Denise Swanson: Body Over Troubled Waters

Denise Swanson remains one of my favorite cozy writers.  Now twenty-three books into her Scumble River series (now billed as “Return to Scumble River”), she’s still cooking with gas.  The books are packed with humor as well as real world details of main character Skye Dennison’s work as a school psychologist, a job Swanson herself held for many years.

Cozy writers have to strike a tricky balance between addressing an issue but not being too harsh with it.  In a bravura first sequence, Skye is attending a meeting with Superintendent of schools Shamus Wraige, who has unceremoniously fired the school security officer because Scumble River is a small town and “It’s not as if anyone here is going to pull a Columbine or a Sandy Hook.” read more

Anne Hillerman: Stargazer

This seems almost unbelievable, but it’s been 51 years since Tony Hillerman published his first Joe Leaphorn novel, The Blessing Way.  The books are now such revered classics I was hesitant when I picked up Anne Hillerman’s first book, thinking there was no way she could continue the work of her father.  But Ms. Hillerman has made the series her own.  The central character is neither Joe Leaphorn or Jim Chee, but Bernadette (Bernie) Manuelito, giving the series an entirely new flavor. read more

Cover Reveal: Jennifer Hawkins, Murder Always Barks Twice

I’m delighted to reveal the cover of Jennifer Hawkins’ Murder Always Barks Twice, the second installment in her chatty corgi series, coming out August 3rd.  Jennifer lives and writes in Michigan, and as Delia James, writes the Magical Cat mysteries.  Find her on twitter @JenHawkinsAuth1.   She has a newsletter for events, updates, releases and all kind of book recommendations from very cool people here.

Jennifer says:  Thanks to Aunt Agatha’s for helping me share my new cover!  I love this one so much – it’s got everything.  The house in the background is exactly how I pictured Truscott Grange where the mystery takes place, and we’ve got an adorable rendition of Oliver the Chatty Corgi himself.  Plus, all the cake! read more

Top 10 List 2020 – plus extras!

2020 has been – challenging – but the upside for me was even more reading time, and I read so many books this year it was difficult to winnow my list to 10, so I added a couple extra categories.  There should be something for most readers on this list – maybe not the lover of hard boiled fiction – but I’m pretty sure that’s not why you are visiting this website.  I’m sure there were some wonderful noir and hard boiled reads this year – they just aren’t my cup of tea.  However, if you are a lover of the traditional detective novel, or of the historical detective novel, this was a fantastic year. read more

Darcie Wilde: A Lady Compromised

This novel is reviewed by our occasional and gifted reviewer, Vicki Kondelik.  It will be available November 24.

A Lady Compromised is the fourth book in the Regency mystery series by Darcie Wilde (a pseudonym for Sarah Zettel) featuring Rosalind Thorne, a gentlewoman living in reduced circumstances after a family scandal.  To make a living for herself, Rosalind helps society ladies solve their problems, which, in this book and the others in the series, include murder investigation.  At the beginning of this book, Rosalind travels to Cassell House, the country estate of Devon Winterbourne, who has recently, and unexpectedly, inherited the title of Duke of Casselmaine following the untimely deaths of his father and older brother.  Rosalind and Devon had been close to becoming engaged before Rosalind’s father’s disgrace, at a time when Devon was a second son, with no prospects of inheriting the dukedom.  Now his cousin, Rosalind’s friend Louisa, is getting married, and Rosalind is looking forward to attending the wedding and possibly rekindling her romance with Devon. read more

If you liked Knives Out….

If you enjoyed the new film Knives Out, and are craving a bit more fun, check out some of these great titles that have a similar dysfunctional family stuck in a big house vibe, often with a sidebar of humor or satire (or both).

A Fatal Winter, G.M. Malliet.  In Malliet’s second novel, the delicious sleuthing vicar, Max Tudor, is dispatched to the home of Lord Footrustle to assist with funeral arrangements, but by virtue of a snowstorm, gets stuck in the middle of a dysfunctional family, all of whom seem to have had a reason for desiring the death of their patriarch.  And it’s all the dead man’s fault, really, as the lonely Lord had invited his far flung family members to join him for Christmas.  While this novel was written in 2012, it hews closely to the golden age parameters established so long ago, and so enjoyably, by Agatha Christie. While definitely tongue in cheek, Malliet breaths true life into her characters and her stories are wickedly clever. read more

Best of 2019

I couldn’t keep it to 10 this year – can I ever?  My taste does tend toward the traditional and historical fiction side of things, so that’s mostly reflected here.  And a note: Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land, while not strictly a mystery, can definitely be enjoyed by his mystery loving fans.  Quite simply, it’s the best book of 2019 of any variety, and I hope everyone reads it.  I am looking to read it again myself.

There was lots to love this year!  Some long-awaited returns (S.J. Rozan), some debuts (Melanie Golding, Allison Montclair, Jess Montgomery), some trying a different format or series (Ann Cleeves, Elly Griffiths), and of course some solid entries in already great series (Benn, Bowen, Jones, Massey, Shaber). Lots of great, passionate, spectacular writing.  I love being a mystery reader! read more

Alafair Burke: The Wife

Alafair Burke’s The Wife is our April book club read – join us at the Classic Cup Cafe, 4389 Jackson Rd., at 6 p.m on April 25 to join the discussion.  The book is available for sale on our store page at a discount.

An Appreciation of Jane Langton by Nancy Shaw

Jane Langton

Jane Langton died last month, just short of her 96th birthday. Through 18 mysteries, her characters Homer and Mary Kelly studied transcendentalism while solving crimes. Langton wrote about the power of nature, art, and kindness. Her protagonists were often besotted with the natural world, or with art, while her villains and comically-awful annoyers were out of harmony with those worlds.

Though Langton hid clues and unveiled solutions, as the genre requires, her voice and presentations were utterly distinctive. She stitched plots together with quirky observations. A World War II-era University of Michigan alumna who studied astronomy and art history, Langton had prodigious powers of invention and spun plot complications from nuggets such as soil chemistry, the water table under a Boston church, and a flooded town under a reservoir. Her line drawings of the settings accompany most of the series, and the settings are integral to the stories. read more

Jess Montgomery: The Widows

Jess Montgomery’s debut is our selection for our January book of the month.  Set in 1920’s Ohio, it’s set in a tiny mining community and loosely based on the lives of the first female sheriff and Mother Jones.  Highlighting the harsh existence of the miners – mostly focused on women – the twining narrative follows the sherrif as she investigates the shooting death of her husband.  Unforgettable.  Purchase a copy on our store page, and check back each month for a highlighted title.  Ms. Montgomery will join our book club on February 21.  Contact us for details. read more