Paige Shelton: Dark Night

This is the third in Paige Shelton’s insanely enjoyable Alaska wild series, set in tiny Benedict and featuring Beth Rivers, who is hiding out. She’d been kidnapped and got away, though sustaining a concussion and other injuries as well as suffering from PTSD.  She is wary when she arrives in Alaska but by book three has begun to relax into life in Benedict – more or less.

She had left the lower 48 after her kidnapping, leaving the hospital against her doctor’s orders and in fear of the man who took her, who so far in the series has not been captured (though I’m assuming that will eventually happen).  She’s also a well known writer under a pen name, so she’s able to maintain cover by writing the tiny town paper while using the paper’s “office” – a tiny shack behind the library (good wifi and cell phone coverage, which happens few other places in town).  She’s made a connection with the librarian, a stoner Willie Nelson type who nevertheless has some special ops skills as far as obtaining information goes. read more

Best of: Cozies 2021

I read many books in a year, but I still can’t claim an encyclopedic reading of the cozies that were published in 2021.  These delicious morsels of storytelling are reason for joy, as the storytellers, even though they include murders, are in general optimistic.  You like the characters in these books, and would love to be friends with them.  These are my favorites this year.  For a really deep dive, check out Dru Ann Love’s blog, Dru’s Book Musings, which tackles everything in the cozy universe.  All of these titles are available on our website.  read more

Elle Cosimano: Finlay Donovan is Killing It

This book, which opens amidst the morning chaos of a mother with two children, one of whom has just cut off part of her hair right before school, breezily catches the feel of young motherhood.  It’s exasperating, exhausting, and nerve wracking. Finlay drops the kids off at school as she heads to meet her book agent and deliver the bad news that the book she’s supposed to turn in is nowhere near finished.

On top of all this, Finlay’s husband has left her for the cute realtor, his sod business is going full blast, and she has a mountain of bills to pay with no means to do so.  Also, to spite her, her ex has let the baby sitter go.  Things go poorly with her agent where they’ve met for coffee, but a woman nearby, over hearing – and misinterpreting – their conversation (Finlay writes thrillers) leaves a mystery note on Finlay’s table.  The sum of $50,000 is mentioned and there’s a phone number. read more

Paige Shelton: Cold Wind

This is the second book in Paige Shelton’s series about thriller writer Elizabeth Fairchild, now in hiding in tiny Benedict, Alaska as Beth Rivers, after being kidnapped by a crazed fan.  Elizabeth/Beth lives in a halfway house and appreciates the privacy she finds in the Alaskan wild, a place that truly seems to be its own country, existing without a real nod to the rules and regulations more common in the lower 48.  Shelton, the author of four other cozier series than this one, is a real pro at narrative, pacing, and character.  These skills easily transfer to this series which is a bit darker in tone, and fits in more with work by writers like Ellen Hart, Dana Stabenow and Julia Spencer-Fleming. read more

Susan Cox: The Man in the Microwave Oven

This book will be published November 3.

My husband hates the word “plopped.”  I feel the same about “quirky” a ubiquitous word used in describing many, many cozies.  But sometimes “quirky” (just like “plopped”) actually applies.  In the case of Susan Cox’s Theo Bogart mysteries, I was surprised at almost every turn, and delightfully so, by the array of characters and situations presented by this obviously talented new writer. Quirky does apply.   

This is book two in this series, the first one winning the Minotaur/Mystery Writers of America First Crime novel award, and it’s been a long time coming. The first novel, The Man on the Washing Machine, was published in 2015. Theophania Bogart is a poor little rich girl.  She’s fled a terrible family tragedy back home in England and landed in San Francisco, where she’s established a comfortable new life for herself.  read more

Ellen Hart: In a Midnight Wood

Ellen Hart knocks another one out of the park.  I continue with my mantra: if you love traditional detective fiction, few writers are doing it better than Ellen Hart at the moment.  The air is sucked out of the room by some of the writers of traditional fiction set in England (Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie) or Canada (Louise Penny), but make no mistake, Ellen Hart is treading the same ground.  She’s just doing it in Minnesota instead of London or Montreal.  As much as I love Cleeves, Crombie and Penny, I love Hart every bit as much, and with 27 books in her Jane Lawless series (and counting) there’s plenty to embrace. read more

Margaret Mizushima: Hanging Falls

This novel will be published on September 8.  You can pre-order it here.

Margaret Mizushima must have been a fan of Nancy Drew as a child, as she has the narrative gift familiar to lovers of Carolyn Keene of leaving a little cliff hanger at the end of each chapter (or novel, as the case may be).  I love series fiction for many reasons, but a big reason is visiting and checking in with the continuing lives of characters I’ve come to know and love, just as I loved checking in with Nancy, George and Bess when I was a girl. read more

Elizabeth Penney: Thread and Dead

There are all kinds of cozies involving small businesses, but this is the first series I’ve read where the small business in question sells vintage aprons and other types of vintage linens – sheets, dishtowels, etc.  As described by Penney, the shop sounds not only mouthwatering but fairly realistic.  Iris and her Grammie, who brought her up, run the apron store in Blueberry Cove, Maine (maybe it’s near the more famous Cabot Cove?) and she’s surrounded with a great mix of friends and a great setting. read more

Julia Spencer-Fleming: Hid from Our Eyes

If you’re a fan of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s, you’ll be delighted to know that Hid From Our Eyes picks up right where One Was a Soldier left off.  Since it’s been awhile I’ll recap: Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and her husband Russ Van Alstyne have welcomed their first child (read the book to find out the child’s name and sex).  Clare is in addiction recovery, and believably – for anyone familiar with addiction – she teeters from sober to wishing she wasn’t.  That’s the rich background. read more

Emily Littlejohn: Shatter the Night

I am smitten with this series, now four books in.  Slight spoiler:  Detective Gemma Monroe is planning her wedding to Brody, father of baby Grace.  This is more or less background, however, as Gemma deals with a car bombing that takes place in the first chapter.  Set during Halloween, this novel is atmospheric and embraces the fear inherent in Halloween, rather than the cute ghostie trick or treating aspect of this now huge holiday.  Littlejohn goes back to the root: scary things that go bump in the night.  In this case, literally, an explosion. read more