Cozy Mystery Challenge 2010

I’ve completed the Cozy Mystery Challenge.

A  cozy mystery is a mystery that doesn’t normally have any rough language, sex scenes, or gruesome details about the killing, and the main character is normally an amateur detective.

The challenge: read at least  least 6 cozy mysteries between April 1st, 2010 and September 30, 2010. 

I read:

  1. Faithful Unto Death by Caroline Graham – finished April
  2. Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House by M C Beaton – finished May
  3. Revenge Served Cold by Jackie Fullerton – finished May
  4. Snapped in Cornwall by Janie Bolitho- finished May
  5. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie – finished July
  6. The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett – finished July
  • Most enjoyable: Death on the Nile.
  • The spookiest and most querky: Revenge Served Cold
  • The most frivolous: Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House
  • Cosiest: The Body on the Beach.

The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett: Book Review

The Body on the Beach is the first in Simon Brett’s Fethering Mysteries. It’s an easy read, a ‘cozy mystery’, set in a fictitious village on the south coast of England. Not a typical village as it has a large residential conurbation, but at its heart is the High Street, with its flint-faced cottages, dating back to the early 18th century. Radiating out from the High Street are a number of new developments, Victorian and Edwardian houses, bungalows, post-war council houses and a large private estate of huge houses backing on to the sea.

Carole Seddon has taken early retirement from her career at the Home Office to live there and as the book opens she is confronted by a new neighbour, Jude, who with her informality and casual approach to life breaks all the accepted local conventions. Carole views her with slight distaste. But when Carole is also confronted by the the discovery of a dead body on the beach, that has disappeared by the time the police go to investigate, she gradually accepts Jude’s help. Together they set about solving the mystery, which gets more complicated with the discovery of the body of a local lad.

This is an entertaining whodunnit which I liked well enough. It wasn’t too difficult to work out the identity of the first body and the culprit. I liked the contrast between Carole and Jude – Carole, set in her ways, reserved and conventional and the flamboyant, casual Jude. Despite her informality Jude reveals very little about her life and relationships, despite Carole’sefforts to get to know more about her.  I also liked the way Brett so convincingly describes the relationships between the different groups of Fethering’s residents.

There are 11 books in the Fethering series.  I’ve already read the fourth –  Murder in the Museum, so there are plenty more to read, the latest one being The Shooting in the Shop. The full list is in Wikipedia and Simon Brett also has a website.

Snapped in Cornwall by Janie Bolitho

Snapped in Cornwall by Janie Bolitho is a quick, light read in the ‘cozy mystery’ category. I had high hopes that this was going to be a really good book because the start sets the scene so well, but it didn’t quite meet my expectations and tailed off towards the end. Gabrielle Milton has recently moved to Gwithian in Cornwall, whilst Dennis, her husband spends his working week in a London flat. She employs Rose Trevelyan to photograph her house for her personalised Christmas cards. Rose, a photographer and artist is a widow in her forties, still recovering from the death of her husband four years earlier. When Gabrielle invites her to a party for old friends from London and the new people she’s met in Cornwall, even though the anniversary of her husband’s death is approaching Rose decides to go.

Dennis has been having an affair with Maggie. He wants to end the relationship but she doesn’t. The Cornwall house belongs to his wife and he is in danger of losing his job – his life is at a crossroads. He’s not pleased when Maggie turns up at the party. Also at the party are Paul, their son and his fiancee, Anna.  All in all, there’s an uncomfortable atmosphere, made worse as Paul and Anna are in the middle of an argument. Rose retreats into the garden where she finds Gabrielle’s body beneath the bedroom balcony. Why would anyone want to kill her? Was it her husband or his mistress?  Maybe it was her son or his fiancée who thought they would inherit the house, or maybe  it was Eileen Penrose, a local woman who thought her husband was having an affair with Gabrielle.

Rose finds herself drawn into the investigations, which brings her into contact with DI Jack Pearce. Inevitably relationships and secrets in the Milton family and the locals are gradually brought into the open, but the ending was rather predictable and straight forward. Nor was it surprising that Rose and Jack found themselves attracted to each other. Nevertheless the descriptions of Cornwall are good and it was the right book for a quick, easy read.

 This is the first book in Janie Bolitho’s series of mysteries featuring Rose Trevelyan, now published in an omnibus edition as The Cornish Novels.

Revenge Served Cold by Jackie Fullerton

Revenge Served Cold by Jackie Fullerton was kindly sent to me by the publishers, Thomas House Publishing. It’s her second book featuring Anne Marshall, a part-time court reporter and law student. I think it slots into the “cozy mystery” category, with the crime being solved by amateur sleuths rather than the police, who are always one step behind. If  there is a category for “paranormal crime fiction” that applies too. In some respects it reminded me of that TV series – Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), a remake with Vic Reeves of a 60s TV series about private detectives, one of whom was dead and appearing in a white suit could only be seen by his partner.

Anne’s father died three years earlier, and his ghost appears to her, helping her to solve crimes. She is the only person who can see him, although others can smell his pipe tobacco. The book begins with the death of Professor Elliot Spence, Anne’s law lecturer and her father’s former colleague, when a car apparently driven by Kathy, Elliot’s wife runs him down.

Kathy’s friend Shirley, who works with Anne at the law courts, convinces her of Kathy’s innocence and Anne together with her fellow law students start looking for evidence to prove it. Her father also helps, which really means that you have to suspend your disbelief in following everything that happens. As a ghost he is able to be at police interviews unseen, and report back to Anne thus giving her information she wouldn’t otherwise have and also send text messages on her phone. One thing  that made me pause for thought is that at one point he breathed a sigh – ghosts can’t breathe as far as can tell, but if I can accept his presence in the story I also have to accept that he can breathe and smoke and chat to Anne.

