Category Archives: Cozy Mystery

The Book Whisperer Discovers a New-to-Her Cozy Author


Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh, endures a year of mourning for an unfaithful husband. When the mourning ends, she throws off her black clothing and heads for London, shedding not only the clothes of mourning, but also the crumbling mansion that now belongs to the second son, Graham and his wife Delia. With her young daughter Rose, Frances takes a long-term lease on a house in Belgravia, part of London.

As a mystery lover and a cozy mystery lover to boot, I enjoy discovering new authors as well as relying on my long-time favorites.  In a recent article, I read about Dianne Freeman whose new series stars an amateur sleuth, Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh.  The first book is A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, published in 2018 and the second book is A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, published in 2019.

Frances is a bit taken aback when she discovers George Hazelton, brother to her best friend Fiona, is her next-door neighbor. She and George and Alicia Stoke-Whitney share a dark secret they wish to keep in the dark.

Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh, endures a year of mourning for an unfaithful husband. When the mourning ends, she throws off her black clothing and heads for London, shedding not only the clothes of mourning, but also the crumbling mansion that now belongs to the second son, Graham and his wife Delia. Frances is enjoying her freedom in London when she discovers her mother in America is sending Frances’s younger sister Lily and their aunt Hetty to live with Frances so that Frances can sponsor Lily for the season. The story heats up when Inspector Delaney visits Frances and tells her that her husband’s death is being investigated as a possible murder. Frances is certain he died of a heart attack, but is that accurate? To make matters worse, Graham is suing Frances to keep the money Frances’s father bestowed upon her when she married Reggie, Graham’s older brother. The suit freezes Frances’s bank account, at least temporarily. Could the plot worsen? read A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder to discover the whole story.

Frances is herself an American. Her upwardly climbing and wealthy mother sought a title for her daughter so she herself would have bragging rights. She and Frances knew little about Reggie Wynn when the marriage was arranged. Frances soon found herself having to pretend she knew nothing of Reggie’s unfaithful ways. When her daughter Rose is born, Frances focuses on the child. Now, Lily is coming to London to marry another titled Englishman.

Frances vows to help Lily make a better choice than she herself made in marrying Reggie. Other complications will take part of her concentration, however.

Dianne Freeman has written compelling characters who command attention and the plot is complicated enough to remain interesting without being over the top.

Freeman’s blog,, provides readers with a brief biography and an introduction to the books as well as a readers’ guide. For her blog, Freeman interviews other authors and she gives insight into some of her minor characters as well.


The Book Whisperer Reviews a Cornish Mystery


Carola Dunn,, lives in the US now, but she grew up in England. She has written over sixty books, primarily set in her native land. I discovered Manna from Hades: A Cornish Mystery when I visited Cornwall last year. The information on the back of the book made me wish to read the story, especially having visited Cornwall. Port Maybn, the setting for the story, is, according to Ms. Dunn, very like Port Isaac. The day we spent in Port Isaac was magical (as was most of the trip!); it is the setting for the mythical Port Wen, home of Doc Martin.

Eleanor Trewynn, a widow, has returned to live in Port Mabyn, Cornwall, after living all over the world with her husband. These days, she has retired and has funded a charity shop, LonStar, in the village. She leaves the running of the shop to Jocelyn Stearns, the vicar’s bossy, but very efficient, wife. Eleanor collects donations across the area using her little Morris Minor she has named the Incorrigible. Eleanor and Teazle live above the charity shop in an apartment created when Eleanor had the shop built.

Of course, Teazle, Eleanor’s West Highland Terrier, is her constant companion on the road, on walks, and at home. After a very successful day of collecting donations for LonStar, Eleanor and Teazle return home to unload the car. Eleanor discovers a leather attaché case that she has no memory of collecting, but there it is.

After unloading the car and putting all the donations into the stockroom, Eleanor opens the attaché case to discover it full of jewelry. She thinks it must be paste, or costume jewelry, but she cannot be sure, so she takes the jewelry out of the case and puts it away in the small safe she had secreted into the wall in her apartment. She plans to have the jewelry evaluated to see if it is valuable.

