Sample Some Tasty “Cozy Mysteries”

The words “cozy” and “mystery” may not seem to go together at first glance, but with the growing popularity of the mystery novel subgenre,  they somehow do. What makes a mystery “cozy”? They are usually set in small towns, with amateur or atypical sleuths solving the crimes, and Angela Lansbury in Murder She Wrotethere isn’t a lot of swearing, gore, or sex. Think “Murder, She Wrote” with a hundred different themes.

The theme of the series is usually evident in the series name and the often-punny book titles. There seems to be a theme for every interest: Knitting (Dyeing Wishes : A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery), Gardening (Harvest of Murder : A Gardening Mystery), Books & Reading (If Books Could Kill: A Bibliophile Mystery), and of course, Cats (Paws and Effect : A Magical Cats Mystery). But one of the biggest themes is Food.

We’ve assembled some mysteries sure to appeal to the Foodie and Amateur Detective in you!

Goldy Bear MysteriesCatering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson by Diane Mott Davidson. This series follows caterer Goldy as she solves murders and tries to keep her fledgling business afloat. Catering is a risky business indeed!

Hannah Swensen MysteriesThe Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke by Joanne Fluke. Hannah Swensen is a cookie baker whose gingersnaps are almost as tart as her mouth and whose penchant for solving crime definitely stirs things up.

Bakeshop MysteriesMeet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander by Ellie Alexander. Welcome to Torte – a small-town family bakeshop where the coffee is hot, the muffins are fresh, and the cakes are definitely to die for.

Comfort Food MysteriesDo or Diner by Christine Wenger by Christine Wenger. Trixie Matkowski  agrees to take over her aunt’s diner in upstate New York, and is looking forward to the small town atmosphere she knew as a child…. until murder is on the menu.

Tea Shop MysteriesShades of Earl Grey by Laura Childs by Laura Childs. Theodosia Browning is the  owner of Charleston, South Carolina’s  Indigo Tea Shop, where a mystery is always brewing…

Cheese Shop MysteriesThe Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames by Avery Aames. Charlotte Bessette runs Fromagerie Bessette, or as it’s more commonly known by the residents of small-town Providence, Ohio – the Cheese Shop. Another small town with a large number recipes to make and murders to solve.

 

How to Find a Read-alike

If you are like me, when I find a series I love I burn through it in record time and then am left mourning that I have finished the series. Finding a new series can be difficult, so invariably I turn to NoveList for help.

NoveList is an online database available through Cheshire Library’s website (for other libraries, check your local library’s website to see if NoveList is offered there) that offers recommended reading lists. You can sort by age and genre and even by topics such as “fast-paced and amusing” or “moving and haunting” and even “snarky and compelling”. However my favorite part of NoveList is the Read-alike links.

If you type in a book title or author, NoveList will produce a list of results that include three very handy links: Title Read-alikes, Author Read-Alikes and Series Read-alikes.

What is a Read-alike?

A read-alike is a book, author, or series that shares some of the basic characteristics  of another book, author, or series. It means that if you enjoy, say, author Marcia Muller, you may also like books by Laurie R. King, Kate Wilhelm, or Iain Pears,

For example, type in  Lord Peter Wimsey (one of my favorite British mystery sleuths), click on Series Read-alikes, and you will get a list of recommendations that include the Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood (stories that have also been turned into a wonderful BBC drama: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) and the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries by P.D. James, among many others.

Bingo! Two more series just waiting to be devoured.

Try NoveList. It works! Cheshire Library cardholders can link to NovelList from the Reading Resources page on the CPL website. Scroll down and you’ll find a Reading Resources link on our homepage or click on How Do I…? in our upper left menu and click the Find a Good Book link.

