Cozy Up With These Recs

by Maddie Day

I’m a proud cozy mystery author. I truly don’t care who looks down their nose on our genre. I love reading them, and I love writing them. A gentle mystery provides escape and entertainment. It endears you to the cast of main characters and the contained setting and makes you eager to return again and again. Reading a cozy series is like seeing old friends once a year at a favorite summer camp or a class reunion with best friends.

During the horrible days of pandemic lockdown, writing this kind of mystery brought great respite to me. What happened in my stories was almost literally the only thing I could control other than staying home or away from others when I walked outdoors. And, despite how messy and scary the world was (and still is) out there, I could make my characters end up in a good place, every single time. Justice being restored to the community in the end is a hallmark of a cozy.

I heard a lovely story from a reader last week at a joint library-bookstore event on Cape Cod where I was the featured author. A woman came up to me and said her adult son, who lives with her, loves my books. In his mid-twenties, he is a person with Down Syndrome and is an avid reader. Brian likes series because he can stick with them, and the gentle nature of cozies are perfect for him. You know what? That made my day. Heck, my year. I was so happy to know I was bringing pleasure to a reader like him. His mom bought my two most recent books and had me endorse them to Brian.

So I wanted to share some of my favorite cozy mystery series, the ones in which I can’t wait to read the latest book. If you haven’t already picked them up, I recommend that you do. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order by author, but they’ll take you from coast to coast and back to the middle of the country in the easiest and richest of travels.

Spice Shop Mysteries by Leslie Budewitz

These cozies depict a village – but one within a big city. I love getting to visit the Pike Place Market again, but from the comfort of my couch, and read the latest adventure of protagonist Pepper Reece in and around her Seattle Spice Shop.

Key West Food Critic Mysteries by Lucy Burdette

Set (perhaps obviously) in Key West, this long-running foodie series more than captures the feel of the Florida keys. And the recipes are always yummy.

Baker Street Mysteries by Valerie Burns

These wonderful stories transport you to southwest Michigan and a transplanted social media expert running a bakery – except she doesn’t know how to bake – with a protag named Maddy!  

Vintage Cookbook Mysteries by Ellen Byron

Byron’s humorous mysteries take place in iconic New Orleans, a favorite city of their author, and will make you feel like you are there – except without the murders.

Cat Café Mysteries by Cate Conte

In these fun New England island books, the protagonist (this one, like me, named Maddie) runs a cat café and solves crimes, sometimes with the help of her retired police chief father and her orange tabby cat. 

Sally Solari Mysteries by Leslie Karst

These foodie books take place in Santa Cruz, California with a restaurant-owning sleuth who can cook, sing, and solve murders, with recipes to die for.

Last Ditch Mysteries by Catriona McPherson

Hop Scot, the latest in this funny poignant mystery series set in a California motel, made Dru Ann Love laugh out loud at work – fair warning to anyone reading in your cubicle on your lunch break.

Secret Staircase Mysteries by Gigi Pandian

These smart, sweet, locked-room mysteries set in the Bay area in California are written by a master of the craft. You will love the intricacies of the homes built by magician Tempest Raj’s father, and the delicious Indian meals her grandfather prepares.

Caribbean Kitchen Mysteries by Raquel Reyes

This Miami-based series presents life in a Cuban-American community and a cooking show star as protagonist who is also a wife and mom. Don’t read while hungry!

Maine Clambake Mysteries by Barbara Ross

Barb is a master of storytelling in this long-running series, one of my very favorites. You’ll be transported not only to coastal Maine and the issues of its residents and visitors but also into the lives and intrigues of Julia Snowden and her family business.

Two series I’m looking forward to reading are in the subgenre dubbed Quozy:

Hayden & Friends Mysteries by Rob Osler.

Devil’s Chew Toy and its queer sleuth Hayden McCall in Washington state scored multiple awards for its author. This cozy awaits me on my Kindle.

Orchid Isle Mysteries by Leslie Karst

A new series releasing with Molten Death next April, it stars lesbian sixty-something Valerie Corbin on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, who is astonished to find a dead body in flowing volcanic lava.

Finally, a new California cozy will be out next year for your reading enjoyment:

Golden Motel Mysteries by Ellen Byron.

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of A Very Woodsy Murder, Ellen’s entertaining new series set in the foothills to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California’s Gold Rush territory.

You don’t have to wait for this new California cozy:

Cece Barton Mysteries by Maddie Day

I’m excited to have the wine country adventures of wine bar manager Cece Barton out in the world for your reading enjoyment in this series debut. Early-forties widow Cece is happy to have relocated from Pasadena to Colinas, a town her twin sister Allie’s husband’s family help found. Cece’s not so thrilled when a local man turns up dead and Cece herself becomes a person of interest, but she overcomes a lifetime fear of failure and gets to work clearing her name.

Enjoy your teetering To Be Read pile, my friends. I’m off to whittle away at mine!