Sunday, March 27, 2011

The 7 Best Cozy Mystery Series

The "cozy mystery" sub-genre initially emerged and exploded into popularity during the late 20th-century. In cozy mysteries, an amateur sleuth attempts to solve a murder that is usually executed by relatively "mild" terms, such as death by poison, or a staged accident.

Cozy mystery novels are often rich in humor, lack the gory and bloody police-procedural details, and have an ongoing theme in which the hero or heroine run a specialized business or have a unique hobby - such as owning their own bakery or bookstore business, or even being a wine connoisseur.

In most cases, the amateur sleuth enlists the help of a local detective or policeman to help them solve the crimes and nail the killers.

Cozy mysteries have generated quite the following in recent years - after all, not only are most cozy mysteries humorous, but as you read through the series, you'll find yourself growing quite personal with the characters and their backgrounds!

After having read hundreds and hundreds of novels throughout the years, I've made a list of my all-time favorite cozy mystery series. Nearly all the books in each of these series are guaranteed to please! Give them a try - I promise you won't regret it!

1) Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin is a cynical, testy woman in her 50s who moves from London to the Cotswolds after retiring from the public relations business. The brash, outspoken, and chain-smoking Agatha is endlessly jealous of other women, and is always on the hunt for a new sexual conquest. However, when it comes to protecting her local neighbors from murderers, Agatha's got a big heart, and always manages to step in to unmask killers before they strike again.

Most of the characters in this series find Agatha annoying, which makes the series hilarious. As a reader, you can't help but laugh and admire her. There are currently 30 books in the Agatha Raisin series, starting with Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (1992).

Here are the first four books in the Agatha Raisin series.

The Quiche of Death: The First Agatha Raisin Mystery
The Vicious Vet: An Agatha Raisin Mystery (Book 2)
The Potted Gardener: An Agatha Raisin Mystery (Book 3)
The Walkers of Dembley: An Agatha Raisin Mystery (Book 4)

2) Hamish MacBeth series by M.C. Beaton

Hamish MacBeth is an intelligent (though very lazy) easy-going policeman in the sleepy Scottish town of Lochdubh, who prefers to tend sheep than solve crimes. Lucky for the Lochdubh townspeople, Hamish is a whiz at solving crimes, but fails to shake is reputation as the village idiot. Despite his facade, the humble Hamish is quite the ladies man and is constantly having to fend off women.

Each book in this series is short, fun, and immensely enjoyable - everything a cozy should be. There are currently 34 books in the Hamish MacBeth series, starting with Death of a Gossip (1985).

Here are the first four books in the Hamish MacBeth series.

Death of a Gossip (Hamish Macbeth Mysteries Book 1)
Death of a Cad (Book 2)
Death of an Outsider (Book 3)
Death of a Perfect Wife (Book 4)

3) Coffeehouse series by Cleo Coyle

Clare Cosi is a successful barista who runs her own coffeehouse in Greenwich Village, New York. Clare shares her coffee business with her handsome, sexy, womanizing ex-husband Matteo Allegro, but also has amazing chemistry with the local detective, who helps her solve the murders that Clare is always stumbling into - literally. You can always count on sparks to fly between the members of this on-and-off-again love triangle.

True coffee lovers will love this series - each book is packed with amazing coffee tips and recipes for baked goods. There are currently 18 novels in the Coffeehouse mystery series, with the first novel entitled On What Grounds (2003).

Here are the first four books in the Coffeehouse series.

On What Grounds (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 1)
Through the Grinder (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 2)
Latte Trouble (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 3)
Murder Most Frothy (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 4)

4) Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton

Lori, an American native, moves to England's Cotswolds (a completely different Cotswolds universe compared to Agatha Raisin's Cotswolds) to claim her inheritance - an estate left to her by her late mother's best friend known as "Aunt Dimity." Lori inherits not only a quaint storybook cottage, but also a beautiful and mysterious blank journal that is possessed by the friendly ghost of Aunt Dimity. Each time Lori stumbles upon a local murder, she retreats to the study in her cottage to seek advice from her beloved Aunt Dimity.

