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Debbie Wiley | Cozy Mysteries are the Perfect Escapist Reads!

May 11, 2020

by Senior Reviewer Debbie Wiley

With the long days of quarantine both behind and still in front of us, if you’re like me you’re tired of hearing nothing in the news but gloom and doom. Luckily for us as readers, we have a great selection of cozy mysteries to curl up with and take our minds off seeing only the people we’ve been quarantined with. So, sit back, pretend it’s a cold day inside by the fire where staying inside is fun, and let’s look at a couple great books to choose from!

Amanda Flower is one of my go-to cozy mystery authors and what could be better than a novella including an appearance by Jethro, the support pig? In BOTCHED BUTTERSCOTCH, a Mother’s Day fundraiser goes awry and now Bailey King is determined to uncover a thief. Amanda Flower offers up just the kind of heartwarming mystery we need, as BOTCHED BUTTERSCOTCH showcases Abigail’s Farm, a program opening up in the Amish community to help women recovering from substance abuse. We have a lot of fun bantering the wedding that isn’t even an engagement yet and yes, we have a great Jethro scene!

 SIX CLOVES UNDER by Gin Jones features app programmer Mabel Skinner who inherits her aunt’s garlic farm. Mabel has no intentions of ever being a garlic farmer, but she wants to honor her aunt’s memory with the last harvest, plus her death circumstances just don’t compute. I love seeing a tech savvy person like Mabel learn to appreciate some of the aspects of the farming life, particularly right now when I’m trapped behind a laptop for distance learning and yearning to be outside gardening. Gin Jones has hooked me with this entertaining and surprisingly charming cozy mystery.

Catherine Bruns’ ICING ON THE CASKET takes on a funeral home mystery. Sally Donovan has promised her husband, Mike, she won’t get involved in any more amateur sleuthing, but she can’t turn down her dad’s request to find his missing friend (who is also a funeral parlor owner). If you haven’t read any of the Cookies and Chance mysteries, you’ve missed a real treat as Sally’s quirky family will keep you laughing. After all, her father sleeps in his own casket and has a following for his blog on all things death-related!

READ OR ALIVE by Nora Page is a booklover’s dream mystery! Cleo Watkins is a librarian, focusing on her local bookmobile called Words on Wheels. Her gentleman friend, Henry Lafeyette, has convinced the Georgia Antiquarian Book Society to hold their fair in Catalpa Springs. Unfortunately, an unscrupulous book dealer is now dead, and Henry is a prime suspect in his murder. Who can’t help but love any book centered around books? As for Cleo, she is a sheer hoot! I can only hope to have at least half her energy and motivation when I get to be her age as her character is refreshingly defiant of stereotypes. And did I mention that she has a cat named Rhett Butler?

However, the book that really took me away from the current world troubles (and likely saved my husband’s life LOL) was DEAD RINGER by Annelise Ryan. A dead body offers a puzzling problem to Mattie Winston. In her role as a medicolegal death investigator, she notices certain similarities to another case she heard about at a conference recently. There’s just one problem… that serial killer is currently incarcerated. Meanwhile, Mattie is struggling with her own personal life and it’s causing a rift with her husband, Detective Steve Hurley. DEAD RINGER was exactly the sort of mystery I needed to sink into. Mattie’s science-based observations are fascinating, even as her own emotional turmoil has her seeking out counseling. Mattie is that she is genuine about her feelings. She doesn’t gloss over her own mistakes and misgivings but faces them head-on, even when they terrify her. And wow, what a stunningly good mystery on top of the great character development!

Cozy mysteries, particularly those with reoccurring characters, are comforting reads despite the deaths our amateur sleuths help solve. The characters become almost like friends or family, and what better time than now to visit with them in a book when visiting others in real life isn’t so easily done. What are some cozy mysteries you’re curled up with lately?



Botched Butterscotch

A slice of intrigue. . .   

Mother’s Day is a sweet and busy time at the candy shop Bailey King runs with her Amish grandmother. This year is extra special, because Bailey’s parents are visiting Harvest, Ohio. Bailey’s father has rarely returned since leaving the Amish faith over thirty years ago, but Bailey is confident that the right treats can help sugarcoat any awkwardness. For Mother’s Day Tea at the local church, she’s whipping up her mom’s favorite: butterscotch fudge. All’s going well, until a sticky-fingered thief makes off with the money raised for a local women’s support group.

While Bailey tries to discover who stuck their fingers in the cookie jar, she encounters an assortment of suspects. It doesn’t help that Juliet, mother of Deputy Aiden Brody, is conspiring with Bailey’s mom to plan Aiden and Bailey’s wedding…though they’re not even engaged! Can Bailey find the culprit before events—both criminal and personal—boil over into disaster?

Recipe Included!
Praise for Amanda Flower and her Amish cozies
“As it turns out, Amanda Flower may have just written the first Amish rom com.”
USA Today
“Flower has hit it out of the ballpark . . . and continues to amaze with her knowledge of the Amish way of life.”
RT Book Reviews
“At turns playful and engaging . . . a satisfyingly complex cozy.”
Library Journal

Amish | Mystery Cozy [Lyrical Press, On Sale: April 28, 2020, e-Book, ISBN: 9781496726728 / eISBN: 9781496726728]

An enjoyable light mystery with a prize pig and a recipe

Can Bailey uncover a thief in Harvest?



