Cozy mysteries are the warm and fuzzy version of hardboiled detective novels.
While murder (or, more often, a series of murders) always takes place in a cozy mystery, the crimes are usually painted with soft blurred lines and often take place in a small and charming town where “this type of thing never happens.”
Cozy mysteries also often (though, not always) have a female lead character not involved in law enforcement playing amateur sleuth, while the reader is invited to play armchair detective right alongside.
Frequently, cozy mysteries lay claim to the puniest of names. Whether clever, a play on words or just plain silly, they really indicate that what you’re about to read is a murder, wrapped in blankets and holding tea.
Cozy mysteries’ most famous matron, Agatha Christie, typifies the genre.
I can honestly say cozy mysteries are my favourite adult genre and I read a LOT of them, no matter how formulaic they can occasionally be. Perhaps it’s because I grew up frequently visiting “the stately pile” of my relations in a small English village, or perhaps it’s because I’m a (not so) closet Murderino.
Whatever the reason, there are a lot of cozy mystery books and series to explore and I’m always keen to read more! These are just a few I’d recommend.
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1. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
(Miss Marple Series No. 12)
Agatha Christie’s last novel, published posthumously, features one of her most popular characters, the elderly Miss Marple.
Newlywed Australian Gwenda buys a house for her and her husband, Giles, on the lovely English seaside. While renovating her new house, Gwenda has increasing moments of precognition, asking for changes to the house that had in fact once existed.
When Gwenda has a terrible turn and pictures a beautiful woman dead in the hallway, Miss Marple urges the young couple to “let sleeping murder lie.”
Naturally, The Reeds do not heed her advice and they find themselves piecing together a murder—if it even was a murder—that may or may not have happened and that Gwenda may or may not have witnessed as a toddler in that very house 18 years ago.
Sleeping Murder is available as a book, eBook, audiobook CD, downloadable audiobook, large print edition. The rest of the Miss Marple Series is available in various formats. Bonus: the Miss Marple books have also been dramatized on TV and are available on DVD and streaming video.
2. Faux Paw by Sofie Kelly
(A Magical Cats Mystery No. 7)
The magical cats in this mystery series are less magical and more oddly unexplained, a difference that helpfully places this series more firmly in the mystery camp than the fantasy camp.
This cozy mystery centres on small-town librarian Kathleen Paulson, her two catnip crazed kitties (Owen and Hercules), the Mayville Heights art exhibition, and a disagreeable and overbearing curator.
When Kathleen finds a body and a missing sketch—the centerpiece of the whole exhibit—missing, she takes it upon herself to paw through the potential suspects and find the murderer.
3. The Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton
(Agatha Raisin Mysteries Book No. 1)
For Agatha Raisin, transitioning from a blue collar upbringing to landed blue blood has been her life’s goal. Taking early retirement, she moves to the quiet village of Carsely in the heart of the idyllic Cotswolds, where she discovers that country life might not be quite as she imagined.
Trying too hard to fit in, Agatha enters her store-bought quiche into the village baking contest. Not only does she not win, but her quiche kills a judge.
In a plot to prove her innocence and win her place in the country village, Agatha starts an investigation of her own.
The Quiche of Death is available as a book, eBook, audiobook CD, downloadable audiobook and streaming audiobook. The rest of the Agatha Raisin Mysteries series is available on various formats. It’s also been dramatized on TV, available on DVD and on streaming video.
4. Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay
(Library Lover’s Mystery No. 1)
Lindsey Norris is the director of the Briar Creek Public Library. Beth Stanley is Briar Creek’s children’s librarian and Lindsey’s best friend.
When a hot shot New York City editor comes to town, Beth pitches her children’s book, only to find her very recently ex-boyfriend of five years had pitched it—and published it—first!
On their way to confront the rat of an ex they find him murdered, and Lindsey must act fast before Beth ends up being the only suspect.
5. Owls Well That Ends Well by Donna Andrews
(Meg Langslow Mystery Series No. 6)
The sixth book in the Meg Langslow Mystery Series features a garage sale, money-mad heirs, endangered barn owls, hidden treasure and an antiques dealer dead in a trunk—all key ingredients for a memorable murder mystery.
It’s a read that’s funny and warm, in the fine tradition of the other Meg Langslow books.
6. Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany
(Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery No. 1)
Gemma Doyle, the manager of Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, and her friend Jayne Wilson, the manager of the adjoining Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, set out on an adventure involving a valuable magazine, an unpublished Sherlock Holmes story and a dead body.
Putting all their deductive powers to the test, Gemma and Jayne investigate a whole host of suspicious characters trying to track down the likeliest culprit. The game, as they say, is afoot!
7. The Merlot Murders by Ellen Crosby
(Wine Country Mysteries No. 1)
Lucie Montgomery’s idyllic life in France comes crashing to a halt when, at 2:30 in the morning, she gets a phone call from her brother. She needs to come home, because her father has died.
Going home for Lucie means facing a brother she barely recognizes, a sister who resents her, a crumbling business and an ex with supreme amounts of baggage.
When Lucie’s godfather tells her he thinks Leland’s death was anything but an accident and turns up dead himself, Lucie’s life, family and family business are on the line.
Did you know there are many sub-sets of cozy mysteries? For instance, there are cozy mysteries that feature cooking and baking, and usually include a recipe or two. Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries, Merry Muffin Mystery Series, Hannah Swensen Mystery Series and Paws and Claws Mystery Series are some of my very favourites (and they all come with tasty recipes)!
If you enjoyed these titles or are interested in other cozy mysteries, check out this cozy mystery list featuring books and TV shows, Don’t Judge a Book by its Murder, or browse our catalogue.