Tag Archives: Mysteries

Resolve to Read 2018: A Mystery By a Person of Color or LGBTQ+ Author

As we mentioned here previously, we here at the Library are Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2018, and tackling both Book Riot’s and Scholastic’s 2018 Reading Challenges.  In the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Book Riot 2018 Read Harder Challenge
Category: A Mystery By a Person of Color of LGBTQ+ Author 

This is one of those great aspects of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge that actually makes you think…we all love and respect the #WeNeedDiverseBooks, which helps us recognize and celebrate diversity in children’s literature–but how diverse are the grown-up books I am reading?  Whose books are getting promoted in ads and book displays?  What can I do to change that?

You can start here, by trying out some of the sensational mysteries in this category of the Book Riot challenge.

The neat thing about these mysteries is the way they challenge their genres, by rethinking commonly-held assumptions, perceiving of characters and their relationships in new ways, and presenting a different view on the world than you might otherwise find in books that are more “mainstream” (“mainstream” in this case meaning “books that are readily advertised and often indistinguishable from their fellows based on premise and cover design alone).  So this is one of those challenges that helps you expand your literary and personal horizons by doing that which we all know you already love to do–read!  Here are just a few titles to get you started on your quest, but we’re always here to help you find more!

Wife of the Gods by Kwei J. Quartey:Detective Inspector Darko Dawson is a dedicated family man, a rebel in the office and an ace in the field.  When we first meet Dawson, he’s been ordered by his cantankerous boss to leave behind his loving wife and young son in Ghana’s capital city to lead a murder investigation: In a shady grove outside the small town of Ketanu, a young woman—a promising medical student—has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. Dawson is fluent in Ketanu’s indigenous language, so he’s the right man for the job, but the local police are less than thrilled with an outsider’s interference.  But Dawson’s past is also waiting for him in Ketanu in the form of the family he left behind twenty-five years earlier after his mother’s mysterious disappearance.  And in Delving deeper into the student’s haunting death, Dawson will uncover long-buried secrets that, to his surprise, hit much too close to home.  Quartey’s books are funny, insightful, and expertly-crafted, and offer the chance for armchair travelers everywhere to visit places in Africa that are not featured on any prime time specials.  Readers who enjoy this book will be delighted to hear that there is a whole series feature D.I. Dawson for you to enjoy!

Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon: With few other options, African-American classical musician Gethsemane Brown accepts a less-than-ideal position turning a group of rowdy schoolboys into an award-winning orchestra. Stranded without luggage or money in the Irish countryside, she figures any job is better than none. The perk? Housesitting a lovely cliffside cottage. The catch? The ghost of the cottage’s murdered owner haunts the place. Falsely accused of killing his wife (and himself), he begs Gethsemane to clear his name so he can rest in peace. Gethsemane’s reluctant investigation provokes a dormant killer and she soon finds herself in grave danger. As Gethsemane races to prevent a deadly encore, will she uncover the truth or star in her own farewell performance?   This is a terrific book about fishes-out-of-water, cultural clashes, music, and ghosts that, thankfully, is also the beginning of a winning series that continues Gethsemane’s adventures (misadventures?) in Ireland.

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan: This is a book that delves deeply into real-world atrocities, even as it spins a moving tale about trust, belonging, and truth-telling that makes for a hard-to-forget read.  Despite their many differences, Detective Rachel Getty trusts her boss, Esa Khattak, implicitly. But she’s still uneasy at Khattak’s tight-lipped secrecy when he asks her to look into Christopher Drayton’s death. Drayton’s apparently accidental fall from a cliff doesn’t seem to warrant a police investigation, particularly not from Rachel and Khattak’s team, which handles minority-sensitive cases. But when she learns that Drayton may have been living under an assumed name, Rachel begins to understand why Khattak is tip-toeing around this case. It soon comes to light that Drayton may have been a war criminal with ties to the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.  Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law, and uses actual eyewitness testimony to the massacre at Srebrenica  throughout the book, making for difficult, but vitally necessary reading.  This is also the first book in a series, so readers who find this hybrid kind of mystery will have plenty of fodder for further reading.

