Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Miranda Owen | Bookish Mysteries

March 18, 2019

They were always there for you, books, like a small pet dog that doesn’t die. –

Books are my life. In addition to spending time either reading or writing about books, I have worked in various libraries for years, and even met my husband while we were both working at our local library. Books about books – specifically stories about librarians, and people who collect books, or work in bookstores – are a favorite sub-genre of mine. Then there are books that take characters from classic works of literature and put them in the role of amateur sleuth. As I’m a huge fan of mysteries, I love combining these types of characters and themes with the quirkiness of a cozy mystery. The results can be delicious.

He was sick of the excuses and the lies. He was tired of the evasions and the untruths, of people refusing to stand up and speak the truth and take responsibility for their own actions. It seemed to him like yet another symptom of the decline of Western civilization; of chaos; and climate change; and environmental disaster; and war; disease; famine; oppression; the eternal slow slide down and down and down. It was entropy, nemesis, apotheosis, imminent apocalypse, and sheer bad manners all rolled into one.

People were not returning their library books on time. – Ian Sansom, MR. DIXON DISAPPEARS

Since I work in a library, books about librarians and library workers have a special place in my heart like the Library Lover’s series by Jenn McKinlay and the Lighthouse Library mystery series by Eva Gates. Both series ring true with the realities of running a library – including problems with funding and troublesome administrators – but also the fun that comes with working around books and sharing a love for them. In Eva Gates’ Lighthouse Library series, featuring librarian and lighthouse resident Lucy Richardson, there is a book club that features a different classic book in each installment. As with many book-themed mysteries, each featured “book within the book” parallels aspects of the mystery and make for entertaining comparisons for the reader. Lucy’s co-workers and friends also account for a lot of the enjoyment each book in the series provides. Like the series by Eva Gates, Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lover’s series featuring library director Lindsey Norris has a small town setting. What I love about both series is how the amateur sleuth librarians are realistic and flawed, yet compassionate and fierce defenders when it comes to people they care about or their libraries. Both Eva Gates and Jenn McKinlay manage to create intriguing stories while making them believable while somehow fun and goofy at the same time.

He had always believed that reading was good for you, that the more books you read somehow the better you were… – Ian Sansom, MR. DIXON DISAPPEARS

While books about librarians are fab, there are a whole host of books about mysteries that appeal to book lovers in different ways. In the divine Book Collector series, Victoria Abbott tells stories that are thoroughly compelling and terrifically witty. I often can’t stop reading once I’ve started. The series is built around Jordan Kelly and her book collector employer – the crotchety Vera Van Alst. Vera collects Golden Age mysteries by classic mystery authors like Agatha Christie and rare editions. Each book is focused on one particular author. I’ve read many Golden Age mysteries, but this series appeals to the collector in me and has me itching to check out authors I’ve never read before. The Writer’s Apprentice series by Julia Buckley is about Lena London and the path that leads her to work for, and later collaborate with, one of her favorite prolific authors – Camilla Graham. It’s easy for any writer or book lover to put themselves in Lena’s place and feel the excitement of being able to meet and actually work with a literary hero. Buckley’s stories border between cozy mystery and gothic suspense in a surprisingly cohesive way that is highly pleasurable for mystery fans. In the first book, A DARK AND STORMY MURDER, Julia Buckley includes excerpts from a Camilla Graham book that eerily mimic what’s going on in Lena’s life.

Other mysteries take classic authors or characters and turn them into unexpected detectives, like the Thoreau mysteries by B.B. Oak, the Daphne du Maurier mysteries by Joanna Challis, or the Charles Dickens mysteries, or a million others. Nowadays Pride and Prejudice-themed anything is a cottage industry with some things being cringe-worthy and some being sublime, but my favorite has to be the “Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries” by Carrie Bebris. Carrie Bebris is at ease with these familiar characters, breathes new life into them, and takes them on a unique journey as newlyweds that have them acting as themselves, but with a little Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane thrown in, and a smidge of supernatural phenomena and good old-fashioned villains. Each installment echoes one of Jane Austen’s other novels with characters from those novels popping up in surprising but interesting and satisfactory ways. After staying up into the early morning hours reading SUSPENSE AND SENSIBILITY, all I thought was “wow”. These stories are inventive while still paying homage to the original texts and remaining faithful to who the characters are at their hearts.

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