Now, readers must learn some particular quirks about Eleanor: she tends to forget where she has put her keys, forgets to lock up the LonStar shop, forgets to lock her car, and forgets to lock the door to her apartment which is upstairs from the LonStar charity shop. Since her car was unlocked while she was inside a home picking up donations, someone unknown to her put the attaché case full of jewels into her car. This forgetfulness will also be a hallmark in the story.

The next day after finding the jewelry, Eleanor discovers the body of a young man in the storeroom and the attaché case is missing. The young man has apparently hit his head on a rather odd coffee table donation; the coffee table looks like a dolphin.

Is the young man the victim of an accident or is he a murder victim? Eleanor must call the local police to investigate. As it happens, Eleanor’s niece Megan Pencarrow is a junior detective on the police force. DI Scumble will be the officer in charge of the investigation. DI Scumble is a rather impatient, misogynistic man who is not too happy to discover that Megan is Aunt Nell’s niece, but he needs Megan on the case, despite his mistreatment of her and his impatience with everyone.

Artist Nick Gresham has a small apartment, studio, and shop near LonStar. He often helps Eleanor unload her car when she returns from her donation gatherings. Eleanor would like to see Nick and her niece Megan form a relationship, but she keeps that wish to herself.

The jewelry turns out to be real and expensive. The young man appears to have been murdered, so the police must interrogate everyone in the area, especially those involved with the charity shop. The suspects continue to mount up as the investigation continues. Then Megan breaks the case open by discovering the dead man’s identity and also finds some people who had been living in squats with him in a nearby town.

Manna from Hades is a story to keep the reader guessing. It also introduces delightful characters whom the readers will enjoy getting to know. Other books in the series include A Colourful Death, Valley of the Shadow, and Buried in the Country.




The Book Whisperer Discovers Charles Todd & Inspector Rutledge


CatherineTarrant tells Inspector Ian Rutledge that “you aren’t afraid until you’ve got something to lose. But when you love someone or something, you’re terrified – there’s so much at stake, then, so much at risk, you see….” Catherine’s statement becomes pivotal in Rutledge’s investigation into Colonel Charles Harris’s murder. A Test of Wills marks the first in the Inspector Rutledge series by mother/son duo Charles and Caroline Todd, writing as Charles Todd.

As noted before in this blog, I do love a good series. A series allows the authors to grow as writers. Another advantage is that the characters also develop fully as the series continues. Many books in a series can be read as stand-alone books. The plots are not intertwined and the newest book does not depend on the previous book for the readers to understand what is happening. However, reading the books in order does allow readers to see the characters’ growth. Occasionally, readers may also find references to past stories.

I have had a Charles Todd book on my TBR list for some time. On a recent visit to the library, I discovered my local library had A Test of Wills, the first in the Inspector Rutledge series, so I checked it out.

A Test of Wills takes place in 1919, following WWI. Inspector Rutledge has just returned to work at Scotland Yard following a rehab after the war. He still battles Hamish, a dead soldier who haunts him and taunts him. Rutledge must constantly work to keep Hamish at bay because of Hamish’s interference and negative comments.

Superintendent Bowles does not like Inspector Rutledge and hopes to see Rutledge discredited and fired from the force at Scotland Yard. As a result, Bowles sends Rutledge on a nearly impossible mission, one that Bowles hopes will completely disgrace Rutledge and even cause a scandal. The mission is to solve the murder of Colonel Charles Harris which occurred in the village of Warwickshire.

Colonel Harris’s murder has been brutal: a shotgun blast severed his head from his body as he rode his horse in the countryside near his estate. Rutledge discovers the villagers distrust him since he comes from London, so Rutledge must win their trust in order to solve the murder. Rutledge must piece together bits of information until he can see the whole puzzle laid out before him. Unfortunately, the pieces do not come in sequence, so he has blank spots to fill.

