Jamie Orsini

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Blackmail, jealousy and murder haunt a luxury ski resort. Can two sleuths crack the case before a blizzard traps them alongside a killer?

Darby Piper and Tate Porter are still getting used to working together as PIs when they agree to take on a case brought to them by Tate’s ex-girlfriend, Cecily Madd. Cecily’s husband, wealthy dermatologist Dr. Garret Madd, has received several threatening anonymous notes. Dr. Madd dismisses them as nothing more than a nuisance, but Cecily isn’t so sure. She wants Darby and Tate to investigate the threats during a conference that Dr. Madd is hosting at Garden Peak Lodge, a luxury ski resort. The pair agrees to go undercover, but problems begin almost as soon as they arrive. Cecily suddenly refuses to hand over the notes, an unscrupulous paparazzo threatens to blow Darby’s cover and Dr. Madd is soon found dead on the ski slopes. Darby and Tate’s harassment case is now a murder investigation.

Frozen Detective is the second installment in Amanda Flower’s Piper and Porter Mystery series, but readers need not be familiar with the first book to enjoy this whodunnit. Flower plunges her sleuths straight into the action: There’s very little rehashing of the previous installment, with necessary information for newcomers expertly weaved in as Darby and Tate get cracking on the case. Both characters are likable protagonists who, after only one previous case together, are still finding their groove. They struggle to develop shorthand as partners and trust each other’s instincts, but despite these realistic growing pains, their chemistry and shared sense of humor shine through. Garden Peak Lodge is a superb setting, and with multiple guests with motives for murder and an impending blizzard added in, the result is a particularly engaging cozy mystery.

Amanda Flowers’ second Piper and Porter mystery is an engaging cozy with a glamorous ski resort setting.
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Ann Claire’s deeply enjoyable Dead and Gondola transports readers to the fictional mountain village of Last Word, Colorado, where snow is falling and murder is in the air.

Ellie Christie has just moved back home to help her older sister, Meg, run the Book Chalet. The shop has been in their family for generations, and now the two bibliophile sisters are ready to make their mark on the business. When a mysterious man interrupts their weekly book club meeting and leaves behind a rare edition of an Agatha Christie novel, the sisters are puzzled. Spotting him in a crowd the next day, Ellie and Meg try to get his attention to return the book, but by the time they catch up with him on the gondola, the man is dead. Even though the sisters aren’t related to the famed Christie, they grew up reading her novels and are determined to put their sleuthing knowledge to good use by figuring out who the man was, who killed him and why.

Dead and Gondola is a lighthearted, fast-paced cozy mystery with a cast of likable characters. Besides Ellie and Meg, the Christie family includes their beloved Gram, who’s keen to trade baked goods for gossip, and Meg’s tech-savvy daughter, Rosie. Their bookshop cat is also a delight, with a personality as strong as any human’s—she’s named Agatha, of course.

Claire effectively heightens the stakes for the Christie women at the very start of the book, when an unexpected storm cuts off Last Word from the outside world. No one can get in or out, which means Ellie, Meg and their family are trapped in the small town with a murderer. In spite of this, Claire makes Last Word sound awfully appealing: Who wouldn’t want to ride a glass-domed gondola to a historic bookshop and cozy up by the fire with a good read?

Ann Claire’s lighthearted cozy mystery, Dead and Gondola, transports readers to a deeply appealing mountaintop town in Colorado, complete with gondola and historic bookshop.
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The sleuthing pensioners of the Thursday Murder Club are back and better than ever in Richard Osman’s The Bullet That Missed.

Life in the idyllic Coopers Chase Retirement Village is far from quiet, especially for the Thursday Murder Club. The group’s four members—Elizabeth, a retired MI5 agent with connections across the globe; Joyce, a former nurse with a knack for solving puzzles; Ibrahim, a well-mannered psychiatrist; and Ron, a retired union leader who never backs down from a fight—are trying to crack the cold case murder of TV presenter Bethany Waites. Ten years ago, Bethany was investigating a multimillion-dollar fraud operation. She told colleagues that she was close to unraveling it all, but before she could file her story, Bethany’s car was pushed off a cliff, and her body was never recovered.

