Cozy Mystery Series: Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

“Many years ago, everybody here would wake early because there was much to do and only so many hours in the day. Now they wake early because there is much to do and only so many days left.”
― Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club is the first book in the series of the same name written by Richard Osman. This book has been recommended to me many many times by other librarians since it was published in 2020. I finally listened to this book earlier this month and oh, I wish I would have started it sooner.

The Thursday Murder Club meets every Thursday to solve crime. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron are four unlikely friends brought together by circumstance. They all live in a peaceful retirement village, but all feel like they need more. They meet weekly in the Jigsaw room to discuss unsolved crimes. Ron used to be known as Red Ron, the infamous former socialist who still causes trouble. Joyce is a gentle widow who is pining for another resident, but she seems to be hiding something darker. Ibrahim is a former therapist whose grasp of the darker side of human nature helps the four truly understand the unsolved crimes they discuss each week. Elizabeth has a dark past that is kept deliberately hidden. No one is quite certain of her past, but they all know that one should never underestimate her.

As the four get together as the Thursday Murder Club, they work to solve unsolved crimes kept by a former police officer. When a local developer is brutally murdered, the four decide its time for them to start investigating their first live case. They may be older, but their skill sets mean that they are more well-equipped to solve this case than most people. As they dig into the crime, they inadvertently put themselves in danger, but still hope that they can find the killer before they kill again.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Thursday Murder Club series

  1. The Thursday Murder Club (2020)
  2. The Man Who Died Twice (2021)
  3. The Bullet That Missed (2022)
  4. The Thursday Murder Club 4 (2023)

“You always know when it’s your first time, don’t you? But you rarely know when it’s your final time.”
― Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club

Dead Collections by Isaac Feldman

Are you a dedicated user of our Special Collections department, or another archive? Do you love urban vampire stories or LGBTQIA literary fiction? If you said yes, or are intrigued, definitely try reading Dead Collections by Isaac Fellman. I checked it out because I had heard it was good transgender representation set in an archival setting and was delighted by the love story and identity exploration amidst an archival mystery. Here’s a quick summary:

When archivist Sol meets Elsie, the larger than life widow of a moderately famous television writer who’s come to donate her wife’s papers, there’s an instant spark. But Sol has a secret: he suffers from an illness called vampirism, and hides from the sun by living in his basement office. On their way to falling in love, the two traverse grief, delve into the Internet fandom they once unknowingly shared, and navigate the realities of transphobia and the stigmas of carrying the “vampire disease.” Then, when strange things start happening at the collection, Sol must embrace even more of the unknown to save himself and his job.

I loved reading both the experiences of trans man Sol and Elsie, who goes down a rabbit hole of gender exploration while falling in love with Sol. I also thought the way the story’s different threads wove together was clever and unique; this isn’t just a romance, or an urban fantasy, or a literary fiction, or a mystery, it’s a truly unusual blend of all of these, and reads like a prose poem. Sol’s narration is also reminiscent of the storytelling in Life of Pi by Yann Martel, incorporating glimpses of and insights from different times in Sol’s life. Different formats (email, scripts, etc.) were also woven into the narrative to echo the multimedia landscape of modern life.

As someone who reads more genre fiction than literary fiction, I did find the poetic writing style difficult in places, but the raw and real emotions, in all their complexity, that the characters lived through were really powerful and profound. I recommend this quirky and moving book to anyone looking for a one-of-a-kind reading experience full of queer representation, cool libraries, and mysterious goings-on.

‘Daisy Darker’ by Alice Feeney

“Families are like fingerprints; no two are the same, and they tend to leave their mark.”
― Alice Feeney, Daisy Darker

Alice Feeney’s latest novel, Daisy Darker, is a dark and twisty locked-room mystery of a family gathered together for their grandmother’s birthday. It was deliciously messy and full of family drama. This is a contender for my favorite novel of 2022.

Daisy Darker was born with a broken heart. She wasn’t particularly wanted by either of her parents, but nevertheless she survived and was brought home to start her life with her parents and her two older sisters. Flash forward years and Daisy’s entire family is assembling for Nana’s 80th birthday party on a tiny tidal island in her crumbling gothic house. The family has been avoiding each other for years, but a fortune teller foretold that Nana would die on her 80th birthday, so the family has assembled per her wishes.