The Arnifour Affair by Gregory Harris: Those of you looking for a historical mystery, have no fear–Colin Pendragon’s adventures are sure to keep you enthralled.  When a carriage bearing the Arnifour family crest–a vulture devouring a slaughtered lamb–arrives at the Kensington home of Colin Pendragon, it is an ominous beginning to a perplexing new case. Lady Arnifour’s husband has been beaten to death and her niece, Elsbeth, left in a coma. Is the motive passion, revenge, or something even more sinister? Police suspicions have fallen on the groundskeeper and his son, yet the Earl’s widow is convinced of their innocence. Even as Colin and his partner Ethan Pruitt delve into the muddy history of the Arnifour family, a young street urchin begs their help in finding his missing sister. Ethan, regrettably familiar with London’s underbelly, urges caution, yet Colin’s interest is piqued.  The links between the two cases seems extraordinary, and yet, as Colin and Ethan journey across Regency London, from the slums to the highest echelons of society, they begin to unravel a secret larger and more complex than they ever imagined.  There is an air of Sherlock Holmes to these mysteries, but Harris revels in the complexities of his characters and their relationships far more than Doyle ever did, making this book (also, no surprise, the beginning of a series) a layered, complex, and wholly engaging one.

Until next time, dear readers, keep on keeping on, and enjoy your Resolution to Read!

Saturdays @ the South: Getting Cozy

Allow me to start with sincerest apologies for the lack of Saturdays @ the South last week. It is the first time since this column’s beginning over a year ago that it hasn’t appeared and I certainly hope it will be the last. In the meantime, let’s move forward with this week’s content (and, hopefully, your forgiveness…).


I’ve noticed that television seems to be getting mighty cozy lately. I don’t necessarily mean that TVs have gotten smaller (if anything TVs have gotten bigger…) or that they’ve gotten warmer, but they are showing more cozy mysteries. What exactly is a “cozy mystery,” and how is it different from any other mystery you might ask? A cozy mystery is a book that’s generally defined as a mystery where the person following the clues and solving the puzzle is an amateur sleuth (as opposed to a police detective or private investigator who do such things professionally). Another characteristic of the cozy mystery is that they consist mostly of “offstage” violence, meaning that even though a murder (or sometimes several) take place, the action of the murder doesn’t take place on the page. It’s referred to or stumbled upon, but not “seen” by the characters and, therefore, not by the reader, either. Lastly a cozy mystery usually involves an insular community where people usually know each other, either a small town or a specific neighborhood in a large town, so the murder is often considered more shocking or potent.

MV5BMTkwMjg2NzczNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzg5ODcyMQ@@._V1_UY268_CR3,0,182,268_AL_If any of these characteristics are ringing a bell to you, it could be because television gave us over a decade of a classic (though not derived from a book) cozy mystery: Murder She Wrote. Those who didn’t settle in after 60 Minutes on a Sunday night in the late ’80s and early ’90s are people unknown to me. Murder She Wrote has all the makings of a classic cozy mystery: an amateur sleuth (the inimitable and ever-classy Jessica Fletcher), offstage violence and an insular small town (the fictional Cabot Cove, ME, inspired by  real-life inlet in Kennebunkport, but actually filmed on the wrong coast in Mendocino, CA), though Jessica had to travel far and wide to keep solving crimes for 12 seasons. In many cases, cozy mysteries found on television or film are often based on books (as we shall see), but in this case, such was the love for Jessica  Fletcher that the TV series inspired a still-running series of books which can be found both in paper copies and in Overdrive as e-books.

It is usually the other way around, however, in which a book (or usually in the case of cozy mysteries, a series of books) inspires a TV series. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries are generally considered the birth of the cozy (and has had several iterations on television), but the genre has exploded into a massive number of sub-genres (including pet cozies, culinary cozies- with recipes!, crafting cozies, paranormal cozies, historical cozies and so. much. more), so there are *plenty* of cozies to choose from when it comes to adapting television scripts. If you’d like to get a sense of the variety of the cozy-mystery world, I highly recommend you check out http://www.cozy-mystery.com/, which in my opinion is THE source for all things cozy. While I find the pseudonymous Erin Martin who runs the site to have a broader definition of a cozy than traditionally used (she includes some gentler police procedurals like the South Branch favorite Death in Paradise, in her cozy TV roundup), there is no denying that she has created a comprehensive resource that is regularly updated and broken down in many searchable ways.


