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

November Book Club: A Borrowing of Bones

Join us on Thursday, November 21, 6 p.m. at the Session Room to discuss Paula Munier’s debut, A Borrowing of Bones.  This well written novel focuses on Mercy (human) and Elvis (canine), both back from Afghanistan and both suffering from PTSD.  Together they form a good team.  Setting, character and plot are all excellent – all are welcome to join our discussion! Read my review here

Ellen Hart: Twisted at the Root

The 26th novel in the Jane Lawless series is as good, as crisp, as memorable, as the first in the series. Jane, the calm center of every storm in her life, agrees to investigate a closed case (the alleged perpetrator is in prison) when her father, lawyer Raymond Lawless, asks. The case involves the murder of one partner by another – the partner was an obvious choice as the killer and was duly convicted. But.

Everyone Jane talks to – including her old friend, the flamboyant Cordelia – affirms the man’s goodness, and their disbelief that he could harm anyone. Many threads swirl around the case, which at first looked like a suicide. Ellen Hart, in her masterly way, uses these many threads to paint her complex portrait of a crime. read more

The Cozy: a Purely American Art Form

In 1962, a woman named Phyllis James sat down and wrote Cover Her Face, the first Adam Dalgleish mystery.  Two years later, in 1964, Ruth Rendell wrote her first Reg Wexford mystery, From Doon with Death.  These two women pulled the golden age format created by Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers into the present, and as they wrote, they deepened the form psychologically, writing darker, more intense and longer books as their careers progressed.  They were the godmothers of what I think of as the contemporary noir police novel, and writers like Jill McGowan, Colin Dexter, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Peter Robinson, Elizabeth George and many others have carried it forward. read more