Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cozying Up for a Winter Night (or Weekend)

Why don't mystery reviewers tackle cozy mysteries more often? Maybe it's that "paperback original" format -- it's really, really hard to spend a couple of evenings reading a softcover and still have the book in "as new" condition for the shelf! At least, that's what I'm telling myself as I look ruefully at two enjoyable 2010 mysteries that I've savored on the couch and at my pillow. They definitely look "well read."

So I may have to swap them with my sister!

That's okay -- I had a really good time with both of them.

The first is from Krista Davis and is a lively tribute to family and neighborhood antics during the Christmas holidays. It's THE DIVA COOKS A GOOSE -- which is actually the least of what goes on in the kitchen at Sophie Bauer's house from Christmas eve until the New Year. There are a few yummy recipes at the back of the book, but my stomach growled in most of the scenes, which featured marvelous meals and lush desserts. And oh yes, crime, including robbery, assault, and (sob!) murder. "The Diva" is Sophie, who has a domestic advice column. But it's also her rival Natasha, and the first victim, Bonnie, who wants to outdo both of them. Playing supporting roles are three cats, a dog, and some great kids. By the time Sophie realizes what the real motives are behind the murder, the theft of a neighborhood's Christmas gifts, and the odd activities of a couple of fathers of grown children, she's put herself into danger more than once. And there's snowy weather to contend with, too, despite the book's location in the DC area. But decisiveness and persistence are on her side, and the book is a fun romp. By the time I finished, I'd had some good chuckles and had developed a serious and enduring longing for a (Southern) ham biscuit. Recipes welcome.

My second in this binge of merriment was the latest from Sheila Connolly, whose third mystery series begins with FUNDRAISING THE DEAD. The title's a bit misleading -- there's no raising of the dead, and no hitting up spirits for donations. Instead, it refers to protagonist Eleanor "Nell" Pratt, director of development for a Philadelphia historical society. When Nell discovers that valuable (and sometimes not even catalogued yet!) items from the society's collection have gone steadily missing, she has a multi-million-dollar problem on her hands -- one that the elegant Charles Elliott Worthington, president of the group and occasional lover of Nell's -- doesn't seem eager to solve. Or even discuss. Luckily, Marty Terwilliger, descended from so much old Philadelphia and current wealth that she can afford to be direct and smart, is there to nudge Nell along through discoveries, including hunting the thief and discovering a killer along the way. The first few chapters are overloaded with explanations, but the action and humor soon cut in, and I avoided a lot of needlessly repetitive housework because I wanted to know the rest of the story, as soon as possible. The belly laughs that caught me several times in the second half of the book are sure to keep me healthy throughout the season! This is a good paperback to tuck into your suitcase if you're headed home for a visit ... instant escape and enjoyment, without any need for batteries.

A bit of extra info: Davis's Domestic Diva series includes three earlier titles: The Diva Runs Out of Thyme, The Diva Takes the Cake, and The Diva Paints the Town. The author's website adds more cooking tips, too. Connolly already has three Orchard Mysteries, as well as her Glassblowing Mysteries under the pen name Sarah Atwell; her website is pretty far behind, a good clue that she's spent most of her time lately writing, as well as stepping into responsibilities at Sisters in Crime.

No comments: