Keep things warm with cozy mysteries

Keep things warm with cozy mysteries

I've mentioned before that novels can be separated into many genres. Most obvious are mysteries, westerns, romance, science fiction and fantasy.

But in these broad categories are found even further degrees of classification. In mysteries, you have police procedurals, espionage, romantic suspense, private eyes, whodunits and cozies.

Cozy mysteries typically involve an everyday person who comes across a crime and works to solve it, despite his or her amateur status. Sometimes, the police appreciate the help; sometimes, the police would prefer that the amateur stay away — far away! In cozy mysteries, you may find specific types of people, places or hobbies. For our purposes here, we're going to focus on amateurs with particular hobbies.

I am honored to present our first title, "Last Wool and Testament" by the Champaign Public Library's own Molly MacRae. In the first of her anticipated Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, we are introduced to Kath Rutledge, a fiber arts specialist and conservationist who travels to small town Blue Plum, Tenn., to take care of the affairs of her recently deceased grandmother.

Readers are quickly invested in the town's quirky characters and the happenings at The Weaver's Cat, the yarn shop her grandmother had owned.

I loved getting to know all of the characters, and this is the great appeal of this kind of mystery: strong and sympathetic character development with a clever mystery full of surprises. "Last Wool and Testament" is a perfect introduction to the cozies and will keep you reading long into the night.

For the rest of this column, I have listed a number of other series titles in the cozy mystery genre with a brief synopsis of characters and themes. This is not an exhaustive list, we're just breaking off the tip of the iceberg. The rundown:

— "Homicide in Hardcover" by Kate Carlisle, first in the Bibliophile Mysteries. Brooklyn Wainwright grew up on a commune with hippie Grateful Dead-loving parents. Brooklyn is a bookbinder, specializing in the restoration of old and valuable books. She attends a gala event only to find her mentor dead in his lab at the Covington Institute. She's followed, attacked, accused and ultimately saved by sexy Derek Stone, a private security officer.

— "Getting Old Is Murder" by Rita Lakin, first in the Gladdy Gold mysteries. This is one of a new genre of mysteries called "Geezer Lit." Don't complain to me; I didn't make this up! Gladdy Gold is a retiree in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She spends her time at early bird specials, gossiping at the pool and solving mysteries.

— "Buzz Off" by Hannah Reed, first in the Queen Bee Mysteries. Wisconsin native and newly divorced Story Fischer has a beekeeping business. The honey isn't the only thing sticky when her mentor winds up dead — from bee stings.

— "Sprinkle With Murder" by Jenn McKinlay, first in the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries. Melanie, Angie and Tate have always been best friends — beginning back in grade school. Now Tate is a silent partner in their new cupcake business, things get a little tricky. Things really get stirred up when Tate's annoying fiancee is iced.

— "Death By Sudoku" by Kaye Morgan, first in the Sudoku Mysteries. Liza Kelly used to be a bigwig in Hollywood. When things got too stressful, she pulled away and resettled in her childhood town, Maiden's Bay, Ore. A Sudoku puzzle fan, she found her calling creating puzzles and offering advice to amateurs in her town's newspaper. Secret messages found in a competitor's paper spells danger for both Liza and unsuspecting people around the country.

— "Larceny and Old Lace" by Tamar Myers, first in the Den of Antiquity Mysteries. Abby is the owner of a shop carrying antiques, rare treasures and collectibles. She puts her research experience to work when her Aunt Eulonia is found murdered and her collection of priceless lace is missing.

— "Slay It With Flowers" by Kate Collins, part of the Flower Shop Mysteries. Abby Knight flunked out of law school and bought a lovely flower shop located in the town square of New Chapel, Ind. She has a way of nosing around and getting involved in criminal activity, which gets hazardous when her engaged cousin finds one groomsman has disappeared and another ends up dead. Sexual tension abounds when the studly local bar owner warns her to stay out of danger.

So curl up on one of these cold nights by the fire and get to know some interesting — and meddling — characters.

Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.