As The Bullet That Missed begins, Osman’s septuagenarian sleuths have picked up the mantle. They’re working to uncover who’s behind the fraud and Bethany’s murder, not to mention the more recent deaths of two suspects in Bethany’s disappearance. In a parallel plot, Elizabeth’s past catches up with her when a mysterious man tasks her with carrying out an assassination. If she doesn’t comply, her and her friends’ lives will be forfeit. To protect herself and the people she loves, Elizabeth reconnects with an ex-KGB colonel (and former lover) to lay a trap for the man threatening her. 

This intricately plotted novel weaves its multiple mysteries together with aplomb, all while bringing back familiar faces from previous installments such as Police Captain Donna De Freitas; her partner, Detective Chief Inspector Chris Hudson; and Bogdan, who’s still fiercely loyal to Elizabeth and the group. Osman’s wry humor continues to shine, especially in the sections of the story told through Joyce’s lively diary entries. 

If there’s a flaw in The Bullet That Missed, it’s that readers need to be familiar with the previous books to fully appreciate some of the characters’ motivations and deepening relationships. However, with only two previous books in the series, it’s easy to get caught up. And mystery fans should absolutely do so, because this latest entry in the Thursday Murder Club series may be the best one yet.

The latest entry in Richard Osman's wry and hilarious Thursday Murder Club series may be the best one yet.
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Fans of Laurien Berenson’s long-running Melanie Travis canine mysteries will be thrilled with Peg and Rose Solve a Murder, the first entry in a new spinoff series featuring Melanie’s engaging aunts, Peg Turnbull and Rose Donovan.

Peg and Rose are not friends. They’re sisters-in-law, linked by their love for Peg’s late husband, Max, who was Rose’s brother. After 40 years of fighting, Rose shocks Peg with an olive branch: an invitation to join the local bridge club as partners. Peg and Rose are surprised to find that they can enjoy each other’s company, but just as they begin to build a tentative friendship, a member of their bridge club is killed. As the newest members, the sisters-in-law are considered suspects. To clear their names, they must work together to solve the murder—before another is committed.

Readers don’t need to be familiar with the rules of bridge to enjoy Peg and Rose Solve a Murder; the actual gameplay takes up very little space, with the bulk of the story devoted to introducing Peg and Rose to new readers and, of course, solving the mystery. Fans of the Melanie Travis series are already very familiar with these sisters-in-law, and in Peg and Rose Solve a Murder, they stand on their own as capable, witty women who are more than up to the task of crime-solving. Berenson’s fans will also enjoy seeing Peg in action as a dog breeder, owner and show judge, as her passion for poodles features heavily in the book.

While Peg and Rose work together to clear their names, they must also come to terms with decades of infighting, grudges and hurt feelings. When the women finally begin to trust each other, readers can see a great friendship starting to blossom—one that will hopefully form the backbone of this new cozy series.

Laurien Berenson's new spinoff series will thrill fans right out of the gate thanks to its capable, witty sleuths.
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A Killing in Costumes, Zac Bissonnette’s first Hollywood Treasures mystery, deftly balances a tightly plotted mystery with glamorous characters and a unique setting in the world of movie memorabilia.

Decades ago, Cindy Cooper and Jay Allan were bona fide celebrities. The married-in-real-life performers starred as a couple in a popular soap opera to great acclaim—until they decided to reveal their true sexual orientations to the world. Jay and Cindy lost their acting careers and ended their marriage but remained close friends. 