As each member of the family arrives, they bring baggage, both physical and the secrets that they are all hiding from each other. The tidal island that Nana lives on means that the entire family will be shut off from the rest of the world for eight hours until the tide goes out. At midnight, a storm rages across the island. A scream pierces the night. Nana is found dead. An hour later, another family member is discovered dead. A deadly mystery has come to the island and the Darker family is left wondering who is responsible. Stuck on the island where someone is murdering the members of the Darker family one by one, they all must pull out their past secrets until they figure out the present murder mystery. They just have to make it until the tide goes out and they can escape the island. The deadly force on island may not let them leave alive though. Only time will tell.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Cozy Mystery Reads: Pies Before Guys Mystery series by Misha Popp

“Like there are these things that matter on a large grand scale, the kind of things Melly cares about, like stopping fascism and curing climate change, and that’s obviously super important, but then there are the little individual things, like a woman who’s getting hit at home or a girl whose rapist gets a free pass for being popular. Do you go for the big sweeping save-the-world changes that will help the most people, or do you chip away at the little problems, fixing one and another and another until you have this huge snowball of good deeds built up?”
― Misha Popp, Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies is the first book in the Pies Before Guys Mystery series. The description drew me in and I knew I needed to read it: a woman seeks vengeance on men who have wronged women by baking pies laced with deadly magic. Best part: there are recipes listed at the end of the book!

Daisy Ellery comes from a long line of magic women. Each woman’s magic manifests in different ways though: her grandmother sewed her magic into beautiful dresses, her mother opened a beauty salon where she used her magic to help cut women’s hair, and Daisy bakes her magic into pies. For years Daisy has believed that the family’s magic twisted and changed for the worse when it came to her. After all, her mother and grandmother used their magic for good, while Daisy’s magic mostly manifests for revenge.

Daisy’s first murder by pie was an accident. She has been on the move ever since, but has still found ways to deliver magic through baking. Daisy travels with her dog Zoe around the country in her refurbished RV baking vengeance into her pastries. Daisy delivers them to men who have done wrong to women in the towns wherever she chooses to stop.

Daisy currently parks her Pies Before Guys van outside a local diner, where she bakes pies for Frank, the diner owner. One day, Frank tells Daisy that someone has been prowling around her van. Daisy later discovers a letter stuck to her door. Her prowler knows about her secret murder pie business and is threatening to out her unless Daisy bakes pies for his own list of targets.

Daisy feels violated. Who dares blackmail her? This person obviously has no idea who or what they are dealing with, but without identifying who has it out for her, Daisy is left floundering. She decides to take whatever action she can: using her databases to research past abusive men, investing in security equipment, and staying aware of her surroundings.

When Daisy learns of a statewide pie contest that has the ability to help her promote Pies Before Guys everywhere, she decides to take the leap and enter. This contest, and the prize money, could change her life for the better as long as her blackmailer doesn’t get to her first.

Pies Before Guys Mystery series

  1. Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies (2022)
  2. A Good Day to Pie (2023)

‘The Murder of Mr. Wickham’ by Claudia Gray

“How unfortunate for public morals that being unladylike feels so… exciting.”
― Claudia Gray, The Murder of Mr. Wickham

Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of author Amy Vincent. Amy has written multiple young adult novels, including the Firebird trilogy, the Constellation trilogy, and the Evernight series. She has also written several Star Wars novels. Her latest novel written under her pseudonym is the one that has captured my interest: The Murder of Mr. Wickham. This book is Claudia’s debut adult historical mystery. It’s a delightful read full of characters from Jane Austen novels.

Mr. Knightley and Emma are happily married and wanting to throw a house party. They have decided to bring together a group of distant relatives and some new acquaintances: Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Marianne and Colonel Brandon, Anne and Captain Wentworh, Fanny and Edmund Bertram, and a couple others. Once the company has assembled at the Knightley’s country estate, they are shocked to discover an interloper: Mr. Wickham. He was not invited, but his arrival coincides with a storm that makes his much wished departure delayed. Wickham’s latest financial scheme has earned him a great number of enemies, quite a few of them at the Knightley’s house party. Tempers flare amongst the guests and secrets are revealed. As the party progresses, many people are heard discussing that they wish Wickham would finally be brought to justice.

What none of them expected though was that Wickham would be found murdered on the estate and that the killer would be one of them! Now almost everyone at the party is a suspect, so two of the youngest guests decide to solve the mystery (after all, they know that neither of them committed this crime). Juliet Tilney, the daughter of Catherine and Henry, is at the Knightley’s estate without her parents and eager to explore beyond Northanger Abbey. Jonathan Darcy is the Darcy’s eldest son with an almost militant adherence to propriety which rivals his father’s. Jonathan and Juliet must set aside their feelings for each other and their mediocre first impressions to discover who the guilty party is hiding amongst the guests.

