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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

October 30, 2023

Cozy Up With These Seasonal Mysteries

by Donna Huber

We are at that point when all the holidays run together. If you love a good mystery and a seasonal setting, then these books fit the bill.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

The Fatal Folio by Elizabeth Penney

book cover of cozy mystery novel The Fatal Folio by Elizabeth Penney
October 2023; Minotaur Books; 978-1250787743
ebook, print (288 pages); cozy mystery

The Fatal Folio
 is the third book in Elizabeth Penney's Cambridge Bookshop series. I haven't read the previous two books, but I'm glad I've discovered the series now. I had no problem with starting with book 3.  

I've read a few mysteries set in Oxford, but I think this is the first one set in Cambridge. The story begins with Guy Fawkes Night but it is also Gothic Week at the local college. And there is plenty of history in Cambridge. It is a great novel to follow on the heels of your Halloween reading.

Molly Kimball is an expat from Virginia. She moved to England with her mother to run the family bookstore with her aunt. She has also recently taken a commission to catalog the library of the manor house. She is qualified for the job, but I'm sure her connection to the family's second-born son helped.  

While there is a murder, I think the literary mystery is much more interesting. An ancestor of Molly's boyfriend wrote a gothic novel under a pen name. The family has the original manuscript but no one knows the identity of the author.

I loved all the history and literary references. The characters are wonderful. I was also thrilled that we got to read the gothic novel (it is more like a short story). I thought this was a nice (and original) touch.

I'm looking forward to reading more books in this series. If you are a fan of Paige Shelton's Scottish Bookshop Mystery series, then you definitely want to check out Elizabeth Penney's series.

Buy The Fatal Folio at Amazon

Snow Place for Murder by Diane Kelly

book cover of cozy mystery novel Snow Place for Murder by Diane Kelly
October 2023; St. Martin's Paperbacks; 978-1250816016
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); cozy mystery

Snow Place for Murder
 is book 3 in Diane Kelly's Mountain Lodge Mystery series. I haven't read the first two books in the series, but it was easy to figure out who everyone is and their relationship to each other. 

I really enjoyed the setting of this cozy mystery - the ski town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina. I've been skiing at Beech Mountain (as well as at Sugar Mountain and Boone which are also mentioned). It is also the perfect snowy setting for a Christmasy novel. 

I found it interesting that Misty Murphy lives at the Mountaintop Lodge which she owns and operates. It wouldn't have been so odd if she lived in a suite or some kind of "caretaker" room. But it appears to be a normal motel room - there's no kitchenette (she has a hotplate and dorm fridge). Yes, there is a diner next door, but eating out isn't cheap nor the healthiest. At least her college-age kids only visit as it seems they live (when not away at school) in their childhood home with Misty's ex-husband.

While there are Christmas decorations, Christmas is just the background setting. So if you want a good wintry mystery without the over-the-top holly jolly trimmings, then this is the book to pick up.

There are definitely some interesting characters who are residents of the area and I look forward to seeing more of them. The lodge setting is a great setting for a cozy mystery since it keeps the town regulars from being constantly murdered, but I'm not sure how a business survives if the guests keep getting murdered. So I'm interested to see how the series keeps things fresh in future novels.

Buy Snow Place for Murder at Amazon

Barbacoa, Bomba, and Betrayal by Raquel V. Reyes

book cover of cozy mystery novel Barbacoa, Bomba, and Betrayal by Raquel V. Reyes
November 2023; Dreamscape Media; 9781666649765
audio (9h 1m), ebook, print; cozy mystery

Barbacoa, Bomba, and Betrayal
is the third book in Raquel V. Reyes's Caribbean Kitchen Mystery series. I didn't read book 1 in the series, but I did listen to book 2: Calypso, Corpses, and Cooking. However, I was momentarily confused when I started the audio of book 3 as I thought it was part of a different Caribbean culinary mystery series. 

I do not speak Spanish and I think this series, particularly the audiobooks, would be most enjoyed by bilingual readers. I appreciate that the Spanish isn't directly translated and it is easy enough to figure out what is being said from the context and some interpretation by the main character Miriam. What I struggled with was the names of the characters.

We are introduced to a number of characters as Miriam is on location in Puerto Rico for her cultural cooking show. The names are pronounced in the Spanish way, which is fine, but as I was listening to it and not seeing it in print I had trouble catching names (sometimes I wasn't sure if the person was saying a name or just saying something in Spanish, which added to the difficulty in keeping characters straight).

The story takes place during the 12 days of Christmas which follows Christmas Day. So we get Christmas and New Years, plus we get to see the 3 Kings celebrations that are popular in the Caribbean. I learned of this tradition when reading classic Christmas stories from around the world last year, so I was happy to get more information about it and see how it is celebrated in modern times.

If you are looking for Christmas celebrations without the cold and snow, then the sunny Caribbean setting of this cozy mystery is perfect for you.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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