They now own Hooray for Hollywood, a movie memorabilia store in Palm Springs, California. Business is slow, and they’re in danger of having to close the shop for good until they’re offered a chance to represent retired silver screen legend Yana Tosh in the sale of her personal collection of film costumes and memorabilia. When a vice president of the auction house competing for Yana’s collection is found dead, Jay and Cindy become suspects in the investigation. To clear their names, keep their business afloat and win Yana’s collection, the friends must work together to solve the case—before the killer strikes again.

Bissonnette does an exceptional job constructing A Killing in Costume‘s central whodunit: Each entertaining suspect has believable motives and opportunities, and mystery fans are sure to appreciate his deftly hidden clues. But the heart of the story lies in Cindy and Jay’s close friendship, which has weathered the collapse of their careers, new jobs and relationships, and every success and loss along the way. Both are deeply funny people who are fiercely protective of each other, and their passion for and knowledge of the film industry will delight readers who are also movie buffs. Finally, Cindy’s struggle to find a new normal after the loss of her beloved wife to cancer provides a serious note that is both touching and authentic.

A Killing in Costumes has all the hallmarks of a great cozy: a unique setting, an intriguing cast of characters and an exciting mystery.

A Killing in Costumes has all the hallmarks of a great cozy: a unique setting, an intriguing cast of characters and an exciting mystery.
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Jennifer J. Chow kicks off a new culinary cozy series with Death by Bubble Tea, a delicious mystery that centers on a family-run food stall.

After Yale Yee loses her job at the local bookstore, her father talks her into running a food stall for the family’s dim sum restaurant at the inaugural Eastwood Village Night Market. Yale hasn’t worked for Wing Fat in years, not since her mother’s untimely death. Everything about the restaurant reminds Yale of the loss of her mom, but she still agrees to help out, even though it means working with her cousin Celine, whom she hasn’t seen in 20 years.

The women are polar opposites: Celine likes to flaunt her wealth and is a tech-obsessed foodie Instagrammer, and Yale, who doesn’t even own a cellphone, prefers to learn about the world through books. But Yale’s tasty drinks and Celine’s marketing know-how help their food stall, Canai & Chai, find success. Then one night, Yale literally stumbles over a body on her way home from the market. Police believe the victim, local foodie Jordan Chang, was poisoned, possibly by something from Canai & Chai. Yale and Celine are forced to work together again, this time to clear their names in a murder investigation that could also ruin Ba’s business.

Set in west Los Angeles, Death by Bubble Tea takes readers to real locations like the historic Gladstones restaurant and the Lake Shrine Meditation Gardens. Chow’s choice to set the mystery in a night market is a stroke of genius. Not only are there dozens of vendors, guests, witnesses and potential suspects, but the impermanence of the pop-up market makes it even more difficult for Yale, Celine and the police to solve the crime. Also, be warned: Chow’s descriptions of the food vendors’ offerings may make your mouth water. Luckily for readers, she includes a few recipes at the end of the book.

Death by Bubble Tea is a fun, fast-paced mystery, but the heart of the story lies in Yale and Celine’s deepening relationship. Though they grew up in different circumstances on opposite sides of the world, the women learn to trust and rely on each other, finding out what it’s like to have not just a cousin but also a friend.

Death by Bubble Tea is a heartfelt and delicious mystery that, in a brilliant choice by author Jennifer J. Chow, centers on a family-run food stall.
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In 1923, Saffron Everleigh is the only female research assistant at University College London. She hopes to make a name for herself in botany and gain the respect of her male colleagues, many of whom question whether she deserves to be there. While attending a department party meant to celebrate an upcoming university-funded expedition to South America, Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives, is poisoned. When Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor and boss, is accused of the crime, she begins her own investigation to clear his name—and figure out which member of their group tried to commit murder.

Kate Khavari brings 1920s London to life in A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons, focusing on the era’s less commonly explored academic and scientific spheres and taking full advantage of the lush greenhouses and gardens where Saffron and her colleagues conduct their research. Khavari also notes how the trauma of World War I still affects several of the characters, particularly Alexander Ashton, a fellow researcher who joins Saffron in her quest. Alexander’s experiences with what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder feel authentic and contribute to this mystery’s realistic depiction of the ’20s.

