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A Cozy Mystery Writer’s Guide to The Pleasures of Domesticity


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Spring in New Hampshire is slow to arrive, with warm stretches rudely interrupted by a return to winter complete with snow flurries and blustery winds. How do we survive six slow and endless months of frigid weather, you might ask, each and every year? One answer is that we turn our focus to interior pursuits, to the pleasures of life at home. Last spring, the entire nation joined us as people sought comfort, meaning, and face it, the need for something to do during their own forced isolation.

Looking for ideas to while away the hours? The cozy mysteries I discuss below have you covered. Besides savoring the puzzling plots, mystery fans enjoy learning more about a subject of interest, often related to the home sphere. For example, my Apron Shop books feature Downeast Maine meals and a celebration of vintage aprons. Aprons are ideal for protecting clothing and holding supplies while cooking, crafting, or turfing out closets, by the way.

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The Bread Shop Mystery Series by Winnie Archer

Dough or Die, the Bread Shop Mystery series, by Winnie Archer (Kensington) couldn’t have a more appropriate title. Among the first pandemic shortages—besides toilet paper—were flour and yeast. I’m a serious baker and their scarcity really hit home, forcing me to scour the Internet and even appeal to King Arthur Flour (who recommended making sourdough. Don’t ask.)

This charming series features a bakery called Yeast of Eden, located in small town Santa Sofia, California. Main character and baking apprentice Ivy Culpepper firmly believes in the healing power of handcrafted bread, asserting that Yeast of Eden’s loaves are infused with “some kind of magic.” Judging by the run on flour, many people agree. Nothing conveys comfort quite like the smell of bread baking in the oven. Dough or Die, which features bread traditions from around the world, is a worthy accompaniment while you wait.

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A Crafter Quilts A Crime, Holly Quinn

As might be expected, staying at home spurred a rise in handcrafts. They’re fairly inexpensive to dabble in plus offer a nice balance of challenge and relaxation. For readers looking to immerse in the world of crafting, Holly Quinn’s series is the right choice. Set in a craft store in Wisconsin, the first three in the series provide a close look at a specific area of interest—knitting, crocheting, and quilting. A Quilter Crafts A Crime (Crooked Lane), is set in January, which makes curling up with this book a cozy excursion back into winter Wisconsin. There are plenty of roaring fires, hot drinks, and handmade mittens to keep you warm.

Another, perhaps unintended, side affect of staying home was the realization that wow, we sure have a lot of junk. In our little town, the transfer station had to crack down on nonresidents trying to offload tons of discarded stuff. After a few weeks of boredom, people apparently discovered the appeal of cleaning out closets. Interest in redecorating is also surging, with a recent poll reporting that 70% of Americans plan to redecorate this year. Time to paint those four walls we’ve been staring at.

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Mary Feliz’s Maggie MacDonald series

Mary Feliz’s Maggie MacDonald series is a solid source of inspiration for creating a streamlined space. Featuring a professional organizer, these books also offer organizing tips and tricks. As Mary says, “The trick for me is to break projects into manageable five-minute chunks. I can stop and start again later without becoming overwhelmed.” She also recommends a sorting method. “I’m a huge fan of those big paper lawn trash bags with the flat bottoms that stand up on their own. Take four and label them: Garbage, Donate, Keep, Recycle.” Snowed Under (Lyrical Underground), involves organizing and staging a Lake Tahoe ski cabin. A delightful setting, not withstanding the body Maggie discovers in a snow bank.

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Fatal Fried Rice, Vivien Chien

During the past year, take-out became even more of a thing as restaurants shifted away from in-person dining. And what could be better on a lazy evening than a sack of Chinese food and a copy of Vivien Chien’s Fatal Fried Rice (St. Martin’s Press)? Chien’s series, featuring witty sleuth Lana Lee, manager of the Ho-Lee Noodle House, is always superb. Lana is now in charge of the family restaurant but, believe it or not, she doesn’t know how to cook. Her attempt at covertly taking lessons ends, of course, in murder. The cooking tips and food descriptions sprinkled throughout will have readers reaching for their phones to place an order. Or for the more adventurous among us, looking for online recipes to try.

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A Pairing to Die For, Kate Lansing

Finally, what could be more perfect to smooth the rough edges of forced isolation than a glass of wine from a local winery? Not only will you be enjoying a quality beverage, you will be supporting a small business. Kate Lansing’s Colorado Wine series features a micro-winery in gorgeous Boulder, Colorado. In A Pairing to Die For (Berkley), you’ll learn how the right wine enhances a meal—while engrossed in a twisty mystery. Winemaker Parker Valentine’s chef boyfriend is accused of murder, and it’s up to her to find the killer. Like Parker says, finding someone who complements you might be a pairing worth dying for.

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Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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