but in the death of Avery’s parents, which starts to look less and less like an accident.
One thing I really appreciated about this novel is that at least one aspect of the mystery surfaces immediately upon starting. Though establishing the setting is no doubt important in Cozies as in any other form of fiction, many modern Cozies have a tendency to amble on for a hundred pages or so before the first crime. Though this is certainly a good way to establish both setting and give service to whatever “niche” the Cozy is inhabiting (often food related, though antiques aren’t uncommon either), it can leave the mystery feeling like a distant secondary consideration.
That isn’t the case in Ruby Red Herring. With a mysterious letter arriving immediately as the book opens, it makes it clear that the mystery of this “mystery novel” won’t be taking second place to antiques, as interesting as that secondary focus can be. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a modern Cozy that starts off with mystery right away rather than beating around the bush for a hundred pages first.
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.