Garlic Farm

Six Cloves Under

App developer Mabel Skinner is about to discover something rotten on her late aunt’s garlic farm—and it’s not the compost heap . . .

Mabel doesn’t know a stinkin’ thing about garlic farming. She knows how to develop an app and how-to code. But when her aunt, Peggy Skinner, dies suddenly, Mabel inherits her Stinkin’ Stuff Farm in western Massachusetts. She arrives during peak harvest time—with three days to bring in the entire crop before rain can destroy it.

But Mabel has an even bigger problem: she suspects her aunt’s “accidental death” was murder. As she digs for both garlic and clues, Mabel must contend with a mysterious crop thief, a rival garlic grower her aunt was suing, and a farmer who was after Aunt Peggy’s green-thumb secret. It’s up to Mabel to crack the code on a killer, before she joins the garlic bulbs six cloves under . . .

Mystery Cozy [Lyrical Press, On Sale: April 21, 2020, e-Book, ISBN: 9781516109586 / eISBN: 9781516109586]

Did someone kill Aunt Peggy for her prized garlic?


ICING ON THE CASKET by Catherine Bruns

Cookies & Chance Mysteries #9

Icing on the Casket

From USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bruns comes the next humorous romantic Cookies & Chance mystery!

Full-time baker and sometime sleuth Sally Muccio finally has everything she’s always wanted—a beautiful baby, loving husband, and a thriving business. Now that she’s a mother, Sal has vowed she’ll stay out of future murder investigations. But when her eccentric father’s friend, mortician Eddie Phibbins, is found dead in one of his own caskets, Sal’s father begs her to help find the killer.

With their famous coffins cookies in hand, Sal and her best friend Josie “undertake” the process of questioning mourners and employees at the funeral home, hoping for a lead to Eddie’s killer. Between a recently fired hearse driver, resentful family members and a wacky, love-struck makeup artist there’s no shortage of suspects. Once again, Sal’s snooping has attracted the attention of a killer, and her good intentions may have only succeeded in digging herself an early grave…

*Recipes Included!*

Mystery Cozy [Gemma Halliday Publishing, On Sale: May 5, 2020, e-Book, ISBN: 2940163494729 / eISBN: 9781947110991]

A Deadly Undertaking

Delightful cozy mystery with quirky characters


READ OR ALIVE by Nora Page

Bookmobile Mystery #3

Read or Alive

A match-made in cozy heaven for fans of Jenn McKinlay, Kate Carlisle, and book lovers everywhere, Nora Page’s third Bookmobile mystery will (book)worm its way into your heart.

Two wrongful accusations has librarian Cleo Watkins and her loved ones booked for trouble.

It’s springtime and septuagenarian librarian Cleo Watkins is celebrating new blooms and old books. To her delight, the Georgia Antiquarian Book Society has brought its annual fair to Catalpa Springs in honor of Cleo’s gentleman friend, respected antiquarian bookseller and restorer, Henry Lafayette. But trouble rolls in with the fair when a flirtatious book scout makes the rounds, charming ladies of a certain age out of prized books.

Among the conned is Cleo’s cousin, Dot, who relinquished a signed first edition of Gone With the Wind. With no proof the scout took it, Dot is at a loss. And when he’s found dead the very next morning, without Dot’s first edition or other valuable books reported missing in his belongings, Dot’s freedom is on the line. Cleo is flummoxed in discovering too that the scout’s body is found behind Henry’s shop, and the murder weapon identified to be Henry’s bookbinding hammer.

Although books are at the heart of the crimes, Cleo feels dizzyingly out of her depths. Someone is setting up the people she holds dearest and with the authorities on the wrong trail, Cleo has no choice but to catalog the evidence herself. Along with the help of her trusty bookmobile cat Rhett Butler, it will be up to Cleo to book the real killer for good.

Mystery Cozy [Crooked Lane Books, On Sale: May 12, 2020, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781643853017 / ]


DEAD RINGER by Annelise Ryan

Mattie Winston #11

Dead Ringer

A new murder victim with an old M.O. puts Mattie Winston on the trail of a killer who gives a grim new meaning to flower power . . .
Spring is beginning to brighten Sorenson, Wisconsin, for Mattie and Steve Hurley and their family. While their son Matthew may be in his terrible twos and Steve’s daughter Emily a moody teenager, the kids bring light to their lives when their work is dark by its nature—Steve is a homicide detective and Mattie is a medicolegal death investigator, aka medical examiner. They deal in corpses.

The latest corpse, a Jane Doe, was clearly an addict, but drugs didn’t kill her, at least not directly. She’s been stabbed multiple times in a pattern that is disturbingly familiar to Mattie. When she discovers flower petals from yellow carnations stuffed into the stab wounds, she recognizes a very specific M.O.—belonging to a convicted serial killer who’s currently serving a life sentence.

The details of the flower petals were never made public in the last case, so it can’t be a copycat crime. It looks like the wrong man is in prison, and the murderer is still at large. Now it’s up to Mattie and Steve to get the case reopened—and catch the real carnation killer . . .

Mystery Cozy [Kensington, On Sale: February 25, 2020, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781496722553 / eISBN: 9781496722560]

Was a man wrongly imprisoned as a serial killer?

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