Intelligent, witty and brave, Saffron makes for a delightful sleuth and protagonist. While trying to establish herself in a male-dominated profession, she must also navigate sexual harassment and discrimination. It’s a difficult position, but Saffron rises to the challenge.

Khavari has crafted a fast-paced, interesting mystery with two extremely likable central characters, and readers will be eager to follow Saffron and Alexander’s future escapades.

With its intriguing 1920s academia setting and two likable central characters, A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons is a promising start to a new historical mystery series.
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Readers are treated to two expertly crafted mysteries in Australian author Sulari Gentill’s The Woman in the Library.

Four strangers are sharing a table at the Boston Public Library when they hear a woman’s terrified scream. Winifred “Freddie” Kincaid, Cain McLeod, Marigold Anastas and Whit Metters form a quick friendship while they wait for security guards to figure out what happened. When a woman’s body is later found in the library, the new friends realize they didn’t just hear a scream: They may have overheard a murder. Freddie, Cain, Marigold and Whit set out to discover what happened that afternoon, but they soon realize that their meeting wasn’t random—because one of them is the murderer.

The Woman in the Library audiobook
Read our audiobook review! Voice actor Katherine Littrell brings a measured sense of menace.

But there’s yet another twist! The characters of Freddie, Cain, Marigold and Whit are just that: characters in a novel being written by an Australian woman named Hannah. She’s corresponding with an American writer named Leo, emailing him the chapters of her mystery novel as she completes them. Leo’s detailed responses follow each chapter, and readers soon realize he is more than an appreciative fan. Leo may be just as dangerous as one of the characters in Hannah’s story.

The author of more than a dozen mysteries, Gentill has created a smart, engaging novel that blurs genre lines. The mystery set within the library is a fresh take on the locked-room mystery, and Leo’s emails to Hannah create an increasingly ominous epistolary thriller, despite the distance between the characters. It’s an inventive and unique approach, elevated by Gentill’s masterful plotting, that will delight suspense fans looking for something bold and new.

Readers are treated to an inventive and expertly crafted mystery-within-a-mystery in Sulari Gentill's The Woman in the Library.
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Alicia Bessette’s first Outer Banks Bookshop Mystery, Smile Beach Murder, brings readers to Cattail Island in North Carolina, where the sun shines and murder is in the air.

After losing her job, former reporter Callie Padget begrudgingly moves back to Cattail. Callie has a complicated relationship with the coastal community: While she loves the people and history of the island, her mother died after falling from the town’s famed lighthouse when Callie was just 12 years old. Everywhere she goes, she’s reminded of her mother and the life they might have built together.

Callie gets a job at the local bookstore, where she runs into Eva Meeks, the older sister of one of her school friends. Eva’s searching for books to help her with a treasure hunt and invites Callie to join in the fun. But the next day, Eva’s body is discovered at the base of the lighthouse. While local police believe she killed herself, Callie doesn’t, and she sets off to uncover a murderer on Cattail Island.

Bessette captures the charm of the Outer Banks with her vivid descriptions of laid-back island life. It’s easy to root for Callie, who’s resourceful and brave even when she finds herself staring down confessed killers and deadly sharks. And readers who have lost a loved one will relate to her journey to process the loss of her mother. Callie is still surprised by the depth of her grief, despite the time that’s passed, and her emotional development throughout the novel is made all the sweeter as she slowly embraces Cattail Island and all it has to offer. Readers will finish Smile Beach Murder cheering for Callie and eager for many more cases to come.

Alicia Bessette’s first Outer Banks Bookshop Mystery, Smile Beach Murder, captures the charm of island life even as it offers a moving perspective on grief.
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Under Lock & Skeleton Key, the enchanting first book in Gigi Pandian’s Secret Staircase mystery series, flawlessly balances magic, misdirection and murder.