The Aunt Dimity series is ultimately the coziest in its genre because the plots rarely involve death. Instead, the novels relate romantic stories that are beautifully told, and are guaranteed to leave you feeling satisfied, warm, and fuzzy. There are currently 24 books in the Aunt Dimity series, beginning with Aunt Dimity's Death (1992).

Here are the first four books in the Aunt Dimity series.

Aunt Dimity's Death (Book 1)
Aunt Dimity and the Duke (Book 2)
Aunt Dimity's Good Deed (Book 3)
Aunt Dimity Digs In (Book 4)

5) Haunted Bookshop by Alice Kimberly

Penelope Thorton-McClure is a widow who owns a quaint little bookshop in Rhode Island. After finding an old coin on the premises of her bookshop, Penelope instantly finds herself being haunted by a private investigator known as Jack Shepard, a noble (and sexy) private investigator who was murdered during the 1930s. Jack is bound to the old coin, therefore, wherever the coin goes, Jack is sure to follow. Penelope uses the coin to channel Jack's spirit, and to consult with him about the murders she becomes involved with. Lucky for the widow Penelope, she also has the ability to encounter the sexy detective in the flesh - but only in her dreams.

This series combines classic detective noir with contemporary cozy mystery elements, made all the more entertaining with Jack's 1930s lingo that Penelope is constantly needing Jack to translate for her. There are 5 books in the Haunted Bookshop series, beginning with The Ghost and Mrs. McClure (2004). (Also, Alice Kimberly and author Cleo Coyle are actually one and the same!)

Below are the first 4 books in the Haunted Bookshop series.

The Ghost and Mrs. McClure (Book 1)
The Ghost and the Dead Deb (Book 2)
The Ghost and the Dead Man's Library (Book 3)
The Ghost and the Femme Fatale (Book 4)

6) Molly Masters by Leslie O'Kane

Molly Masters is a cartoonist who runs her own greeting card business via fax machine (okay, so the faxing concept is extremely outdated, but if you can get past the "fax machine" concept, the novels are witty and fun). Molly's personality and constant observations are hilarious, which make these goofy mysteries worth reading.

Leslie O'Kane is also Leslie Caine, author of the Domestic Bliss mystery series. Although O'Kane's mysteries under the older pseudonym have been discontinued, they are still great for laughs. There are 8 books in the Molly Masters series, beginning with Death and Faxes (1996) and ending with Death Comes eCalling (2014).

Here are the first 4 books in the Molly Masters series.

Death and Faxes (Book 1)
Just the Fax, Ma'am (Book 2)
The Cold Hard Fax (Book 3)
The Fax of Life (Book 4)

*Honorable Mention* Den of Antiquity by Tamar Myers

Abigail Timberlake runs the Den of Antiquity - a North Carolina antique shop that specializes in rare and exquisite goods. Always managing to stumble upon murders that usually involve valuable, pricey antiques, Abigail uses her expert "nosiness" skills to help her local police solve crimes. Abundant with quirky characters, goofy southern lingo, and silly euphemisms, you'll either love or hate this series.

This series deserves an "Honorable Mention" because the quality of the stories have significantly declined with the latter installments. The first 13 books in this series are hilarious and enjoyable, but the novels start to make less sense and become progressively worse beginning with Death of a Rug Lord (2008). Although I'll no longer read this series, it deserves to be on the list for being one of my favorites for several years. There are 16 books in the Den of Antiquity series, starting with Larceny and Old Lace (1996) and ending with The Glass is Always Greener (2011).

Below are the first 4 books in the Den of Antiquity series.

Larceny and Old Lace (Book 1)
Gilt By Association (Book 2)
The Ming and I (Book 3)
So Faux So Good (Book 4)

What are your favorite cozy mystery series? Have you read any of the books mentioned in this article, and if so, what are your thoughts? Share your ideas with us in the comments section below!