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed is an author who knows how to rip at your heart strings. So far, I have read two of her young adult fiction titles and they have decimated me, but in a way that had me thinking about the state of the world. Three years ago, I read Internment and had such a devastating book hangover after I finished that I knew I needed to read whatever she published next (Internment is set in a futuristic United States when Muslim-Americans are forced into internment camps. It tells the story of Layla Amin, a seventeen-year-old who leads a revolution against those complicit in silence). Samira’s latest soul-wrenching title is Hollow Fires. I’m still reeling from this book, yet I believe it’s a necessary read especially in today’s climate.

Hollow Fires is a powerful novel that tells the story of the evil that lives around us every day and how alternative facts created by the privileged bend the truth of a narrative to their will and desire. It’s a story of silent complicity, as well as outright and hidden racism. It’s about the will of a young journalist desperate to uncover the truth of what actually happened to a missing boy. If you enjoyed Sadie by Courtney Summers or Dear Martin by Nic Stone, I highly recommend you read this book.

Safiya Mirza wants to become a journalist. She is currently the editor of her private school’s newspaper, reporting on the facts of what is happening at her school, despite the administration wishing to push their own biases onto the paper. Safiya is a scholarship student, growing up in vastly different ways compared to her privileged classmates. Her desire to report only the facts and leave out any personal feelings changes the moment she finds the body of a murdered boy.

Jawad Ali was only fourteen years old. His public school had a makerspace where he was allowed to take recycled materials and repurpose them for whatever he wanted. Having had his current project approved by his teacher, Jawad built a cosplay jetpack to add to his Halloween costume. He brought the finished project to school to show his teacher and friends. One of his teachers mistook his jetpack for a bomb and alerted the police, which led to Jawad being arrested, labeled a terrorist, and eventually kidnapped and murdered. After his arrest, Jawad was cleared by the police, but his school still suspended him. His peers labeled him ‘Bomb Boy’ and his life as he knew it was changed forever.

Safiya is devastated after discovering Jawad’s body. His presence, voice, and smell are haunting her throughout the investigation, leading her to seek out the entire truth about Jawad’s murder and those who killed him because of their hate-fueled beliefs. Jawad was a person whose life was worth remembering exactly how he lived it and not how the media have spun it. Racist acts have been sprouting up all over Safiya’s school, as well as at her mosque and her parents’ store. Concerned they could be related to Jawad’s disappearance and with a lack of confidence in the local police department, Safiya begins an investigation of her own with the help of her friends and Jawad’s voice in her ear.

This book is also available in the following format:

Cozy Mystery Reads: Island Sisters Mystery series by Hannah Dennison

It’s been a while since I have found a new cozy mystery series to read. After talking to some other book lovers, I decided to start Hannah Dennison’s newest series: the Island Sisters Mystery series (I’ll admit that the cover is what pulled me in first – lucky for me, the plot was thoroughly engaging too).

Death at High Tide is the first book in the Island Sisters Mystery series. Evie Mead is devastated. Her husband Robert has suddenly died of a heart attack. During a meeting with his accountant after his death, Evie and her sister Margot learn that Evie may own the rights to an old hotel on Tregarrick Rock, one of the Scilly Islands. At a loss of what to do, Evie wants to leave all the arrangements in the hands of her accountant. Margot has other plans. Having left her glamorous career and fancy life behind in Los Angeles to come help Evie, Margot is determined to help Evie relax. She suggests a weekend getaway to Tregarrick Rock so the two can scope out the hotel and the area.

Once at the Scilly Islands, Evie and Margot realize that the area is not what they thought it would be. When they eventually arrive at the hotel, the two are fascinated by the history. Famous detective novelists used to visit the hotel in its prime, but now the hotel is definitely more of a fixer upper than either of them expected. When Evie starts asking questions, the answers she receives are off. The cranky hotel owner say that he has never met Robert, as do many other island inhabitants. Evie finds evidence to contradict them though, specifically framed photos of Robert with various people she meets over the weekend. She can’t be sure what they are all hiding and why.

When a two murders happen at the hotel in quick succession, Evie and Margot are desperate to escape Tregarrick Rock and forget this place and its weird inhabitants ever existed. Their escape is thwarted by the local police when both are named suspects. With all eyes on them, the sisters start searching for answers and find multiple secrets hidden for years, including their own.

Island Sisters Mystery series

  1. Death at High Tide (2020)
  2. Danger at the Cove (2021)

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are one of my favorite psychological thriller/mystery writing duos. They have written four novels together that I have adored (one specifically called The Wife Between Us whose twist is so unexpected that I couldn’t blog about it without giving away the whole plot)! Their latest novel, The Golden Couple, is a psychological thriller that had me on the edge of my seat.

