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Monday, January 3, 2022

Cozy Monday


 Yes, it's that time again!

Here are my 10 favorite cozy mysteries published in 2021, listed alphabetically by author
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Murder in the Cookbook Nook (Book Retreat #7) by Ellery Adams.  Kensington paperback, 27 April 2021.

Six chefs are preparing to compete in an outdoor tent at Storyton Hall in Virginia for prizes that will boost their careers—but is there someone who can't stand the heat? It looks that way when one of the contestants is found dead in a pantry packed with two centuries' worth of cookbooks, among other treasures and rarities.

Could there be a connection to other recent events in town, like tampering with the costume of a local mascot? Jane isn't sure, but after someone serves a second course of murder, the kitchen must be closed and the killer must be found . . 



Murder Most Fowl (Meg Lanslow #29) by Donna Andrews.  St. Martin's Press hardcover, 3 August 2021.

Meg Langslow’s in for a busy summer. Her husband is directing a production of Macbeth, and most of the cast and crew are occupying spare bedrooms in their house. She also has to keep an eye on Camp Birnam, where a group of medieval reenactors are commemorating the real-life Macbeth by setting up what they fondly believe is an authentic medieval Scottish military camp.

And then there’s Damien Goodwin, a filmmaker who has been hanging around, trying to document the production. When Goodwin hosts a showing of some of the footage he’s taken, he manages to embarrass or offend just about everyone. The next morning Meg isn’t exactly surprised to find that someone has murdered him.


But who?  Unfortunately, whoever murdered Goodwin also destroyed all the electronic devices on which his video was stored. So Caerphilly’s chief of police—and Meg—must rediscover the same secrets the filmmaker did if they want to catch a killer.


Murder by the Bookend (Antique Bookshop #2) by Laura Gail Black.  Crooked Lane Books, 7 September 2021.

The quaint warehouse district of Hokes Folly, NC, is hopping despite the drizzly November chill. The occasion? The mountain town’s beloved antiquarian bookstore, Twice Upon a Time, is throwing a bash for its grand reopening. But bookseller Jenna Quinn’s peace of mind is shattered when the local library’s Director of Antique Books turns up dead in the parking lot–his head bashed in by a glittering pair of vintage glass bookends.

Alas, finding the killer won’t be so easy, even though this is not Jenna’s first murder investigation–indeed, she inherited Twice Upon a Time from her slain uncle. The suspect list is voluminous–the late librarian had not-so-friendly run-ins with numerous guests–but suspicion eventually centers on three unsavory individuals who left the party shortly before the victim did.


God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen (Her Royal Spyness #15) by Rhys Bowen.  Berkely, 12 October 2021.

Georgie is excited for her first Christmas as a married woman in her lovely new home. She suggests to her dashing husband, Darcy, that they have a little house party, but when Darcy receives a letter from his Aunt Ermintrude, there is an abrupt change in plans. 

Aunt Ermintrude hints that the queen would like Georgie nearby. Georgie had not known that Aunt Ermintrude was a former lady-in-waiting and close confidante of her royal highness. The letter is therefore almost a royal request, so Georgie, Darcy, and their Christmas guests all head to Sandringham.


Little Black Book (Bibliophile #15) by Kate Carlisle. Berkley, 29 June 2021.

Brooklyn and her hunky husband, security expert Derek Stone, have just returned from a delightful trip to Dharma, where the construction of their new home away from home is well underway, when a little black book arrives in the mail from Scotland. The book is a rare British first edition of Rebecca, and there’s no return address on the package. The day after the book arrives, Claire Quinn shows up at Brooklyn and Derek’s home. Brooklyn met Claire when the two women worked as expert appraisers on the television show This Old Attic

Claire reveals that during a recent trip to Scotland she discovered her beloved aunt was missing and her home had been ransacked. Among her aunt’s belongings, Claire found the receipt for the package that wound up with Brooklyn and Derek. Claire believes both her own life and her aunt’s are in danger.

