Christmas-themed cozy mysteries bring back the warm, fuzzy feelings of our most treasured Christmases. Many of them also provide recipes that brighten the holidays even more.
For instance, in my latest Deputy Donut Mystery, Deck the Donuts, it’s the first-ever Ice and Lights Festival in Fallingbrook, Wisconsin. Emily Westhill, one of the proprietors of Deputy Donut, is excited about the holidays and her shop’s lit ice carving, Frosty the Donut. What she’s not-so-excited about is spending quality time with Brent, first helping him patch up and reassure victims of a car crash, and then answering his questions after she discovers the bus driver’s body underneath the mysteriously topped Frosty the Donut. The book includes a recipe for Chocolate-Orange Donuts, can be served with a mug of hot chocolate after a day of tobogganing or cross-country skiing.
Here’s a sampling of this season’s Christmas-themed cozy mystery offerings with recipes—take a break, put up your feet, pick up one of these criminally delicious books, try some tasty snacks, and solve crimes along with these intrepid amateur sleuths.
Have a Holly, Haunted Christmas by Lynn Cahoon
There are Christmas spirits of the merry kind, Christmas spirits of the alcoholic kind, and in Have a Holly, Haunted Christmas, a Kitchen Witch novella by Lynn Cahoon, there’s Dorothy, a Christmas spirit of the ghostly kind. Dorothy is far from merry: she will not allow kitchen witch Mia Malone to concentrate on the party meant to showcase Mia’s catering talents. The far-from-merry Christmas spirit claims that she did not, as everyone believed, die peacefully in her sleep. She was murdered, and she’s not going to stop playing pranks on Mia until Mia drops everything and solves the case.
Holiday Recipe Suggestion: The novella includes a recipe for Cranberry Gooey Bars, which could be served with Cosmopolitans at a tree-trimming party.
Murder at the Christmas Cookie Bake-Off by Darci Hannah
In Darci Hannah’s new Beacon Bakeshop Mystery Murder at the Christmas Cookie Bake-Off, Lindsey Bakewell plans to create a perfect Christmas for family and friends (and dogs) in her home and bakeshop in a haunted lighthouse in Beacon Harbor, Michigan. However, at almost the last possible moment, Beacon Harbor announces a Christmas cookie bake-off, and Lindsey becomes a finalist in the competition. Hoping to find a kiss under the mistletoe, Lindsey and her handsome boyfriend Rory instead find the body of the cranky judge, among crumbs from Lindsey’s signature cookies. Lindsey will need help from family, friends, Rory, and the dogs to solve the murder, or the jingle she hears on Christmas Eve might be keys locking her inside the Beacon Harbor jail.
Holiday Recipe Suggestion: Darci Hannah provides recipes for eight different Christmas cookies plus a recipe for Giant Gingerbread Muffins. Thanks to Darci, we can have our own Christmas cookie bake-off! Assign one of the recipes each to seven of our friends and make the eighth recipe ourselves. Then we can get together for a cookie swap. No cranky judges required. During this party, we could serve Giant Gingerbread Muffins and ginger tea.
Twisted Tea Christmas by Laura Childs
Laura Childs brings us her twenty-third Tea Shop Mystery, Twisted Tea Christmas, featuring Theodosia Browning, who owns the Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston, South Carolina. In addition to hosting tea parties in their own dining room, the Indigo Tea Shop caters tea parties in other venues. Naturally, Theodosia is busy at Christmas, beginning with an upscale tea at the mansion of beloved philanthropist, Miss Drucilla Heyward. During the party, while Theodosia and her tea sommelier, Drayton, are in the next room, Miss Drucilla is robbed of five rings and a painting by Renoir, and then murdered before she has the chance to announce which charities will receive her generous grants. Both Theodosia and Drayton knew and loved Miss Drucilla, and her murder hits them hard. Despite entertaining guests at the Christmas tea parties in the Indigo Tea Shop, they can’t help trying to uncover the murderer, with or without help from the grumpy but clever Detective Tidwell.
Holiday Recipe Suggestion: This mystery includes recipes and tea party tips. We could serve Drayton’s Pork Chops with Apples at one of our dinners along with cider, cranberry juice, or a favorite wine.
Mistletoe Cake Murder by Lena Gregory
Next, we go to Boggy Creek, Florida, for a holiday wedding in Lena Gregory’s latest Breakfast Café Mystery, Mistletoe Cake Murder. Gia Morelli, proprietor of the café, enthusiastically participates in her best friend Savannah’s excitement over her upcoming wedding, which is to be held on Christmas Eve. Everything is fine until the two women visit the caterer for a final tasting. Another customer collapses, apparently poisoned. Gia and Savannah were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but so were other people, including caterers who will be needed for Savannah’s wedding. What can best friends do to preserve the wedding festivities? Ask questions, even if their questions get them into trouble . . .
Holiday Recipe Suggestion: As Gia knows, breakfast is good at any time of the day or night, and this Christmas (and wedding!) cozy includes a recipe for Gia’s Vanilla French Toast. This could be perfect for brunch on Christmas Eve, paired with cappuccinos.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder by Maria DiRico
In It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder, we are whisked to Astoria, Queens, where Mia Carina has joined her father’s catering hall business. It’s the Christmas season. What could possibly go wrong? Neary everything, apparently, as every function this family hosts, from a Nativity-themed first birthday party to a Sweet Sixteen for a troubled young diva, threatens to become a dysfunction. And that’s not all. Estranged family members and a man claiming to be a family member descend on Mia and her friends. Mia’s grandmother’s lawn display is supposed to boost her street into winning the decorating competition. However, the display wins notoriety when one of Santa’s “elves” turns out to be the would-be family member, and he’s no longer among the living. Mia’s frantic holiday season just became more frenzied…
Holiday Recipe Suggestion: Mia’s Italian recipes include one for Italian tarrali, a flavorful snack that falls somewhere between cookies and crackers. We can make a batch for whenever someone drops in. They might be especially good for a midafternoon break, with orange juice or Campari. Or a Harvey Wallbanger.
Holiday Gift Suggestion: Books and handmade delicacies are always welcome gifts, so here’s an idea: How about pairing copies of the books with goodies we’ve prepared from recipes in the books?
Image credit: Kevin Turcios from Unsplash