Tempest Raj is a gifted stage magician who’s forced to move home to Hidden Creek, California, after a performance in Las Vegas goes horribly wrong. Tempest is convinced her stage double, Cassidy, sabotaged her—but with no way to prove it, the down-on-her-luck magician must return to her family home, Fiddler’s Folly.

Fiddler’s Folly is a showcase for Tempest’s father’s own brand of magic. Darius Raj’s company, Secret Staircase Construction, specializes in adding whimsical details like sliding bookcases, hidden staircases and secret rooms to homes. When Tempest meets him at his latest job site, a body is discovered inside a wall that’s supposedly been sealed for more than a century. To make things even worse, the victim is Cassidy. Was Cassidy mistaken for Tempest and killed in her place? Is someone trying to frame Tempest? Could the death somehow be connected to the ominous family curse that the eldest Raj of each generation will be killed, supposedly by magic? Tempest sets out to bring Cassidy’s killer to justice and figure out if the curse is real—and if she’s its next target.

Hidden Creek is a truly delightful setting for a cozy mystery series. Not only does Fiddler’s Folly abound with hidden rooms and intricate locks, but the property also includes the dreamy treehouse where Tempest’s grandparents live. And then there’s the Locked Room Library, a mystery lover’s dream destination that readers will fervently wish truly existed. The world’s most famous crime novels line its shelves, and the library also sports a train car meeting room, skeleton keys and even a suit of armor. Pandian recently wrote an Agatha Award-nominated short story about the Locked Room Library, and her fans will be happy to recognize beloved characters from her other works, like Sanjay Rai, the Hindi Houdini, in Under Lock & Skeleton Key.

The mystery is engaging and full of misdirection (sometimes literally, in the form of sleight-of-hand tricks), and undergirding it all is Tempest’s anxiety around her family curse. But despite the high stakes, Under Lock & Skeleton Key is bursting with heart and hope.

The enchanting first book in Gigi Pandian’s Secret Staircase mystery series flawlessly balances magic, misdirection and murder.
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Readers will instantly be taken with ex-cop-turned-caterer Jodie “Nosey” Parker in Murder on the Menu, a delightful start to a new cozy mystery series set in the Cornish countryside.

After serving nearly 20 years on the force with the London Metropolitan Police and undergoing a contentious divorce, Jodie is ready to start fresh. She and her 12-year-old daughter, Daisy, move to Penstowan, the small Cornish village where Jodie grew up. There, she opens her own catering company, and her first client is Tony, a longtime friend and onetime ex-boyfriend who hires her to cater his upcoming wedding. Several uninvited guests show up the night before the service, including Tony’s first wife, Mel, who promptly gets into a fistfight with Cheryl, the bride-to-be. When Cheryl disappears and bodies start to pile up, Jodie takes off her caterer’s coat and dives into the investigation in order to clear Tony’s name. 

Author Fiona Leitch’s excellent writing, witty dialogue and tongue-in-cheek humor elevate each scene, and the well-plotted mystery will keep readers guessing until the end. It’s easy to root for the entertaining Jodie, who’s still exceedingly capable as a detective despite having left the force. Detective Chief Inspector Nathan Withers, the lead investigator, is both annoyed and impressed with Jodie, and watching their budding chemistry is a delight. Leitch also ably explores the bittersweet, complicated nature of Jodie’s return to Penstowan: While she’s happy to live closer to her mother, a firecracker with a busy social life and wicked sense of humor, Jodie’s still coming to terms with living in the shadow of her late father, who dedicated his life to protecting the village as chief inspector.

Murder on the Menu will delight cozy mystery fans, especially those who want just a touch of melancholy amid all the crime-solving fun.

Fiona Leitch’s excellent writing, witty dialogue and tongue-in-cheek humor elevate each scene in this cozy mystery set in the Cornish countryside.

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