Devotees of the cozy mystery also seem to be fans of mysteries set at Christmas. Why?
Many of us hold onto an idealized vision of the holidays, but we all know they can be a bit fraught. Even in the absence of an international pandemic and its associated fear and complications, Christmas can be stressful. Some of us spend time with family we don’t often see (sometimes by design). Others feel the pressure of commercialism. Many want to decorate and bake in ways they never do during the rest of the year but don’t really have the time. And still others are alone, with no expectations of loved ones, and don’t have happy memories of the holidays.
In a cozy? Others do the decorating and baking and gather with their fictional family. In Candy Slain Murder, protagonist Robbie Jordan decks out her southern Indiana country store with a tree, tiny white lights, and greenery. She bakes gingerbread people and nibbles on holly-shaped sugar cookies from her boyfriend’s mother. Recipes are included, of course.
Still, a cozy wouldn’t be a mystery without secrets and suspense. A young stranger shows up in Candy Slain Murder, but is he who he claims to be? A fight breaks out just after Santa Claus arrives to light South Lick’s town tree. A woman’s skeleton is found in an attic, and then her twin sister is murdered. But the stress is the characters’, not the reader’s.
And, as in all cozies, the author’s contract with the reader is that justice will be served in the end. The fictional village and the main character’s personal community will be at peace by the last page in the book. We can’t always guarantee that in real life.
The winter holidays aren’t limited to Christmas, of course. I looked for recently released Hanukkah cozies but couldn’t find anything new. You can find a handful of the older ones here. Hopefully soon we’ll see cozies set during Kwanzaa and Ramadan, too.
A deep slate of new Christmas-themed cozies are releasing this fall and readers are snapping them up fast than you can munch down a mini candy cane. Let’s look at a few of them, plus several older favorites. Because Candy Slain Murder includes recipes like Peppermint Mocha Muffins and Holly Cookies, I’ll alert you to delicious-sounding recipes from the following books.
Maya Corrigan, Gingerdead Man
Gingerdead Man by Maya Corrigan is the seventh in her Five-Ingredient Mystery series. For the record, I wish I’d snagged that title first! All the recipes included in this series have only five ingredients, making them easy for readers to reproduce. Quite a few cozy readers say they don’t attempt the recipes in our books, but with only five ingredients, it’s easy to make Corrigan’s Cranberry Apple Crisp, Almond Brittle Cookies, or Spiced Cider. She presents a spiced murder, too, during Bayport, Maryland’s Dickens of a Holiday festival. Main characters Val and her granddad have a cookie-cutter killer to catch before the New Year.
Tina Kashian, Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder
Tina Kashian’s new Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder is her fifth Kebab Kitchen Mystery. She features an annual winter event, the Polar Bear Plunge. Even Kebab Kitchen owner and protagonist Lucy Berberian dives in, only to find a man doing the dead man’s float—for real. Kashian, a member of Crime Writers of Color, includes recipes in each book of the series. I think the Moussaka and the Mediterranean Pilaf sound fabulous, as does the Lemon Meringue Pie.
Carlene O’Connor, Murder at an Irish Christmas
Murder at an Irish Christmas is the sixth Irish Irish Village Mystery from Carlene O’Connor. Last year, O’Connor, Alex Ericson, and I had novellas in Christmas Cocoa Murder. O’Connor’s novella by the same name featured the Irish Village Mystery setting and characters, but this new story is a full-length Christmas mystery.
Siobhán O’Sullivan’s entire family brood is in West Cork to spend the Christmas holidays. After a cantankerous conductor—their host’s grandfather—is discovered crushed under a ninety-pound harp in a local concert hall, it’s up to Siobhán to ensure the guilty party faces the music even during a snowstorm. She includes a single recipe for Siobhan’s brown bread, but there’s also plenty of yummy writing.
Barbara Ross, Nogged Off
Of course, plenty of previously published Christmas cozies fit the bill. One of my favorites is Nogged Off by my friend and Wicked Authors blogmate Barbara Ross. This novella was originally published in Eggnog Murder with novellas by Lee Hollis, and Leslie Meier. The trio has joined forces for several holiday-themed collections, including Yule Log Murder and Haunted House Murder.
The week before Christmas, protagonist Julia Snowden accidentally poisons half her New York colleagues with her “Killer Eggnog.” Julia invites her would-be subletter home for the holidays in Maine, but after they discover a body in the rental van, she wonders if the eggnog “accident” was no accident at all. Ross include recipes for Hazelnut Wreaths and Pecan Puffs, both recipes handed down by Ross’s grandmother.
Leslie Budewitz, As The Christmas Cookie Crumbles
You also can’t go wrong with any book by Leslie Budewitz, including As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles. I love the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, and this is the fifth book in the series set in the Montana town of Jewel Bay. After a young woman is found dead, a string of lights around her neck, the clues and danger snowball from there, and Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile, gets busy solving it. Leslie includes recipes for Merrily’s Russian Teacakes, Almond Cloud Cookies, and Fudge Ecstasies. Don’t they sound mouth-watering?
Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
As a bonus (yes, I know this makes six—work with me), let us not forget Dame Agatha’s 1938 Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. After cruel, tyrannical, and rich Simon Lee is found dead in his locked bedroom, Hercule Poirot applied his little grey cells to solve the crime and prevent another. Not a recipe in sight in this book, and barely any references to food, just a deliciously plotted and told mystery.