The Golden Couple tells the story of Avery Chambers and her new clients, Marissa and Matthew Bishop. Avery is a therapist turned counselor, who lost her therapist license due to controversial methods. Now she has been featured in articles as an unorthodox counselor who only sees her clients for ten sessions. She has had amazing successes helping people with a variety of issues. If she can’t fix you using her ten session method, Avery will not take you on as a client.

Marissa and Matthew Bishop are wealthy and seem to have it all. Living in the suburbs of Washington DC, the couple have been married for years with a young son. Beneath the seeming perfection of their life, their relationship is full of work issues and a lack of intimacy. Their lives shift when Marissa is unfaithful. Desperate to save her marriage, Marissa reaches out to Avery to help her repair the damage done.

As soon as the three meet for the first time, Avery is intrigued. The couple glide into her office as if they haven’t a care in the world, but when Marissa reveals her infidelity, their carefully crafted veneer starts to crack. The relationship between the three becomes even more convoluted when Avery realizes that the Bishops are hiding more secrets than just Marissa’s infidelity. It quickly becomes apparent that saving their marriage is the least of their problems.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Counselors by Jessica Goodman

Jessica Goodman is a bestselling young adult author who has been on my radar for awhile. The Counselors  is her third young adult thriller. As soon as I saw the descriptionI knew I had to give it a read. This book is a summer camp murder mystery. As a frequenter of many Girl Scout camps (and a true crime fan), I was fascinated by the premise of murder happening at a summer camp. Let’s get into it!

Goldie Easton grew up at Camp Alpine Lake. It’s the only place where she really feels safe. Goldie has been involved with camp since before she was old enough to be a camper. Her parents have been working there for as long as she can remember. Camp Alpine Lake helps keep the tiny town of Roxwood in business by providing money, jobs, and a sense of importance to the area. The campers are rich kids whose very wealthy families drop them at camp for eight weeks while paying a hefty tuition. Very few Roxwood locals get to reap the benefits of camp, prompting animosity between the town and camp, but Goldie is one of the chosen locals who gets to escape each summer.

Goldie may be a townie, but the minute she sets foot at camp, she feels comfort and that camp is where she is supposed to be. Having aged out of being a camper, Goldie is now a counselor. This year, she anxiously awaits her best friends’ arrival. She has known Ava and Imogen for years and can’t wait for them to be counselors together. The downside: Goldie has a horrible secret hanging over her though that threatens to destroy the close bonds the three have formed over their years together at camp.

Goldie’s secret isn’t the only one at camp this summer though. The longer camp goes on, the more she realizes that others aren’t telling the truth. Everything is thrown into the open when a teen is found dead in the lake by camp one night. The instant she hears the news, Goldie believes that this death could not have been an accident. One reason: Ava was out at the lake the same night the teen died, but refuses to talk about it or admit she was there. Why would Ava lie? Goldie is determined to find the truth. When she starts asking questions though, Goldie doesn’t find answers. Her questions instead bring up betrayals, deadly lies, danger, and destroyed relationships. The truth could lay waste to Goldie’s family, friends, and the one safe place she knows.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson is a young adult novel described as a mix between Veronica Mars and Agatha Christie. I agree! This book is rumored to be the first in a new series and honestly, I hope that is true.

Alice Ogilve is having a rough go of it. Last summer, her boyfriend Steve dumped her. After that, she disappeared for five days. Alice eventually showed back up, but where she went and what happened to her during those five days is a mystery, mostly because Alice refuses to talk about it. To add insult to injury, Steve started dating one of Alice’s best friends, Brooke, last summer. Well Brooke is now Alice’s EX-best friend. Alice’s ex-friends aren’t talking to her, the entire Castle Cove community is upset, and Alice is marched into her home on house arrest and can’t leave due to her actions.

Flash forward to the present: Brooke is missing. She’s vanished and people are saying that she’s doing the same thing that Alice did last summer, only Alice knows Brooke would NEVER just disappear. There must be a sinister reason behind her sudden disappearance.

Enter Iris Adams, Alice’s tutor. She would love to disappear like Alice did, except she would take her mom with her and escape Castle Cove forever. Unlike Alice though, Iris doesn’t have the money or the means to disappear. When Brooke’s grandmother comes into town offering a large reward for any information about Brooke’s whereabouts, Iris decides to figure out the truth about what happened to Brooke. Iris and Alice begin investigating on their own, fueled by the police’s belief that Steve is the culprit. The two have doubts, so they set out to discover who is really responsible.

In order to get justice, and to secure the reward money, they must figure out who is behind Brooke’s disappearance. Alice has a secret weapon: she spent her house arrest reading the complete works of Agatha Christie, so she has the master to help her solve this mystery. The more the two dig, the more they realize that Castle Cove is full of secrets, but the amount of danger the two have put themselves in is worse than they could imagine.