I found this a light and entertaining book and although I found the style stilted in parts, with too many short sentences and repetitive, it moves along at a rapid pace. Even though it was obvious early on who killed Elliot Spence there were enough plot twists and turns to hold my interest in the story to its dramatic ending.

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House

I’ve not been around much on my blog this week, time out for looking after grandchildren in Scotland for one thing. I have still been reading, though I didn’t take Wolf Hall away with me as I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate much on reading and Wolf Hall deserves that.

I read a much less substantial book – Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House by M C Beaton. I’ve only read one of her books before, Death of a Gossip, which I thought was awful. I decided to give her books another go as I know other people enjoy the Agatha Raisin series. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t enthralled by this book. It’s number 14 in the series, but I know a bit about the earlier books from an article in newbooks Crime Supplement, so it wasn’t difficult to follow. It’s definitely a ‘cozy’ mystery with three deaths for Agatha to resolve. An old woman reports that her house is haunted and is later found murdered. More deaths follow.

Agatha Raisin is an amateur sleuth and a very amateur one indeed. She blunders around and every now and then lands on something relevant. But this book is all rather silly and Agatha herself is a silly woman. It’s like reading an Enid Blyton book for not so very grown up adolescents, as she goes ga-ga over her new neighbour, Paul a married man, repeatedly changing her clothes and renewing her make-up to  catch his eye. Then there is the haunted house and a secret passage, reminding me of the Famous Five etc. For example she and Paul hide behind a hedge at dead of night keeping watch, stumble around in the garden trying to find the entrance to the secret passage and even worse, Agatha dressed up in a bright red wig and a long droopy tea-dress goes out at two in the morning to push a note through the police station door. I could go on … and  …. on.

So, a second book by M C Beaton hasn’t made me want to read any more.

Faithful Unto Death by Caroline Graham

 

Faithful Unto Death (Misomer Murders -€¦Faithful Unto Death by Caroline Graham is a Midsomer Murder Mystery. I’ve enjoyed watching the TV series over the years. Midsomer is obviously a dangerous place to live with all those murders happening so regularly, but they are not the gory kind – it’s murder of a sanitised nature. Inspector Barnaby is a genial character, although an astute detective, one who is not quite up to date with modern police methods but relies on intuition and thinking.

So I was a bit surprised reading this book that the characters are a bit different, especially Sergeant Troy who is nothing like the TV character. On TV Troy was a bit naive and usually didn’t have much of a clue about solving the murders, but a likeable chap who got on OK with Barnaby. Troy in the book is sharper, meaner, spiteful and inwardly critical of Barnaby. He’s insecure, resentful and sees any creative or intellectual prowess in others as a criticism of his own life.

Set in Fawcett Green, an unspoilt peaceful village the book begins with the disappearance of Simone Hollingsworth, soon followed by her distraught husband’s death, apparently suicide, then the disappearance of their neighbour’s daughter. Barnaby and Troy, with the doubtful assistance of the local policeman Constable Perrot work their way through interviewing the village’s inhabitants and gradually unravel the mystery.

It’s an entertaining and satisfying book, full of detail and clues as to the eventual outcome, which I did work out before the end. The characters stand out as real people, and are described with humour and empathy. I don’t remember seeing this on TV but reading about it online it seems it’s differed from the book, so that’s not too surprising. As in the TV version Barnaby is a patient, tolerant man,  also a bit grumpy and moody, who is trying and failing to lose weight, and who loves music. So many fictional detectives seem to like music and food!

This is the first Midsomer Murder mystery I’ve read and much as I like the TV series I prefer the book version – it has more bite and more substance. I’m taking part in the Cozy Mystery Challenge and although I’m still not too sure about the classification of “cozy” murder mysteries, I think this book can count as one.

Cozy Mysteries

When I saw the Cozy Mystery Challenge I wondered just would could possibly be ‘”cozy” about murder, after all “cosy” (as I prefer to spell it) means snug, warm and comfortable – a teacosy is meant to keep the teapot warm, a cosy cottage is small and welcoming. “Cozy” is not really the right word then for crime fiction.

Nevertheless there is a category of crime fiction with that label and I rather like reading them every now and then, along with police procedurals and historical crime fiction. As I found on the Cozy Mystery website cozy mysteries are those without  rough language, sex scenes, or gruesome details about the killing, and where the main character is normally an amateur detective. I like the puzzle-solving elements of that type of crime fiction rather than the noir realism of murder.

Sometimes I like to use reading challenges  to find new authors to read, but for this one I’m aiming to stick to books I already own and have been saving to read (in other words my to-be-read piles). The following are all on my shelves:

  1. Faithful Unto Death by Caroline Graham (Midsomer Murders)
  2. Asimov’s Mysteries
  3. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier
  4. An Agatha Christie – I have a few to choose from
  5. One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
  6. The Private Patient by P D James
  7. A Ruth Rendell – also a few to choose from

But then again, I shall be going to the library over the next six months (the period of this challenge) and could easily find other books to read.

I think I’ll start with Azimov’s Mysteries.

Is there a category of crime fiction labelled science fiction mysteries? I expect there is. Years ago my husband and I both read a number of science fiction books – Frank Herbert’s Dune series and E E ‘Doc’ Smith’s Lensmen  and Skylark books for example. And hidden amongst them on the shelves I came across one I haven’t read –  Asimov’sMysteries, which I think fits into this category and may very well be a cozy mystery too. It is described on the back cover as:

… thirteen fiendishly ingenious stories of crime, murder, puzzlement and detection in the far reaches of space and centuries in the future … a superb showcase of Dr Asimov’s brilliant storytelling talent.