Rutledge interviews villagers, servants, and friends; all of them say that Colonel Harris was a good, kind man whom everyone loved. Rutledge comments, “Yet someone murdered him.” The most obvious suspect is Captain Mark Wilton, pilot and war hero, who is engaged to Lettice Wood, Charles Harris’s ward. Why would Wilton kill Harris, though? The men are good friends and both have been happy about the engagement.

Still, servants overhear a heated argument between Wilton and Harris following dinner the night before Harris is murdered. What have the two long-time friends argued about? How much does Lettice know about the argument? Rutledge runs into road blocks in questioning both Lettice and Mark. Neither is keen to talk about the argument. The servants can only say they heard raised voices, but could not understand what was being said.

Other villagers may also have motive, but several of them have alibis that Rutledge verifies. In addition to the pressure from everyone in the village, Rutledge faces pressure from Bowles and Scotland Yard to solve the murder. If he accuses Captain Wilton, a decorated war hero, Rutledge will face censure from the Crown as well as Bowles. Of course, readers know that’s exactly what Bowles wants since the accusation will discredit Rutledge.

Dogged perseverance allows Rutledge to keep seek information and putting the information together to find the killer. Is it Wilton? Is it Mavers, the loud, obnoxious villager who spews venom at everyone in the village? Or is it someone else? Will the key lie in the argument between Wilton and Harris the night before Harris’s death? Or is another reason the cause of the murder. Read A Test of Wills to discover who kills Colonel Charles Harris and to discover if Rutledge continues as inspector.

Charles and Caroline Todd write the Inspector Rutledge series together. The series now numbers 36 books. The two also write another series starring Bess Crawford, a battlefield nurse; those books now number 10 in the series. Bess Crawford has been compared to Jacqueline Winspear’s Masie Dobbs, a favorite character, so I look forward to reading one of the Bess Crawford books as well.


Caroline Todd earned a BA in English literature and history with a master’s in international relations. Charles Todd has a BA in communication studies, emphasizing business management and a culinary arts degree. Both Todds credit listening to “fathers and grandfathers reminisce” for their story-telling skills.

Read about both Todds and their books at this site:

The Book Whisperer Reviews a Favorite!


I enjoy reading books in a series. One of my favorite series is by Alexander McCall Smith, a prolific writer of books in a series as well as stand alone books. I await the latest installment of the #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books with great anticipation. The most recent book is The Colors of All the Cattle, book 19 in the series.

As usual, the story is slow-paced and, although a mystery, does not involve gruesome murders. Instead, like the other books in the series, Precious Ramotswe and her team focus on helping people resolve relatively small problems. One of the incidents the #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has taken in The Colors of All the Cattle does involve a violent hit and run which resulted in severe injuries to Dr. Marang, a man from Mochudi, Mma Ramotswe’s home village.

To complicate matters, Mma Ramotswe’s good friend Mma Potokwane, who oversees the orphanage, persuades Mma Ramotswe to run for political office to become a member of the council. The only other candidate is the infamous Violet Sephotho, a frequent nemesis in the stories. Sephotho favors the building of a large new hotel next to the cemetery.

Mma Potokwane and Mma Ramotswe do not wish to see such a large and potential noisy hotel built where people go to mourn their late relatives.  At first, Mma Potokwane does persuade Mma Ramotswe to stand for office as an independent. The meeting of the group which includes Mma Potokwane, Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, Mr. Polopetsi, Fanwell, and Charlie gives readers a few chuckles. Charlie insists on being literal when Mma Potokwane calls the meeting to order. Charlie maintains everything is in order.

When Mma Potokwane explains the “call to order” simply means the meeting will begin, Charlie wonders why she simply didn’t say that. The meeting digresses for a bit before the business is actually underway. Of course, Mma Makutsi despises Violet Sephotho and wants to write a scathing statement for Mma Ramotswe agains Sephotho.

