Saturday, March 12, 2016

Guest Post: Jeanne on "Cozy Mystery Old Reliables"

It is always a treat when Jeanne of the Bristol Public Library comes by and shares a guest post. Today she has some suggestions regarding cozy mysteries. By all means, please share your recommendations too. Make sure you check out Jeanne's recommendations for Historical True Crime Books.

Cozy Mystery Old Reliables

I enjoy picking up paperback books by new, or at least new to me, authors.  Sometimes I find  gold that way.  Of course, I also find a lot of dross as well.  Recently, I hit a huge vein of dross.  It seemed that every book I picked up had a heroine TSTL (Too Stupid To Live), contrived dialog, and characters or plots that left much to be desired.  I found my will to read was weakened, so I stopped reading new authors and fell
back on the Old Reliables. These are authors whose books may not be at the top of my must read as soon as possible list, but they are people who always provide a good solid story and/or interesting characters and plots. I buy their books and put them aside just for times of dull books.  These are the folks who pulled me out of the last slump:

Alexander McCall Smith’s Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency books may not have the strongest plot lines but I love spending time with both the characters and Botswana.  It is a well-known fact that people who read these books have lower blood pressure because they are so relaxing.  (And yes, sentence is an in-joke for readers.) There are sixteen of them out now, and while some are better than others, I haven’t encountered a real stinker in the bunch. This time out it was The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine which had much more to do with character relationships and observations than it had to do with any mystery, but that was okay.  It made me laugh, it made me think, and it got me in a good frame of mind. This is the only one on the list that I wouldn’t recommend for first time readers because much of the enjoyment comes from knowing about the characters.  

The next books are also parts of series but I think a new reader wouldn’t have any trouble getting into the spirit of things.

Pouncing on Murder by Laurie Cass is the fourth in the Bookmobile Cat Mystery series.  Librarian Minnie Hamilton drives a bookmobile in Michigan and encounters murders along the way.  Her faithful sidekick is Eddie, a bright but non-talking cat who always manages to be in on the action.  I enjoy the characters, the good use of local color, the “this is a real library” feel of the books that not all books set in libraries have, and the way that names of books and authors are dropped into conversations.  Fun all the way around. In this episode, one of Minnie’s patrons is killed in what appears to be an accident while making maple syrup.

Spellcasting in Silk  by Juliet Blackwell continues the story of Lily Ivory, a young witch in San Francisco who runs a vintage clothing store.  Her mysteries all deal with supernatural forces and magic, which may or may not be everyone’s cup of tea.  She has a half-goblin, half gargoyle familiar who assumes the shape of a pig.  This time Lily is asked to investigate the apparent suicide of woman who fell from the Golden Gate Bridge.  But did she jump--or was she pushed? Blackwell has a sure hand with interesting details about clothing or herbs, being careful to never bog down the narrative.  

Betty Webb has two ongoing series, but I picked up the latest in the Gunn Zoo Mysteries. Zookeeper Theodora “Teddy” Bentley always seems to find herself involved in murder with an animal aspect.  In The Puffin of Death,  Teddy is leaving sunny California to pick up a polar bear cub and some other arctic creatures for a new exhibit at the Gunn Zoo, but when an American birdwatcher is murdered, she can’t resist stepping up to the proverbial plate.  Interesting facts about animals, good solid characters, and in this one, an excellent use of place is providing me with an entertaining read.


Margaret Morse said...

I enjoyed your post, because I do enjoy mysteries. Some of the authors I I'm familiar with, but the library/cat series is new and sounds like fun.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I had not heard of the library/cat deal before this post. The others I had heard of. Have not read any of them.

Clea Simon said...

I love and trust Jeanne's reviews implicitly (in part because she tends to be fond of my books). Thanks for sharing!