But just as Brooklyn and Derek begin to investigate, a man who Claire thinks was following her is found murdered, stabbed with a priceless jeweled dagger. With a death on their doorstep, Brooklyn and Derek page through the little black book, where they discover clues that will take them to the shadows of a medieval Scottish castle on the shores of Loch Ness.


Deadly Ever After (Lighthouse Library #8) by Eva Gates.  Crooked Lane Books, 11 May 2021.

They’re getting married! Lucy Richardson and Connor McNeil have announced their engagement. Their friends throw a party for the couple at Coquina Beach, close to Lucy’s beloved Bodie Island Lighthouse Library.

As they’re packing up the presents and the (few) leftovers from Josie’s Cozy Bakery, who should arrive, but Richard Eric Lewiston III, Lucy’s former almost-fiancĂ© and his overbearing mother Evangeline. Push comes to love when Evangeline makes no secret of why she’s here: to get Lucy and Ricky back together.

Lucy isn’t temped in the least, and Ricky is nothing but embarrassed at his mother’s desperate ploy. Before returning to Boston Evangeline throws a dinner party at Jake’s Seafood Bar for a reluctant Lucy and her family. Lucy hopes to get the dinner over with and see Evangeline and Ricky returning to Boson. But when a body is found at the restaurant’s kitchen door, Lucy is again forced to unwillingly put on her detective’s hat and do what she can to save her family and her engagement. 


A Fatal Footnote (The Open Book #2) by Margaret Loudon.  Berkley, 6 July 2021.

The wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Upper Chumley-on Stoke has all the makings of a fairy tale, complete with a glowing bride and horse-drawn carriage. But it wouldn't be much of a story without a villain, and as American Gothic novelist Penelope Parish is coming to learn, happy-ever-afters are as fraught in this charming British town as they are in her books.

When the Duke's former girlfriend is found murdered at the reception it's up to Penelope and her newfound family at the Open Book bookshop to catch the killer before they strike again.


Killer Research (Library Lover's Mystery #12) by Jenn McKinlay.  Berkely, 2 November 2021.

Ms. Cole, a librarian and current candidate for town mayor, is shocked when she opens her trunk to discover a murder victim who just so happens to be a guy she dated forty years ago and the founder of the baking empire Nana's Cookies. As the town gossip mill turns, a batch of rumors begins to circulate about Ms. Cole's rebellious youth, which--along with being a murder suspect--threatens to ruin her life and her budding political career. But Ms. Cole is one tough cookie who will not go down without a fight.

Has the campaign for mayor turned deadly? It is up to Lindsey, Sully, and the rest of the crafternoon pals to see how the cookie crumbles and figure out who is trying to frame Ms. Cole for murder and why.


The Broken Spine (Beloved Bookroom #1) by Dorothy St. James.  Berkley, 19 January 2021.

Trudell Becket, book-loving librarian, finds herself in a bind when the library where she works is turned into a state-of-the-art bookless library. In a rare move of rebellion, Trudell rescues hundreds of her library's beloved books slated for the recycle center. She sets up a secret book room in the library's basement and opens it to anyone who shares her love of the printed book.

When the town councilman, who was the vocal proponent of the library's transformation into a "futuristic technological center," is crushed under an overturned shelf of DVDs, Trudell becomes the police's prime suspect for his murder. She was the only person in the library at the time of his death, or so the police believe. But that's not true. For the past month, Trudell had been letting a few dozen residents into the building through the basement entrance so they could read and check out the printed books.

But if she tells the police about the backdoor patrons who were in the library at the time of the murder, she'd have to explain about the secret book room and risk losing the books. In order to protect herself from being arrested for a murder she didn't commit, Trudell--with the help of a group of dedicated readers--decides to investigate. She quickly discovers you can't always judge a book by its cover.



Friday, December 24, 2021

A Visit From St. Nicholas



(Click to play audio.)


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
 Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; 
 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, 
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.















The children were nestled all snug in their beds, 
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; 
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap, 
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.
















When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,  
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. 
Away to the window I flew like a flash, 
 Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. 
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.














When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, 
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer, 
With a little old driver, so lively and quick, 
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. 