  1. What a terrific list!!! I totally concur with you on Coffee House Mysteries and the Book Shop mysteries!! I am a fairly new fan to cozy mysteries and to have begun with these two series makes it difficult for the competition! Cleo Coyle/Alice Kimberly adds a nice "edge" to her books which elevate them above the generic cozy. After having read all the Clare Cosi stories I actually feel as if I have been in Queens, and other burroughs...I can hear the steam coming up from the grates, I can hear the blare of several different horns and the multi-lingual chatter on the streets. Yep, I am a fan and will continue to follow both of these series. Now I have a few more to check out as a result of your list...for that I thank you!

  2. I've never tried the Haunted Bookshop series, but will now that I see it here.

    Great list!

  3. Looking for a new series to read! I will try some of these! My long-time fav cozies are Lillian Jackson Braun's CAT WHO... collection. I recommend those. And if you like humor, Anne George's books are awesome! :)

    1. Anne George is the BEST!!
      I like FUNNY MYSTERIES and am having a hard time finding books that don't include talking animals and food. Do you have any suggestions?

    2. Try the Stephanie Plum series... Hilarious if you don't mind a few naughty words. I have listened to all of them several times and even broke into out loud laughter during a root canal to the amazement of the dentist!!

    3. I have been reading Elaine Viets "Dead End Jobs Series". can not put them down.

  4. Aside from the series mentioned in this post (especially M.C. Beaton's funny novels), the first major series that comes to mind is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. You may have already read some due to their popularity, but I think they are funny, though they do not fall into the cozy genre. I know many cozy mysteries aim for that comedic element, but the books you mention with talking animals and food are sometimes over the top! Let me know what you find.

    1. Hi, for a funny mystery series that will give you some 'laugh-out-aloud' moments, I would suggest, Passport To Peril Mystery Series by Maddy Hunter...!

  5. Great post! I love M.C. Beaton books and the Lillian Jackson Baum cat mystery books.

  6. I recently started reading the Agatha Raisin books and I love them! I am very pleased to see your praise here for the series. After I finish reading all the Agatha Raisin books, I plan on moving on to the Hamish MacBeth series. I also read a few books from a cupcake mystery series that were good, but I forgot the author and book title...

    1. You will just adore Hamish! I thought I could never like anything as much as Agatha but Hamish was almost better!

  7. Nice post! I really like it.
    I love reading and I would to read these.

  8. I love cozy mystery novels and have enjoyed novels from Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse series as well as novels from the Den of Antiquity Series by Tamar Myers.

  9. I love Agatha Raisin too. For others that enjoy M. C. Beaton, try these other authors of funny british cozies: G. M. Malliet (eg, Pagan Spring) and Rhys Bowen's "Her Royal Spyness" series (such as (The 12 Clues of Christmas). Another british mystery author I like is Catherine Aird's "Sloan and Crosby" mysteries-- such as "Past Tense".

  10. Don't forget Phryne Fisher, if you like the 1920's...

    1. I just looked this up -- you are referring to the Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood! I've never heard of these, but thank you for bringing them to my attention.

      I've recently starting reading the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, which is also set in the 1920s. I'm enjoying it so far!

    2. Hi, for a mystery series set in England in the 1920's, I would suggest Daisy Dalrymple Mystery Series by Carola Dunn. I also love the White House Chef Mystery Series by Julie Hyzy and the Death On Demand Mystery Series by Carolyn G. Hart, to name a few...!

  11. Hi,

    I came across this post while researching for some interesting cozy mysteries, both for my personal reading pleasure, as well as to recommend on my blog . While I was already aware of most of them, I particularly enjoyed the brief descriptions that you wrote about each series. As they went a long way in helping me in deciding about which ones to select for my list.

    So anyway, I just wanted to thank you for this list and your insight on each series...! :-)

    Ramla Zareen

  12. Jo Dereske's librarian Miss Zukas ... and Anne George's southern sisters ... great series if you can find them. And not a fan of talking dogs but the Chet and Bernie mysteries by Spencer Quinn are great

  13. I love M.C. Beaton! Her books are the best.

  14. I am absolutely loving the Hamish Mcbeth series


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