Tag Archives: Jim and Joyce Lavene

Four on Friday: COZY MYSTERIES, PART 1

Wicked Weaves One Bad Apple Fatal Fixer-Upper Murder Past Due


So . . . to mix things up a little, every Friday I will list of four things.  Hope you enjoy and I would love to hear feedback.

In honor of Labor Day weekend, I thought I would focus on some lighter mysteries.  Cozy mysteries can be described as a light-hearted crime fiction.  There is usually little sex and violence, the stories often have a lot of humor, the setting is a small, socially intimate community, the detective is most often an amateur, and there is a often a common theme – knitting, cats, home repair, etc. – that is ties the series together.

I have a personal love-hate relationship with cozy mysteries.  I like how they are often quick, fun reads.  These are books that I can pick up and put down often, and I still can figure out what is happening in the story.  I read a number of cozy mysteries but rarely remember the plot from story to story.  The books are enjoyable in the moment but don’t have any lasting memories.  What I dislike about cozy mysteries is that after a few books, the feasibility and believability have run their course.  Seriously, how many murders can occur at a single small inn.  If that were the case, I don’t think the inn would get all that many customers!!

That being said, they are fun, quick reads; perfect for sitting by the pool and relaxing in the sun.  Here are four that I have enjoyed

Sheila Connolly – Orchard, Museum, County Cork
I discovered Sheila Connolly a long time ago and I really like the diversity of her mysteries.  She has written four different series, three of which I regularly follow.  She does a nice job at developing interesting and dimensional characters, and each of her series display a depth of knowledge about her specialties.  I have enjoyed reading about the steps in maintaining an apple orchard, the role of fund-raising in a non-profit museum, and the proper way to pull a pint.

The Orchard mysteries focus on Meg Corey who is trying to earn a living by owning and running an apple orchard in rural western Massachusetts.  The series starts with One Bad Apple, and seven more follow with the eighth one coming out this October.

The Museum mysteries tell about Nell Pratt, a fundraising chair at a prestigious historical museum in Philadelphia.  The stories include a lot of real places that would be familiar to those who know Philadelphia.  The series starts with Fundraising the Dead, and 5 more follow.

The newest series, Country Cork mysteries, takes place in Ireland.  Upon the death of her grandmother, Maura Donovan travels to County Cork and begins work in a pub.  She learns of her own past and meets many characters full of flavor and personality.  The first book is Buried in a Bog, and there are two more.

Joyce and Jim Lavene – Renaissance Faire
Joyce and Jim Lavene are a husband and wife writing duo that might be the most prolific authors I have ever read.  Under their own name and two additional pseudonyms, they write eleven different cozy mystery series.  I have read a number of them, but the one I have stuck with the longest is the Renaissance Faire series.  The setting of an open year-round Ren Faire provides a wealth of humor, crazy situations, and eccentric characters.  I think the earlier books in the series are stronger, but they are all just fun.  If you have ever been to a Ren Faire, you will find a lot of the people and situations very believable!

Jessie Morton is an assistant college professor who spends her summers at the Ren Faire apprenticing to the different trades to build on her knowledge of the guilds and crafts of the Middle Ages.  There are eight books beginning with Wicked Weaves.  Huzzah!

Jennie Bentley – Do It Yourself
There are a number of “how to” cozy mysteries – how to scrapbook, how to knitting, how to bargain shop, and so on.  Jennie Bentley’s series focus on home remodeling and renovations.  What I like about this series and what seems to be sometimes hard to find in this genre, is how the author blends the “how to” with the story.  The mystery takes precedent over the “how to” and information and instructions don’t seem to detract for the plot.

Avery Baker was a New York textile designer who came to Maine after inheriting her aunt’s cottage.  After renovating the cottage . . . and solving a murder . . . she decides to stay.  The first in the series is Fatal Fixer-Upper and there are six more that follow.

Miranda James – Cat in the Stacks
You knew I had to include a cat mystery series, and there are a lot of them out there!  I enjoy Miranda James’ Cat in the Stacks series for a number of reasons.  First, the protagonist, Charlie Harris, is a widowed librarian; it is rare to see a male protagonist in a cozy mystery and I like the different perspective.  Second, the cat in the series, Diesel, is a Maine Coon.  He is a big cat, who walks on a leash, and is full of personality.  I also like how although Diesel is an integral part of the stories, he doesn’t solve the cases.

Charlie is a librarian with all the style of a southern gentleman, and many of the books focus on his work with a specific title or a collection.  The series starts with Murder Past Due and five more follow.

So, what do you think of cozy mysteries – yea or nay?  Any others you enjoy?