 More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, 
 And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name; 
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! 
 On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen! 
 To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! 
 Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!” 

 As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, 
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky; 
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, 
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too. 

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof 
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. 
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. 

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, 
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; 
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack. 















His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! 
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! 
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow 
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow. 

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, 
 And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; 
 He had a broad face and a little round belly, 
 That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly. 

 He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, 
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; 
 A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, 
 Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose, 
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle, 
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”



Monday, December 20, 2021

Holiday-themed books

It's less than a week till Christmas, and a good time to curl up with a holiday-themed book.  Here are my favorites from this year.




A Season for Second Chances by Jenny Bayliss.  Penguin Publishing Group, 19 October 2021.

Annie Sharpe’s spark for life has fizzled out. Her kids are grown up, her restaurant is doing just fine on its own, and her twenty-six-year marriage has come to an unceremonious end. Untethered for the first time in her adult life, she finds a winter guardian position in a historic seaside home and decides to leave her city life behind for a brand-new beginning.
 
When she arrives in Willow Bay, Annie is enamored by the charming house, the invigorating sea breeze, and the town’s rich seasonal traditions. Not to mention, her neighbors receive her with open arms—that is, all except the surly nephew of the homeowner, whose grand plans for the property are at odds with her residency. 


God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen (Her Royal Spyness #15) by Rhys Bowen.  Berkley, 12 October 2021.

Georgie is excited for her first Christmas as a married woman in her lovely new home. She suggests to her dashing husband, Darcy, that they have a little house party, but when Darcy receives a letter from his aunt Ermintrude, there is an abrupt change in plans. She has moved to a house on the edge of the Sandringham estate, near the royal family, and wants to invite Darcy and his new bride for Christmas. Aunt Ermintrude hints that the queen would like Georgie nearby. Georgie had not known that Aunt Ermintrude was a former lady-in-waiting and close confidante of her royal highness. The letter is therefore almost a royal request, so Georgie, Darcy, and their Christmas guests: Mummy, Grandad, Fig, and Binky all head to Sandringham.

Georgie soon learns that the notorious Mrs. Simpson, mistress to the Prince of Wales, will also be in attendance. It is now crystal clear to Georgie that the Queen expects her to do a bit of spying. There is tension in the air from the get-go, and when Georgie pays a visit to the queen, she learns that there is more to her request than just some simple eavesdropping. 

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox. Penguin Publishing Group, 5 October 2021.

When chef Charlie Goodwin gets hit on the head on the L.A. set of her reality baking show, she loses a lot more than consciousness; she also loses her ability to taste and smell—both critical to her success as show judge. Meanwhile, Charlie's identical twin, Cass, is frantically trying to hold her own life together back in their quaint mountain hometown while running the family's bustling bakery and dealing with her ex, who won't get the memo that they're over.

With only days until Christmas, a desperate Charlie asks Cass to do something they haven't done since they were kids: switch places. Looking for her own escape from reality, Cass agrees. But temporarily trading lives proves more complicated than they imagined, especially when rugged firefighter Jake Greenman and gorgeous physician assistant Miguel Rodriguez are thrown into the mix. Will the twins' identity swap be a recipe for disaster?

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer. MIRA Books, 28 September 2021.

Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is a nice Jewish girl with a shameful secret: she loves Christmas. For a decade she’s hidden her career as a Christmas romance novelist from her family. Her talent has made her a bestseller even as her chronic illness has always kept the kind of love she writes about out of reach.

But when her diversity-conscious publisher insists she write a Hanukkah romance, her well of inspiration suddenly runs dry. Hanukkah’s not magical. It’s not merry. It’s not Christmas. Desperate not to lose her contract, Rachel’s determined to find her muse at the Matzah Ball, a Jewish music celebration on the last night of Hanukkah, even if it means working with her summer camp archenemy—Jacob Greenberg.



Friday, December 17, 2021

Funny Friday - Supply Chain

 

Pearls Before Swine                                 by Stephan Pastis


- originally published December 16, 2021