|young Agatha Christie|
Woot! Woot! We have reached the half way point in our reading year. How are you enjoying your armchair travels so far? With the historic vote this past week in the United Kingdom, figured it is apropos for Sandy, our very own mumto2, who hails from England, to talk to us about British Village Cozy Mysteries.
When I first heard the title for my introduction week, I thought it would be easy because I love Miss Marple and have read many mystery series. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Cozy Mystery generally refers to a mystery that features an amateur sleuth who seemingly stumbles onto their mystery. The setting is frequently limited to a small geographical area, hence my village heading. The characters are normally likable, and there is a serious sprinkling of red herrings throughout the books. The books are generally not graphic either in terms of murder descriptions or adult content.
So my search for British Village Cozy Mysteries began. I felt pretty confident because I have been reading mystery series since my childhood obsession with Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon. The first thing I did was take a look at many lists of cozy books and start separating out those set in the United Kingdom. To my surprise many of the popular authors listed did not meet my graphic criteria because of violence (Elizabeth George and Stephen Booth) which was a bit of a concern for my project. I went through many lists and started ordering the first in many series from various libraries; then I started reading. I recently discovered that since joining BaW, I have read well over 100 British Cozy Mysteries according to the huge variety of lists available on the internet.
Some of my favorite lists are:
Criminal Element, starting with this article
Stop You’re Killing Me Newsletter’s list which can do counties
Over the course of my research, I came to the conclusion that my British sleuths have a hard time staying in one place and have an occasional tendency to swing to the more graphic side of things. Even Agatha Christie had some topics that I really wished she would have skipped when my 11 year old was reading them! I have put together an assortment of mystery series that to the best of my knowledge are as cozy as Christie because she is definitely the queen of the genre.
I have decided to let a few professionals mix with the amateurs if they have village settings because Christie had her share of Inspectors.
To start with we have the classic authors like Josephine Tey, and her Alan Grant Series, Ngaio Marsh and Patricia Wentworth. Dorothy Sayers is classic but not always cozy.
Then we progress to Catherine Aird’s long running series, Inspector Sloan, Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid, and Robert Barnard’s Perry Trethowan (adult topics in the first book) which features a policeman within village settings; at least some of the time.
Professional sleuths of a village variety also exist in M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth who never wants to leave his Scottish fishing village. The Welsh equivalent is Rhys Bowen’s Constable Evans who just wants to live in his village at the base of Snowden. Then there is G.M. Malliet’s Max Tudor, a former MI5 spy turned village vicar.
There are also numerous post-WWI cozies with woman who have turned to crime-solving after losing their significant others in battle. My favourites in this sub genre are Carola Dunn’s Daisey Darymple, Frances Brody’s Kate Shackleton, and Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs.
For someone looking for a more traditional village cozy mystery Simon Brett, Hazel Holt, Margaret Mayhew, Veronica Healy, Elizabeth J. Duncan,, and M.C. Beaton, all have series to choose from.
If you desire royal connections, Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen , C.A. Belmond’s Penny Nichols, and Sharyn McCrumb’s Elizabeth McPherson can offer some of those.
For a crime solving ghost try Aunt Dimity by Nancy Atherton. Or for a sweet widow of a crime lord who keeps moving house, try Mrs. Pargeter by Simon Brett.
A rather young sleuth is Flavia De Luce in Alan Bradley’s wonderful series.
For a truly odd cozy sleuth there is Suzette A. Hill’s Reverend Oughterard. He did it in the first book and apparently spends the rest of the series trying to cover up his crime!
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