Longtime readers will recognize that Mma Ramotswe allows Mma Makutsi to vent about Violet and then Mma Ramotswe gently turns the conversation. Mma Ramotswe will not make promises she cannot keep while Violet continues to promise everything from jobs to higher wages to better streets, all items she would not be able to accomplish.

Charlie works for Mr. J.L.B. Matekon, Mma Ramotswe’s husband, in the garage, but Charlie is also an apprentice to Mma Ramotswe in the detective agency. Charlie realizes he knows Eddie, a friend from school days in Mochudi. Eddie works for his uncle repairing cars that have been damaged in accidents. Charlie wants to ask Eddie if he can help locate the owner of the blue car that hit Mr. Marang and left him so badly injured.

That idea is a good one until someone throws a brick through the window of Charlie’s uncle’s home where Charlie rents a room. The brick could have hit the uncle’s two children who were playing in the room at the time. Charlie rightly feels threatened, so Mma Ramotswe invites him to stay in her home for a time. Mma Ramotswe realizes that Charlie has attempted to blackmail Eddie in an effort to get information. That effort has not yielded the information Charlie hoped to gain.

Mma Ramotswe in her wisdom understands that Charlie is trying. She advises him to “never, never think that you are justified in doing something wrong just because you are trying to do something right.”

In the end, all comes right as one expects in the #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency stories, and that is one characteristic I like about the stories! Other characteristics to like include the continuing growth of the characters as well as the introduction of new characters even if for one book only. Mma Ramotswe continues to be guided by Clovis Andersen’s book The Principles of Private Detection and her own good common sense.

Alexander McCall Smith has developed a robust Web site where readers can find information about all of his books and read a monthly story:

Some of my favorite quotes from previous books include the ones which follow below:

From In the Company of Cheerful Ladies: “A life without stories would be no life at all.”

From The Good Husband of Zebra Drive: “And if there’s bad behaviour,” Mma Potokwane went on. “If there’s bad behaviour, the quickest way of stopping it is to give more love. That always works, you know. People say we must punish when there is wrongdoing, but if you punish you’re only punishing yourself. And what’s the point of that?”


The Book Whisperer Asks, Need a New Cozy Series?


I am a fan of cozy mysteries and enjoy reading books in a series. A series gives an author an opportunity to develop the main character and minor characters who reappear in the stories. I like the familiarity of the known characters. Innovative authors keep me returning to their series by keeping the stories fresh. When Don, my friend and fellow reader, suggested I read the Diva series by Krista Davis, I immediately requested from the library The Diva Runs Out of Thyme, the first in the series.

For readers who like whodunits in which everyone, even the main character, is a suspect and food is an essential part of the story, then The Diva Runs Out of Thyme will provide a good book to cozy up with on a cold winter’s night.

I started reading The Diva Runs Out of Thyme on Saturday after Thanksgiving, not realizing the story takes place at Thanksgiving. I enjoyed the references to the foods Sophie Winston, the main character, serves her family and friends on Thanksgiving — and the story contains many references to the food!

Sophie Winston, divorced from Mars, lives alone with shared custody of their dog Daisy. Mars now has a new girlfriend, Natasha, Sophie’s high school rival. Sophie works as a successful event planner. Natasha has a Martha Stewart-like show on a local cable channel. Sophie cooks for her events and decorates beautifully if somewhat low-key. On the other hand, Natasha goes over the top for everything.

Sophie in her last-minute rush to the grocery store for Thanksgiving food supplies encounters a man who is trying to give away a kitten, an Ocicat, in fact. Sophie waves the man away and hurries into the store. Even while she shops for the groceries, however, Sophie cannot stop thinking about the tiny kitten. When she puts her groceries in her car, she sees the banana box that held the kitten; it is sitting on the hood of a car.


Surely, the man did not abandon the kitten in the box in the cold, but there the kitten is, shivering. Then Sophie notices something else even more sinister, blood. When she looks into the dumpster, she sees the man she had encountered earlier, clearly dead, at the bottom of the dumpster.

