COLUMN: Cozy mysteries for April showers

Columnist Frances Thomson gives a few book recommendations to help pass the time on rainy spring days.

North Delta's George Mackie Library

North Delta's George Mackie Library

Browsing the shelves in the library’s mystery fiction section reveals many titles which are clever plays on words. One that made me smile recently is Dead, Bath and Beyond, by Lorraine Bartlett. On the cover, a cat sits looking at an empty, overflowing bathtub. On the back cover the blurb is introduced with “rub-a-dub-dub…dead man in the tub…”

Katie Bonner is the owner of a small shop in the quaint shopping area called Victoria Square. On her day off, she goes sailing with a good friend, and meets her unpleasant former boss on the dock. The next day he is found drowned in a bathtub at a bed and breakfast in Victoria Square, but the autopsy finds lake water, not bath water, in his lungs. Katie, who stars in the Victoria Square Mystery series, is the amateur sleuth who sets out to find the killer.

The Victoria Square mysteries and others like it are known as “cozy mysteries,” which are a booming publishing business. A cozy mystery is usually set in a small town or village, making it credible that all the suspects know each other. The amateur sleuth who solves the crime is usually a woman who is very likeable. There is usually at least one nosy character whose knowledge of people and places in the community enables the amateur to solve the case.

Although the sleuth is not a member of the police force, sometimes her partner or best friend is, thus giving her access to information not otherwise available. Most cozy mysteries are “gentle” books with no graphic language, violence or sex. More often than not, the death that occurs is bloodless, caused by things such as poisoning, falling or drowning.

The crime solver in a cozy mystery almost always has a college degree and the story line usually relates to her job or hobby. There are cozy mysteries solved by caterers, quilters, gardeners, librarians, florists, bakers, snow globe collectors and much more. Many of the series with sleuths who own or run bakeries, cafes or tea shops include recipes.

Shadow of a Spout, by Amanda Cooper, is a Teapot Collector Mystery featuring avid teapot collector Rose Freemont. Muffin but Murder is one of the titles of Victoria Hamilton’s Merry Muffin Mysteries in which muffin maker Merry Wynter solves crimes. It includes two recipes for muffins and one for soup.

Scene of the Brine is a Pickled & Preserved Mystery by Mary Ellen Hughes, and includes recipes for brandied cherries and spicy carrot pickles. Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery Mysteries, such as Going, Going, Ganache, include several recipes for delicious-sounding cupcakes. Ladle to the Grave is one of Connie Archer’s Soup Lover’s Mystery series in which soup shop owner Lucky Jamieson solves murders in a small town in Vermont. Recipes for soups, stews and sandwiches are included.

The next time you are in the mood for a light, gentle but entertaining read, why not try a cozy mystery?

Frances Thomson is the community librarian at the George Mackie Library. For more information about books and events at the library, visit fvrl.bc.ca.

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