Sunday, September 28, 2014

REVIEW: Three Cozy Mysteries

I’m going to attempt to do some very succinct reviews of three cozy mysteries I read recently.  What I look for in a cozy mystery is: 1) A lighter tone and setting, 2) A sufficiently engaging puzzle to keep me turning pages, 3) like-able main characters, accompanied by a cast of charmingly quirky extras and 4) a little bit of romance to liven up the background.  Then there are the things that I don’t necessarily expect but that I love when they show up: 1) characters/relationships with a little depth to them and 2) a charming village with infinitely quirky citizens. 

With those expectations in mind, let’s consider these three reads, listed in the order in which I preferred them.  Grab some tea or cocoa and get cozy!

574629Aunt Dimity’s Good Deeds by Nancy Atherton
Original Publication Year: 1998
Genre(s): Cozy Mystery
Series: Aunt Dimity Series # 3
Awards: None
Format: Paperback from Library
Narrated By: NA

Marriage is hard.  That is what Lori Shepherd has learned in the year since she and Bill (who met and fell in love in book one of the series) have been married.  Things in fact are at an all-time low when Lori must embark to her cottage in Finch, England, on what was meant to be her second honeymoon, with her father in law because her husband is too busy working.  Almost immediately, her father-in-law disappears and in her pursuit to find him, Lori meets and gets to know the British branch of her husband’s family who are steeped in mystery and dysfunction.  So how did the book work?  Pretty well.  My delight with the unexpected deviation from happily ever after may have helped me be more tolerant of some of the weaknesses (like the fact that the marital strife is solved too quickly and easily).  The big mystery here is what Bill, Sr. is up to but the search for him turns up many other questions some of them going back a couple of centuries.  It definitely kept me turning the pages.  It manages to stay very light even with the touch of complexity as Lori struggles with her unhappiness in her marriage and her contemplations about whether she really deserves any more happiness or wishes after getting heaped with so much good fortune in book one.  All the characters remain very likeable and are reasonably quirky.  Basically this filled all my cozy mystery wants and needs quite well.  This third book in the series may be my favorite yet – so far each successive book has gotten better!  3.5 out of 5 stars

1214569A Taste for Murder by Caitlyn Bishop
Original Publication Year: 1994
Genre(s): Cozy Mystery
Series: Hemlock Falls Series - #1
Awards: None
Format: Audio
Narrated By: Justine Eyre

This is the first in a series featuring the young-ish proprietress of a grand old inn in the New England town of Hemlock Falls.  Her name is Sarah “Quill” Quilleran and she is joined by her sister Meg, a renowned gourmet chef who runs the kitchen of the Inn, John, the American Indian hotel manager and accountant and her boyfriend the sheriff.  The book takes place during the town’s festival celebrating its witch-persecuting past and when people start dying, Quill starts interfering.  Rather incompetently actually.  This book was okay.  You had the quirky village and supporting characters, an engaging enough mystery involving town members and guests at the hotel and the tone was light.  I liked the Inn setting. However, I was pretty bored by Quill as a character and kept wishing the book focused more on her sister, the chef, who had more spunk.  It also felt like, even though this was book one in the series that there were all these casual references to past events and Quill is already in a relationship with the town’s sheriff.  Basically it felt like I was coming into the middle of a series rather than the beginning and there was really no romance to speak of.  3 out of 5 stars

1332647Kilt Dead by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Original Publication Year: 2007
Genre(s): Cozy Mystery
Series: Liss MacCrimmon Series #1
Awards: None
Format: Hardcover from Library
Narrated By: NA

This should have had all the necessary trappings of a great cozy – a quirky premise and a small town with a kooky name (Moosetookalook, ME).  Unfortunately it was just rather boring.  Liss MacCrimmon has had to leave her career as a Scottish dancer because of injury and while she figures out what to do with her future she returns to her home town to run her Aunt’s Scottish emporium shop which sells Scottish gewgaws and kilts and such.  When the town busybody ends up dead in the back room of the shop, Liss must investigate in order to clear her name.  Unfortunately, everything about the book just felt blah to me.  The characters were cardboard cut-outs - the only potentially interesting one being the one who is killed.  The Scottish stuff was just window dressing and might as well have not been there.  The town, despite its kooky name, just seemed a little depressing with everyone in town living above their shops and just trying to make ends meet.  The investigating just seemed to be Liss and her romantic interest (there is never ANY doubt that they like each other or will get together) going door to door and getting very few answers.  Basically it was short on charm and the mystery was just so-so.  2 out of 5 stars

So that sums up my recent foray into cozy mystery land.  Does anybody else have some good cozy series to recommend?  What do you look for in a cozy mystery?

No comments:

Post a Comment