Sophie calls 911 and the police and an ambulance arrive quickly. During the interrogation, Sophie meets Detective Wolf Fleishman. Sophie’s groceries are put into the store’s refrigerated unit; Sophie’s car is impounded by the police. After being taken the police station for further questions, Sophie is taken home. Later, Detective Fleishman brings her groceries along with some food for the kitten which Sophie has now rescued.

The story becomes more and more complicated when another death occurs at a hotel where Sophie, Natasha, and others are competing in a stuffing recipe contest. And who finds the body? Sophie, of course!

Food, murders, stalking, and intrigue all figure into The Diva Runs Out of Thyme. Sophie’s neighbor Nina becomes a sleuth with Sophie to ferret out Natasha’s stalker and the peeping tom of the neighborhood as well as finding out who committed the murders.

Krista Davis, an animal lover, has pictures of her various rescue pets on her Web site:

On the Web site, readers will learn about other books by Krista Davis. The Diva series will soon add its twelfth book in a 2019. Other series include the Pen & Ink and the Paws & Claws mysteries.

Davis also includes recipes for both humans and animals on the Web site. Find the recipe for this lucious orange-soaked bundt cake on the site.


Below, see a picture of The Diva Runs Out of Thyme sold in Japan.



The Book Whisperer Is Not Thrilled by This Cozy Mystery


Jenn McKinlay,, has written nearly forty books including romantic comedy, Library Lover’s Mysteries, Cupcake Mysteries, London Hat Shop Mysteries, Good Buy Girls Mysteries under the name Josie Belle, and Decoupage Mysteries under the name Lucy Lawrence. McKinlay has a loyal following.

McKinlay receives a great deal of praise with terms like “exuberantly entertaining,” “tender cozy full of warm and likable characters,” and “a deliciously thrilling mystery.” Sadly, I am not a fan. Death in the Stacks is the second in the Library Lover’s Mysteries. Amateur sleuth and full-time librarian Lindsey Norris has promised herself and her boyfriend Sully, a tour boat captain, that she will no longer get mixed up in solving murders. That’s because she nearly dies in Hitting the Books, the first in the series as readers learn in Death in the Stacks.

When I see books set in libraries and bookstores, I am always willing to give them a chance. Some live up to expectation while others do not. The dialogue in Death in the Stacks tries too hard. Far too many puns appear in the conversations with characters trying to out-pun one another. Puns form terrific humor in small doses.

Another flaw in the book lies in too many characters. Keeping track of who does what becomes difficult. The romantic entanglements in the book are stilted and don’t ring true to me.

Death in the Stacks begins when Lindsey finds Olive Boyle, newly elected library board president, sitting at Lindsey’s desk using her phone and holding up a finger as if to say, “Wait!” Lindsey is chagrined, but she maintains her composure, interested in what Olive will say about being in the office.

Readers soon learn Olive is a vindictive and hateful cow. Although the library board acts in an advisory capacity since the town council really regulates the library, Olive is under the impression that she is in charge. She wants the library staff to wear black and white uniforms as if they are servers in a restaurant. She wants Paula, one of the staff members fired because Paula has tattoos and purple hair. Olive also hints that Paula has a criminal past.

Olive is the kind of bull that carries its own china shop around. She noses into everyone’s business and discovers people’s secrets in order to control them and get what she wants. At the biggest fund raiser of the year, dinner in the stacks at the library, Olive is stabbed to death in the library stacks near the end of the evening when most people have left. Paula discovers the body and even picks up the knife. Obviously, she is the killer because Olive has wanted her fired and has publicly announced that fact.

Right? Of course, that would mean the end of the book on page 69 at the beginning of chapter 8 and we have 17 chapters to go. Clearly, too, Lindsey must get involved in solving the murder along with her friend Robby, the British TV and movie star.

The Library Lover’s Mysteries continues with seven more volumes currently. For those who want a cozy, quick mystery, Death in the Stacks will fit the bill.