Alongside the darker world of police procedurals and thrillers, cosy novels are the palate cleansers of the crime fiction world. They usually have whimsical covers and most always have a happy ending, or at least a satisfactory resolution. Now, in the mystery genre – at least in the US – cosies have certain ‘rules’. Usually the main character is not working in law enforcement (though PIs are sometimes acceptable, but the more amateur the better); there’s a limited cast of characters; and you won’t read graphic sex, violence, or rancid language. Most of the times cosies avoid heavy handed themes and romance is always a good thing, as is a good dose of humour. Cosy novels should take place in ‘familiar’ settings and they usually sell very well as series. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but it’s what you’ll see more often than not in the genre. Here are some of the best cosy series to come out of the United States, perfect for a walk on the lighter side after reading some of the darker stuff…
The Lily Bard series by Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris is best known for her Sookie Stackhouse series, which spawned the wildly popular True Blood cable series. But before Sookie came Lily Bard. Lily Bard is a cleaning lady with a dark past that hopes to start over in the tiny town of Shakespeare, Arkansas, but when she finds the body of her landlord, those hopes go quickly out the window. While darker in tone than most cozies, it’s a wonderfully written series, and ideally, should get the attention that her Sookie Stackhouse series has received. Unlikely, but you never know!
Shakespeare’s Landlord on Amazon
The Dead-End Jobs series by Elaine Viets
Helen Hawthorne used to be a successful woman until she found her bum of a husband in the arms of another. Unfortunately, her husband snagged a shark of a divorce lawyer and she got a dud, and he was awarded alimony, which Helen is not about to pay. Now she’s on the run and must take a series of off the grid jobs in minimum wage purgatory to keep the courts, and her ex-husband, from catching up with her. This series has a wicked sense of humor and her spot on observations of employees that just can’t get any respect are spot on. Elaine Viets actually worked at the jobs that each book features, which really does add a note of credibility, and also a certain sensitivity and respect for anyone stuck in a low paying, demanding job.
Shop Till You Drop on Amazon
The Sarah Booth Delaney series by Carolyn Haines
Sarah Booth Delaney – known as Sarah Booth – is considered over the hill by her contemporaries. She’s unemployed and unwed, and living in Zinnia, Mississippi. In the first novel, Them Bones, Booth is a southern belle with attitude who is struggling to save her family’s plantation, and is haunted by the ghost of her great-great-grandmother’s nanny, Jitty. Eventually, Sarah Booth turns to the PI business to help save the plantation, and the fun begins. There’s tons of southern charm in this series, and the author has surrounded her heroine with a cast of quirky, kind hearted characters that you’ll fall in love with. The 13th novel in the series, Smarty Bones, comes out in the UK in May.
Them Bones on Amazon
The Tattoo Shop series by Karen E Olson
In the first of this crowd-pleasing series, Brett Kavanaugh, who owns a tattoo shop called The Painted Lady in Las Vegas, takes a tattoo request from a woman that leaves the shop but never returns. The police do show up, however, and Brett finds out that the woman’s disappearance could be connected to murder. The light tone and hint of romance make this one lots of fun. So far there are only four in the series,so hopefully more are in the works. Karen E Olson is also known for her Annie Seymour mystery series about a police reporter in New Haven.
The Missing Ink on Amazon
The Mind for Murder series by Rochelle Staab
In the first book, Who Do, Voodoo?, clinical psychologist Liz Cooper finds herself on the hunt for someone who has been harassing her childhood friend, Robin, by tacking tarot cards with menacing messages to her door. Robin is soon accused of murder and the chase is on. Assisted by Nick, a theology professor who dabbles in occult studies, Liz learns that her villain may have voodoo leanings… but that stuff isn’t real, right? Written by a former music industry executive, this series not only provides and entertaining mystery, but proves that you certainly don’t have to be in your 20s to have a fun romance. Who Do, Voodoo? is followed by Bruja Brouhaha, and the third book, Hex On the Ex is out in May.
Who Do, Voodoo? on Amazon