Cozies have graced the screen easily since the late 1970s, early 1980s when Murder She Wrote was in good company with the likes of Miss Marple, Father Brown based on G.K. Chesterton’s series, Lord Peter Wimsy based on Dorothy L. Sayers’s mysteries and many more, but lately, I’ve been seeing somewhat a resurgence. Perhaps it’s just that I’m noticing them more on television or maybe there’s a genuine uptick in production (is there a grant out there that will allow us to research this?), but I’ve found several book-to-TV cozies out there that I thought would be fun to share with you all.


This is a British import brought to our TV screens by PBS but was inspired by James Runcie’s Sidney Chambers mystery series. I am familiar only with the TV series (it was only until I was actually paying attention to the credits that I noticed they were based on books) but Grantchester is a delightful series that takes its 1950s setting and uses it to discuss some of the more pertinent issues of today (abortion, racism, domestic violence). Lest you think a cozy get too heavy, it is also about the Sidney Chambers, the local vicar who has a kindly nature, helps the locals and has a rewarding friendship with the town’s detective, but battles his own personal flaws as well, making him a more complex character than can often be seen in a genre that can, at times, feel cookie-cutter.

Photo Credit: Katie Yu/Crown Media - as used on http://www.soapoperanetwork.com
Photo Credit: Katie Yu/Crown Media – as used on http://www.soapoperanetwork.com

Murder She Baked

This is a Hallmark Movies and Mystery channel offering of several movies. Murder She Baked is based on Joanne Fluke’s bestselling Hannah Swenson mysteries in which a baker in a small town in Minnesota occasionally solves murders in her hometown. The series is fairy true to the text when it comes to adapting the books (so far: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Plum Pudding Murder and Peach Cobbler Murder with a new special A Deadly Recipe, based on the Fudge Cupcake Murder, on June 19th). This is a great way to see characters from a beloved series come alive and it has a great twist on the amateur sleuth angle. While Swenson is very capable in tracking down clues because she’s such an integral part of the town, the police investigators are not the bumbling screw-ups that one often finds such books. They are smart and capable and are often one step ahead of Hannah, she just happens to uncover one or two clues that the townspeople are otherwise unwilling to reveal to the police.

MV5BMjMwODYzMzAzMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTQ1MTk5MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Death Comes to Pemberley

This is another British export brought stateside by PBS, this miniseries is taken from PD James’s book of the same name. James (and the miniseries) takes the beloved characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and transports them six years after the action of Austen’s novel takes place. When Elizabeth’s disgraced sister Lydia returns crying that her husband has been murdered. it is Elizabeth Darcy (nee Bennett) who must look into the clues to prevent an execution. As someone who utterly adores Pride and Prejudice, I was hesitant to like this series, but the stellar acting and genuinely intriguing plot left me in suspense in all the right ways with a satisfying, but not too easy solution.

Aurora-Teagarden-Mystery-A-Bone-to-PickAurora Teagarden Mysteries

This is another TV movie series put on by the Hallmark Movies and Mystery channel. what was surprising about this series is not that it was adapted from books, but from who wrote these cozy mysteries. Charlaine Harris writes the Aurora Teagarden series, but she is better known for her other, considerably less-cozy paranormal Sookie Stackhouse mysteries that inspired the HBO series True Blood. Harris certainly proves that authors are in no way limited by their creativity and imaginations. In this series, Aurora Teagarden is a member of the Real Murders Club, in which amateurs study famous crimes, often gets herself involved in real murders taking place in her small town.

I hope this look into cozy mysteries currently or recently on TV has whet your whistle for the expansive genre both on TV and in books. There’s plenty more to choose from, so feel free to stop by the South Branch anytime to chat cozies! There are so many out there, you’re bound to find one that suits your tastes. Till next week, dear readers, whether you’re staying in and getting cozy or enjoying the beautiful weather, never forget the library is here to recommend books and much more!