S.C. Perkins taps into the current obsession with researching one’s ancestry with her terrific series debut. Murder Once Removed finds genealogist Lucy Lancaster researching a murder that took place in the 1800s, only to have it become frighteningly relevant in the present day. The killer could be one of two men with the same initials, and when his identity becomes a point of contention in a senate race, tempers run high. Suddenly historical research is crucial to restoring the peace. Perkins blends a serious interest in history with giddy energy and a burgeoning romance between Lucy and a confounding but adorable special agent. The Austin, Texas, setting makes for a rich atmosphere and some rapturous descriptions of Tex-Mex food. There’s also a sober consideration of the value, and risk, of learning about your past. Murder Once Removed kicks off this series with a bang. Here’s to many more to come.
From knitting to baking to Sudoku, cozy mysteries and niche themes are a natural pairing, but if they were all set in bookstores, would anyone complain? The Loch Ness Papers is Paige Shelton’s latest Scottish Bookshop Mystery, and this time the genial atmosphere at the Cracked Spine bookstore is shaken up by a murder with tenuous ties to Scotland’s legendary Loch Ness monster. Bookseller and American transplant Delaney Nichols is loving life in Edinburgh, juggling wedding plans and a visit from her family, when she meets an older man obsessed with Nessie. When he’s suddenly accused of murder, she’s determined to learn the truth. The warm relationships among characters—and Delaney’s gift for finding the best quote from the right author to direct her forward—make this the perfect book to curl up with on a rainy day.
A hotel ballroom plays host to murder in Mrs. Jeffries Delivers the Goods, Emily Brightwell’s latest in the Victorian Mystery series. When the lights are turned back on after a dramatic moment of silence at a party, one of the guests has a violent seizure and dies. A doctor determines that it was arsenic. The victim was a cad whom most people hated, but there’s still a dangerous killer on the loose. Inspector Witherspoon comes to the Wrexley Hotel to investigate, and without his knowing, the members of his household do their part to help. The unsanctioned detective work by housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries and company provides keen observations about class divisions, which Brightwell balances with humor in a story that runs like clockwork. Watching Witherspoon’s crew collect clues and sift through the suspect list, usually at meetings featuring tea and a selection of dreamy baked goods, is pure pleasure. This is Brightwell’s 37th book in the series, but newcomers will find their footing in a jiffy.