This Year’s Best Crime Novels So Far

Today we are featuring a guest post by Cassie Peters:

Crime novels offer glimpses into the minds of those who choose to either take the law into their own hands or ignore it entirely. Through the author’s words, we are able to contemplate, observe, and judge the motivations that make the criminals tick. If learning about the underworld is within your literary interests, here are some of the best crime novels of 2018. Following a long tradition of crime-based literature, many of these novels are brilliant subversions of the well-known and popular genre. Get ready to take a harrowing leap into the minds of 2018’s fictional criminals.

The Outsider by Stephen King

Terry Maitland is a Little League coach, family man, and all-around beloved pillar of the community who was arrested for the mutilation and murder of a young boy. Honest cop Detective Ralph Anderson struggles with deciphering all available evidence for fear of convicting the wrong suspect, until his wife Jeannie asks all the right questions that leads the investigation to the truth. Meanwhile, time-warping details both obscure and provide glimpses into hidden, deeper truths. Stephen King’s The Outsider is a masterful twist on the classic crime genre. A smooth and effortless tale of modern day crime with just the right amount of noir, politics, and psychedelics. Not a lot of writers can so pleasurably disorient readers like King.


Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz

An orphan who at 12 was enrolled in a top-secret government training program for assassins escapes to become an unlikely vigilante in Hellbent. The novel is the latest in author Gregg Hurwitz’s international bestselling series of books in the Orphan X series. It’s a sordid look into the all-too-fragile lives that evolve on their own amid government motives and conspiracies. Crime and conspiracy take on a humanitarian form via bullet train-paced prose. 

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

What if Mary Poppins was a sociological suspense-thriller that didn’t hold anything back? There’s nothing mystical or magical about Leila Slimani’s The Perfect Nanny, but she manages to masterfully subvert expectations via her sublime prose. It’s no secret that the lives of the characters in the story are in danger, including young children.  The mystery is whether or not you’ll be able to make it through the slow simmer of how a wholly trustworthy figure can transition into a rationally irrational monster. Library Journal says, “What initially feels like routine, unremarkable women’s fiction morphs into a darkly propulsive nail-biter overlain with a vivid and piercing study of class tensions”.  Peppered with social realist truths amid subtle but constant mounting dread, The Perfect Nanny submits a poverty-stricken view of Paris that culminates in one of the most satisfyingly horrible endings yet.

Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner

FBI rookie Caitlin Hendrix is assigned to the FBI’s elite Behavioral Analysis Unit to find a serial killer who leaves behind grisly clues. In this  dark, disturbing portrait of murder from the perspective of a career forensic psychologist, Agent Hendrix works with the FBI’s serial crime unit and a legendary FBI profiler to dissect the motivations behind a killer based on the available evidence. Into the Black Nowhere is a gripping novel that doubles as a crash course in sociology, critical thinking, crime research methodology, psychological testing, and criminal theory. Based on the exploits of the infamous Ted Bundy, Gardiner’s novel succeeds at a creating a realistic depiction of how serial killers function that is horrendous and unflinchingly educational at the same time. Don’t worry – you won’t need an actual degree in forensic psychology to enjoy this book. However, you should be prepared to learn a thing or two about the criminal mind – insights that might be too dark or true to be forgotten. Watch your step.

This feature post written for Cheshire Library Blog by Cassie Peters.

Sherlock Holmes Lives On!

Sherlock Homes, the quintessential detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle, first appeared in A Study in Scarlet in 1887.  Doyle penned four novels and 56 short stories, chronicling the adventures of the great detective as seen though the eyes of the narrator of the Sherlock tales, Doctor John Watson.

Yet, when you go to our catalog and type “Sherlock Holmes” in the search box, much more comes up that just the Arthur Conan Doyle tales.  Sherlock Holmes appears in many new and sometimes surprising stories. One of my new favorites is The Daughter of Sherlock Homes by Leonard S. Goldberg.

