Top 10 Cozy Mystery Novels | Polar

II’m not surprised that the humor and the sweet escape from the cozy crime has a moment. The books themselves are not an answer to what we are going through: most of them were written before confinement or Cop26. But while black enjoys exploring our deepest anxieties, Comfort appeals to a need for self-protection that many readers feel right now. That’s not to say that a well-constructed cozy mystery is light or meaningless.

When I first started writing about the Queen as a secret detective, I wanted to explore a world ruled by a woman with a strong moral code. The kind who would say, on their 21st birthday, “My life, whether long or short, will be devoted to your service,” and sincerely means so. I wouldn’t say that integrity in the public service is the defining characteristic of our time, but it can be relaxing to imagine it. Add to that a unique perspective on the world, a lifetime of high-level political experience, and access to any expert she wants – and you have an investigator ready to go. The Queen is actually a year older than Miss Marple, who first appeared in print in 1927. Is it really such a coincidence?

There is no such thing as a cozy crime, of course. Murder is murder. However, while there may be sex and violence in these stories, it’s usually off the stage. In the following books, we spend our time with detectives who have managed not to become drunk loners, who inhabit places we would love to live or visit, in communities that, despite their differences, end up trusting each other and get along. It changes papers. What not to like?

Agatha Christie in 1967. Photograph: Underwood Archives / Getty Images

1. Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
Written before the Second World War, this novel by Poirot is full of tightly coiled characters hiding bubbling emotions. The plot contains a masterful error of place and time, but its success was also due in part to its depiction of the summer sun, silk pajamas, blue skies, and sandy beaches. By the time it was released in 1941, the peacetime Devon coast where it takes place had become a fantasy world. The victim is obvious from the start, as so often in Christie’s novels, but in whose hand will she die, and why? And those silk pajamas?

2. Janice Hallett’s call
A postmodern do-it-yourself mystery, composed exclusively of emails, texts and notes, in which the reader is invited to solve the crime. Set in the comfortable yet ruthless world of amateur theater, his comedy comes from the wide variety of voices the writers have, from passive aggressive to desperate, that we all recognize.

3. Agatha Raisin and MC Beaton’s Death Quiche
MC Beaton was one of the many pen names of prolific Scottish author Marion Chesney, who died in 2019 after writing 31 books on Agatha Raisin and 34 on Hamish Macbeth. If there’s anything cozy crime readers love more than an underrated heroine, an Airbnb-worthy Cotswold cottage, and a cat, it’s a series. Agatha herself is a comedic delight: sexy, vampire, and rude, but hiding more than a few vulnerabilities, and not hiding them very well. I wasn’t convinced by the TV series, which didn’t quite reflect its Birmingham roots with Mayfair accents, but Penelope Keith endorses Agatha in many audiobooks.

Dorothy L Sayers in 1938.
Dorothy L Sayers in 1938. Photograph: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy

4. Strong poison by Dorothy L Sayers
I grew up in the mystery of the Golden Age and fell in love with Lord Peter Wimsey of Sayers, as so many readers do. He’s Bertie Wooster with the Jeeves brain made human by World War I PTSD that still haunts him in times of stress. In Strong Poison, he fell madly in love with Harriet Vane, a spiky, inflexible and intelligent woman who is sentenced to be hanged for the murder of her lover. Sayers clearly made Harriet a successful detective writer, because if she couldn’t have her beloved Peter, no one could.

5. Brat Farrar by Joséphine Tey
A beautifully descriptive tale of a young man who fits into a wealthy family, knowing that he is not the missing son they want him to be. The mystery he encounters is a slow burn, but ends with a not-so-comfortable ending worthy of Iain Banks.

6. Murders of Pie by Anthony Horowitz
If there’s a cozy King of Crime I’d say it’s Horowitz, who originally adapted Midsomer Murders for TV and made it better with Foyle’s War. In Magpie Murders, telling a simple detective story is too easy, so Horowitz tells two, one inside the other. Clues to contemporary outer crime are based on an editor’s finely tuned understanding of inner crime handwriting, in which Horowitz recreates a classic mystery from the Golden Age. It might sound simple, but its nifty edit as detection theme is a delight.

Richard Osman.
Richard Osman. Photograph: Jonathan Hordle / AP

seven. Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club
Richard Osman was a television celebrity who secretly wrote detective stories in his spare time. Then the Thursday Murder Club came out and it is now a worldwide publishing phenomenon that does television shows. Osman is a very funny writer, a brilliant observer of bourgeois mores, who cares about the lives of his protagonists – boarders confronted with their mortality in retirement homes – and it shows. He’s also good at killing people all over Kent and getting his unlikely quartet of detectives to understand why and how. Volume 2, The Man Who Died Twice, is as good if not better.

8. Three Pines Series by Louise Penny
Can these books be called cozy? Penny explores dark political themes and some of the books read like thrillers, but there’s an essential community goodness in the title’s fictional Canadian town, and the warm and loving relationship that unites Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, his family and friends. . His skill in capturing those bonds is a balm for any soul beaten by the relentless news of what separates us. They also feature great poetry and great food.

9. Homicide in Hollywood by Kellye Garrett
Garrett made waves in the United States as an outstanding voice when his Detective by Day series was first released in 2017, winning multiple awards. Garrett takes the comfy to Los Angeles, starring Dayna Anderson, semi-famous and mega-broke black actress-turned-PI, Dayna Anderson. His prose is fresh and funny and the sets are everything a cinephile hopes for.

ten. Robin Stevens’ Most Unsympathetic Murder
Before writing adult detective novels I wrote for children and I’m sure some of the best books are written for ages 10-12. This series imagines two 1930s schoolgirls solving crimes Christie style, starring the fearless duo of Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong. The books combine a sense of history with a very modern sensibility and I have seen readers approach Stevens at events to give her a hug because they mean so much to them.


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