Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Murder on the Half Shelf. It's the 6th Booktown mystery by Lorna Barrett. The series starts with  Murder is Binding. Tricia Miles owns a mystery bookstore in Stoneham, New Hampshire (a town dedicated to bookstores) and keeps finding dead bodies. Recipes are included.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Culinary Mystery

There is no love sincerer than the love of food. —–George Bernard Shaw

"Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort."
Norman Kolpas

There’s always been an interest in food, not only eating, but talking about it, reading about it, and watching it on television. Look at the popularity of The Food Network. They’ve even added another station dedicated to food-The Cooking Channel. You can find food related shows on many other stations as well. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the culinary mystery is one of the most popular cozy genres.

In order to be a true cozy mystery food and/or drink must be an integral part of the protagonist’s life. The protagonist may have a job revolving around food, or it may just be a hobby.  Many of these mysteries series feature shop owners: The Cheese Shop Mysteries by Avery Aames, The Tea Shop Mysteries by Laura Childs, The Hannah Swensen Mysteries by Joanne Fluke, or The Mystery a la Mode Series by Wendy Lyn Watson for instance. Some characters write about food: Carolyn Blue in The Culinary Food Writer series by Nancy Fairbanks or Hayley Snow in Lucy Burdette’s Food Critic Mysteries.

You may find a character who knows nothing about food, yet it fast becomes a prominent part of their life. Liver Let Die is the first in The Clueless Cook Mystery Series by Liz Lipperman. Journalist Jordan McAllister is completely clueless when it comes to food-she doesn’t even know what foie gras is-yet she agrees to cover for her newspaper’s culinary reporter. Jordan gets in over her head…and not only when it comes to writing her column. This book includes recipes as well as a great story. In addition to being a culinary mystery, this series could also fall into the humor genre.

It should be noted that many series include recipes, but they are not necessarily culinary mysteries.  Lorraine Bartlett includes recipes in her Victoria Square Mysteries, as does Maggie Sefton in her Knitting Mysteries.
It just goes to show how popular food is, and how important it is in all of our lives. After all, everyone has to eat!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


            Reading is a passion of mine. Delving into a book opens up a new and exciting world for me. While I read all sorts of books, fiction and nonfiction alike, my favorite genre is the mystery.
            The detective story, the who-dun-it?, the mystery has been a popular genre since the mid 1800s. People were fascinated as they read about C. Auguste Dupin who solved The Murders in the Rue Morgue written by Edgar Allen Poe in 1841. In 1868 Wilkie Collins published The Moonstone, whose detective was based on a member of Scotland Yard. The love of a good mystery has never died and those first stories are just as fascinating today as they were over a century ago.
            When it comes to the mystery there are several genres and even subgenres. At times, these subgenres even cross. The basic genres of the mystery novel are the hard boiled, the police procedural, and the cozy.
            The police procedural novel is self descriptive. The novel follows a police officer, or entire department, as he or she follow police procedure to solve the crime.
            The hard boiled mystery is the “tough guy” mystery. This genre was actually developed in the United States in the 1920s when pulp magazines were all the rage. A lot of times the protagonists are tough talking private investigators such as Sam Spade. In general, these books often depict graphic violence and don’t shy away from gore or sex. The hard boiled mystery shows us a gritty, dark, earthy world.
            The cozy mystery is a more gentle mystery. The hero or heroine is often an amateur detective, a regular person who stumbles onto a murder. She could be a soccer mom, a chef, a glassblower. She then gets involved in solving the murder, sometimes to save herself. Even when the hero is a professional, a private investigator or police officer, the cozy mystery has softer edges. It’s more of a puzzle, more cerebral, and oftentimes, more humorous.
            The cozy mystery has a multitude of subgenres. There are culinary mysteries, animal mysteries, craft mysteries, historical mysteries, gardening mysteries, paranormal mysteries, and more. There’s something for everyone. If you don’t believe me, try the Simon Kirby-Jones Mysteries by Dean Jones. The hero is a Southern gentleman who moves to the English countryside. He’s a writer who happens to be gay and a vampire. This series alone gives us 5 diverse subgenres: paranormal, Southern US, English Village, gay/lesbian, and writers!
I’ve noticed a recent trend in mystery novels. If you read several new mystery series you’ll discover a lot of them are what I call “How-To Mysteries”. No, they don’t tell you how to commit crimes or give tips on murdering people, but they will give information and how-to advice on almost any project or hobby you may have.
The How-To Mystery is still a mystery novel with plot, protagonists, victims, criminals, and such. Usually it will fall into the category of cozy mystery and the protagonist will generally be a professional or enthusiast of a certain hobby. It is this hobby about which the reader will learn. Are you in the mood to try a new hobby, but not sure if you really want to get involved? Perhaps you’d like some new techniques for a hobby you already pursue. If so, reading a mystery novel may be your answer.
How these tips are given differs. Usually readers will learn things in the storyline itself as the characters talk about and describe their hobby or work. The real How-To Mystery, however, will also set this information aside from the story. Sometimes the information is contained as one feature and placed at the end of the book, like an addendum. Other times the information is divided into smaller chunks and interspersed throughout the book. A lot of times these pieces will be placed between chapters, sometimes it’s right in the midst of the story itself.
The information available out there is as varied as the mysteries themselves. You can get gardening tips from many series including a Peggy Lee Gardening Mystery by Joyce and Jim Lavene. Need a new knitting or embroidery pattern?  Try a Needlecraft Mystery by Monica Ferris. The Soap Making Series by Tim Myers will give you information on soap making and The Bear Collector’s Mysteries by John J. Lamb will take you into the world of teddy bears and the artisans who create them.
So go ahead and try reading a How-To Mystery. You’ll not only enjoy the story, but learn some tricks of the trade as well. If TV shows like Law and Order or CSI are more your style, try a police procedural. Interested in the nitty gritty of crime? Go for that hard boiled story. Whatever your preference, whatever your interests, I’m sure there’s a mystery for you out there-just go find it!

This article was originally published by The Spartan Opinion as Anatomy of the Mystery Novel.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading A Deadly Grind by Victoria Hamilton. The book is the first in her Vintage Kitchen mystery series and it includes recipes. Jaymie Leighton collects vintage cookware and cookbooks in the fictional town of Queensville, Michigan. I've only just begun the book (no one's dead yet) but am thoroughly enjoying it so far.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cozy Up With Kathy

Join me as I explore the world of cozy mysteries. I plan on writing about many aspects of the genre-the different themes and hobbies, specific authors, how a series is progressing, and more. I hope to raise awareness of new authors as well as authors with new series. Are you looking for your favorite hobby featured in a book? I'll try to provide a good list. The content will be varied thus, hopefully, keeping your interest.

The blog will publish two posts a week. The Sunday post will be the main attraction while the Wednesday piece will be the weekly "Currently Reading" post. In this entry I'll share whatever book I'm currently reading. It may not always be a cozy may not even be a mystery. Perhaps you'll discover something new here and add what I'm currently reading to your pile of books to be read.

I hope you'll join me as I delve into cozy mysteries-finding new treasures as well as savoring those previously discovered.