I almost kind of cheated with this category.
I rang in the New Year bingeing on Her Royal Spyness books and feeling at the time that I could just count those as my cozies, and I could, technically, but it wouldn’t be getting around to something new that I had been meaning to read. Of course I meant to read all the Royal Spyness goodness, but maybe something new to me that also deserved a chance.
I have also read something like 37 Nero Wolfe novels. Some of them are already due for a re-read.
So I did read two new cozies. Two I already owned, because reading down the backlist is also important, especially since I want to do better with newer novels (and write all the things, and have a full time job and a son etc). Stuff. And both of them are set in mostly arid climates, hence this week’s picture not being some saccharine springtime one (but those are my favorite, sorry not sorry).
A Cozy Mystery:
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith
Precious Ramotswe, burned by marriage at a young age and finding herself free and with a bit of means from an inheritance, decides to start her own detective agency, the only one run by a woman in her home of Botswana. This is not one mystery in this book but a series of small ones, one probably larger and more serious than the rest. It’s a light-hearted book, even though the topics can be difficult: adultery, pregnancy/child loss, and the disadvantaged status of women, crime, etc. Of course you have to have those things if you are solving mysteries, and they are still cozy, not all of them involving death or murders. It is one of those where the solutions are usually fairly simple and the detective herself goes out on a limb to test out her own theories.
I can see why people might pick up more in this lighthearted series with a smart woman at it’s helm. Old world charm, likeable characters, diverting mysteries. It was a fun read, and I blew right through it.
The Bride Wore Dead, EM Kaplan
Josie Tucker, a struggling food writer, sets out to solve the mystery of what happened to a distant friend who died on her honeymoon at a health spa.
It says directly on the cover that this is an un-cozy, un-culinary mystery. It’s cozy enough for my purposes, even though it is decidedly edgier than some of the cozies I have consumed and will continue to consume (let’s be honest with ourselves here). The protagonist, Josie Tucker, can be edgy, cynical and hard to read. As cozies are usually centered around a hobby, she was a food writer but having gastrointestinal issues and needing to add other things to focus on. She does get seriously hurt in this one, which makes it a little less cozy than some of them can be, although it’s common for the sleuth in these novels to come under attack themselves as they get closer to the truth.
I liked this book, but it was slow in places. At the beginning, when she is a stand in bridesmaid, we do get to know her major cast of friends, but there is a lot of talk at the wedding table and her learning that the wedding is largely attended by exes of the bride and talking about them. I don’t know if these were intended to be red herrings, but she dies on the honeymoon, not at the actual wedding. And when her friend comes over to take care of her when she is hungover, and a doctor visit about stomach issues that cannot be figured out, I feel these could have been pared down a little. I wanted to keep going, I was curious about all the plot threads, and I liked that the protagonist’s life gets a little more back on track at the end, instead of being the loose jumble that it is in the beginning. Things change for the grumbly, sick and overheated woman we meet in the first few pages.
I’d recommend it, and maybe in her following books the movement is a little faster, as there isn’t as much setup involved. I’d be willing to read further in. I have book two, Dim Some, Dead Some. I’m interested in how Josie will continue to move forward with her illness, and I like that she isn’t as sweet as other cozies can be. Also, this is a self pub but I am reading other self pubs rather than counting this one twice.