By LAUREL M. HALL
The holidays are a busy time for everyone, filled with shopping, eating, volunteering and social events of all sorts. It’s enough to make anyone want to settle down for a long winter’s nap.
Experience the next best thing by pulling up a chair to the fire (or space heater) and reading a cozy mystery. In the tradition of Agatha Christie’s “Miss Marple,” a cozy mystery is a novel in which there is often “a body” found by an amateur sleuth (rather than a grisly, detailed murder scene investigated by experts, as in many thrillers). The story often takes place in a small town, with familiar characters, like the town gossip, the gruff old recluse, the local celebrity and the like. These novels can be great fun, and may help to relieve your seasonal stress (beginning with their often “punny” titles). Cozy mystery series often follow a theme, whether related to food, occupation of the main character, or setting; if doughnut shops or quilting circles are more your cup of tea, stop in to the library or see our Facebook page for recommendations. I’ve chosen several here that are book-related, of course, just to get you started.
One of the classics of the genre is the “Miss Zukas” series by Jo Dereske. It is a favorite among librarians for the protagonist, who is the very embodiment of the stuffy, perfectionist librarian, yet finds her true strength by accident when a body shows up in the middle of the stacks in the first book in the series, “Miss Zukas and the Library Murders.” In a case of opposites attract, Miss Zukas’s best friend Ruth is a flamboyant, devil-may-care artist. They team up to solve the mystery, and get into quite a few scrapes along the way.
A more modern, realistic depiction of a librarian is Lindsey Norris, in Jenn McKinlay’s “Books Can Be Deceiving.” A fancy New York City book editor comes to town, and Lindsey’s friend Beth wants to get the chance to sell her children’s book idea. Beth’s boyfriend, a local celebrity author, thinks he deserves the chance instead. When he is found murdered shortly after, Beth is the prime suspect, and Lindsey has to find the real culprit before her friend ends up on trial.
Mary Lou Kirwin’s “Killer Librarian” has local appeal: A librarian in a (fictional) small Minnesota town, Karen Nash has dreamt of going to London for years. Just before she leaves, however, her boyfriend suddenly breaks up with her and she discovers he has been cheating on her with a hot young woman. While she is mourning her loss at a cozy English bed and breakfast, a body turns up, and she realizes her boyfriend and his new fling are targets of an assassin. She must use her eye for detail and knowledge of mysteries to solve the murder before her ex meets his untimely end.
In “Double Booked for Death” by Ali Brandon, Darla Pettistone has inherited her great-aunt’s bookstore, along with Hamlet, the quirky black cat who inhabits the store. Darla is thrilled to have her first major author visit, but tragedy strikes when the author is killed by a hit-and-run driver while taking a break from signing books. It seems to be an accident, until Hamlet discovers a clue that could mean it was murder instead.
In my next recommendation, the protagonist’s name is Brooklyn, but she lives in San Francisco, where she is a rare book expert under the tutelage of a highly respected book restorer. Everything is going well in Kate Carlisle’s “Homicide in Hardcover” until Brooklyn’s mentor is murdered. His last act was to give her a priceless copy of Goethe’s “Faust” for safekeeping. Problem is, the book is rumored to be cursed, and now Brooklyn is under suspicion for murder.
And finally, a library cat: In “Murder Past Due” by Miranda James, librarian Charlie Harris has a Maine coon named Diesel, which he famously walks on a leash around his town in Mississippi. When Charlie’s former schoolmate, now a bestselling author, is found murdered, it’s up to the librarian and his cat to find out what small-town grudge may have led someone to kill.
Visit the library this month to enjoy the beautiful decorations provided by the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library, and grab a book or two to get you through the cold, dark nights. Starting in January, sign up for the “Snow Time to Read” winter program for adults to win fun prizes. If you don’t want to venture out into the weather, remember that we have eBooks, eAudiobooks and digital magazines that you can download from the comfort of your sofa. Go to www.krls.org or call us at 829-5574 if you have any questions.
Happy holidays from all of us!
LAUREL M. HALL is the adult services coordinator at the Brainerd Public Library.