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Posted on January 17, 2024 at 6:00 am
January and February are full of short days and cold nights, which make for a natural time to rest (hibernation, anyone?). I think this is a great time to get cozy with a hot cocoa and read a new series.
So, I’m focusing on the cozy mystery. For me, cozy mysteries are delightfully fun reads, usually with a title that includes a pun. Sometimes, the title has something to do with food (especially when set in a bakery or café).
Like other sub-genres, an official definition for the cozy mystery doesn’t exist. Generally speaking, a cozy mystery is more lighthearted than other titles in the mystery genre.
Usually there is a major crime or murder, of course, but graphic violence, sex, and cursing are at a minimum. They have fewer, if any, horrific bloody depictions or chilling, thrilling aspects and more lighthearted visits with friends, who just happen to be solving a deadly crime.
This might make some people think these tales are only for the faint-of-heart, but I am here to offer you some options from authors who have written some less traditional cozy mysteries to add to your to-be-read (TBR) list for 2024.
Noodle Shop Mystery series, by Vivien Chien, follows the food-pun title construct and includes an amateur detective main character. However, Chein writes from a perspective not common to the cozy mystery arena. As a Taiwanese-Italian author, her main character seems to reflect her life in many ways, which has allowed Chien to introduce readers to new and unexpected experiences.
Set in Victorian England, you may love (or possibly dislike) the Lady Emily Mystery series, by Tasha Alexander. Lady Emily Ashton, a young widow of high station, learns much about herself, her dead husband, and her place in a patriarchal society—all while solving mysteries.
Meet the quirky, young chemist (and probable genius) of the Flavia de Luce Mystery series, by Alan Bradley. Written for adults, the protagonist is just 11 years old but tells an engaging story. She is precocious, loyal, and independent. These stories have minimal gore or foul language, which makes this a good series for nearly any age—perfect for a family book club series, perhaps?
The Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, by Laurie R. King, features Mary Russell, the young protégé of a retired Detective Holmes. With the guidance of arguably the most famous detective himself, Mary proves herself to be an excellent solver of mysteries in her own right.
You may scoff at including Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series on this list. However, if you haven’t yet read the stories from the mother of the cozy mystery genre, now is a good time to try them out. Miss Jane Marple is an unassuming, yet sharp, spinster who might seem to be a meddler at first but who ultimately develops into a loveable solver of crimes.
Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is set in Botswana, so if you like to explore fiction set in different countries, give this series a try! Mma Precious Ramotswe is the only lady detective in Botswana. She is often asked to track down missing, cheating, and thieving husbands, among other varying requests, during these adventurous mysteries. (Note: Mma is a Setswana term of respect for a woman.)
The first novel in the Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation series, by Vaseem Khan, is The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra. This heartwarming story is about a newly retired police detective and—unexpectedly—a baby elephant. This series follows the adventures of the Mumbai-based investigator and his elephant partner as they solve mysterious crimes.
Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee series might not seem to fit into the cozy mystery genre very well. I would place it cozy-mystery adjacent. Once you’ve read a few stories and gotten to know the characters, you can’t help but notice how it shares some of the same cozy characteristics. The descriptions of the Navajo reservation scenery, the characters, and the details about authentic native life draw you in. Bonus—you can actually visit many of the places mentioned throughout the series, should you ever find yourself in the Four Corners region.
The Three Pines Mystery series, by Louise Penny, has been around for a couple decades, and her novels continue to delight readers. Although darker than most typical cozy mysteries, the familiar settings, the cast of characters, and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache make this series an engaging one to dive into.
The cozy mystery genre is so much more than you may have imagined. Once you get hooked, you may start looking for more traditional cozy mysteries that include your favorite hobbies or locales, such as those involving crochet and knitting, genealogy, cruise ships, pets, and even libraries.
My suggestion is to grab your fluffiest blanket, some snacks, a soothing beverage, and a title from above. Then, head to your favorite reading spot to get started on your own cozy mystery adventure!
Abra Cole works as a Public Services Specialist for Spokane County Library District. She enjoys engaging with library customers, including hearing about their favorite books, learning how their gardens are growing, and helping them solve technology troubles with personal mobile devices and the library’s 3D printer. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, expanding her fiber-arts skills, and hanging out in the woods with her family.