I recently read an article on Crime Reads on why yarn lovers are such great solvers of mysteries. Now, despite having a very patient Auntie in Scotland who tried her best to teach me as a child, I can’t knit (or sew, embroider, crochet, quilt…) but I can do a fair job at solving a mystery.
I don’t know if it was the reading of the Famous Five books and the Nancy Drew mysteries in my youth, Agatha Christie (especially Miss Marple) in my teens and 20s, playing countless games of Clue with my family (my Mum is brilliant at Clue), or watching Murder She Wrote and Remington Steele in the 80s and 90s, but my sense of deduction is pretty good.
As an adult, I still enjoy reading mysteries, but more the cozy variety rather than gritty. A former WPL colleague of mine used to love police procedurals and tense thrillers; she devoured them. Noticing what I was borrowing one day, she said “It looks like we both love murder mysteries but you like the ones without any blood!” And that is true. I am definitely not a fan of action, horror or violent films and the same goes for my reading tastes. I want to be able to sleep at night afterall!
I started reading the mysteries of M.C. Beaton (aka Marion Chesney) when the first in the Hamish Macbeth series was released. I was still in high school but absolutely loved the setting in the highlands of Scotland, the quirky residents of the village of Lochdubh and laid-back Constable Macbeth. Beaton’s other bestselling series, featuring Agatha Raisin, were also highly entertaining. I read the first 15 or 20 in the series faithfully, but they did become very similar. The guilty party was no longer a surprise and I have to admit I haven’t read the most recent Agatha titles.
Sadly, Beaton died in 2019. However, she had many books already finished so more titles will be published posthumously. In fact, there’s a new Hamish due out in 2022, Death of a Green-Eyed Monster and the latest Agatha Raisin, Down the Hatch, is on order now at WPL. You might also want to watch the TV series of each. Hamish Macbeth stars Robert Carlyle and aired from 1995-1997 (WPL has season 1 and 3 on DVD; sadly series 2 has disappeared…) while Agatha Raisin starring Ashley Jensen has confirmed a fourth season will be developed. You can borrow seasons 1 through 3 from the library.
During this time of COVID, I’ve found it difficult to settle down and read, even a slim cozy mystery. In pre-COVID times, I usually read a book every week or two…now I’m lucky to read a book every month or two…or even three. Familiarity is comforting so I’ve returned to some old, favourite cozy mystery authors including:
- Rhys Bowen
- Carola Dunn
- Ann Granger (I think Mitchell & Markby is her best series)
- Caroline Graham – A Place of Safety is excellent (Graham is the creator of Inspector Tom Barnaby; those Midsomer Murders are addictive although are not exactly cozy with the gory demise of some characters!)
- Hazel Holt‘s Mrs Malory series
- G.A. McKevett – her Savannah Reid series features good humour and good food
- Alexander McCall Smith – he has a number of series worth reading, but The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency has a special place in my heart
- Betty Rowlands – her Sukey Reynolds series is older but enjoyable
I’m hoping that as we slowly move towards healthier, post-COVID times and leading more normal lives, my brain will settle and I will be able to return to my usual pace of reading. No matter if it’s for now or for later, if you’re looking for a light read, a cozy read, a mystery, give one of these a try. And remember, knitting prowess is optional.
— Sandi H.