It is no secret from the outset of the story that Joanna Blalock, a widow with a ten year old son who looks just the late Sherlock Holmes,  is the daughter of the great detective. The pleasure of this tale is not making that discovery but uncovering a world where the descendants of all the original Conan Doyle characters are living intertwined lives. The son of Inspector Lestrade bumbles his way though a murder investigation. The son of Doctor Watson is at the side of his elderly parent and just as blind to observations and deductions that never escape the sharp eyes of Joanna (whose mother is none other than Irene Adler, the only person to ever get the better of Sherlock Holmes!) Even the offspring of the infamous villains that Holmes faced are present.

I recently wrote a blog post about Enola Homes, the younger sister of Sherlock in Nancy Springer’s clever children’s mystery series. Since then, I have realized that the exploits of Sherlock Holmes did not end with the final Conan Doyle story, and, being a big Holmes fan, I’m glad that the great detective lives on. Here is a small sampling of other incarnations of Sherlock Holmes:

The Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery series by Laurie R. King.
In The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the first book in the series, a chance meeting with a Sussex beekeeper turns into a pivotal moment when fifteen-year-old Mary Russell discovers that the beekeeper is the reclusive, retired detective Sherlock Holmes, who soon takes on the role of mentor and teacher.

Sherlock Holmes and the King’s Evil and Other New Adventures of the Great Detective by Donald Thomas.
Five original tales inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic character feature Holmes taking on such challenges as the famed siege of Sydney Street, a planned German invasion of America, and a supernatural curse.

Sherlock Holmes and the Shakespeare Letter by Barry Grant.
Searching through modern London for a stolen letter purportedly written by Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes discovers a plot to arm terrorists and enlists the aid of his roommate, James Wilson, to track the arms dealers to a Scottish castle.

The Perils of Sherlock Holmes by Loren D. Estleman.
A collection of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and essays, including “Channeling Holmes,” “On the Significance of Boswells,” and “Was Sherlock Holmes The Shadow?” that delve deeper into the world of Sherlock Holmes and the imaginative mind of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigma by Larry Millett.
Dogged by depression and—as a trip to the Mayo Clinic has revealed—emphysema, 66-year-old Sherlock Holmes is preparing to return to England when he receives a shock: a note slipped under his hotel room door, from a vicious murderer he’d nearly captured in Munich in 1892.

Sherlock Holmes’ Younger Sister

Did you know that Sherlock Holmes has a younger sister? Me, either, until I encountered the amazing Enola Holmes.

Author Nancy Springer has written an intriguing children’s series about the exploits of Enola, a girl left on her own on her fourteenth birthday when her mother walks out of the house and disappears. Once her two much older older brothers Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, learn what has happened, they decide that the best thing would be to place Enola into a boarding school.

The free-spirited Enola has other ideas. Her mother has left behind codes and clues, leading Enola to hidden stashes of money. Once she has enough, she slips away and travels on her own to London, where she turns her talents to becoming a perditorian, a finder of the lost. Having mastered the art of disguise, Enola manages to stay two steps ahead of Sherlock and Mycroft while solving crimes in London.

I confess, I love reading children’s books. This series in particular is entertaining for adults as well as kids because it is not over-simplified. Enola frequently uses terms such as “proboscis”  and “perditorian” and the solutions to the mysteries are not obvious. London’s social rules are humorously and sometimes  poignantly viewed through the eyes of Enola, who often is outraged at the restrictions society places on women. The darker, crueler side of London is also depicted in sobering scenes of poverty, filth, crime, and disease.

It was also announced this year that Millie Bobby Brown (of “Stranger Things” fame) will be starring in a film series based on the Enola Holmes series.

Kids will love the clever Enola, who can disguise her self so well, she often walks right past her two older brothers without them even recognizing her! Adults will delight in Enola’s interactions with her brother Sherlock, which are written with wit and humor. As a Sherlock Holmes fan, I greatly enjoyed this portrayal of the world’s most famous fictional detective. He genuinely cares for what he views as his wayward sister and comes to respect her intelligence and courage. He and Enola have some very amusing adventures before the ending of the series.

There are six titles in all, and I wish there were more. Highly recommended for all readers interested in mysteries, Sherlock Holmes, and Victorian London.