A priest, a Regency lady and a snippy private investigator are all faced with fiendish puzzles in this month's cozy mystery column.
★ Hope, Faith & a Corpse
Laura Jensen Walker’s Hope, Faith & a Corpse begins a promising new series. Hope Taylor has moved to the quaint town of Apple Springs in Northern California to start over. The young widow is the first female pastor of Faith Chapel Episcopal Church, which not all parishioners are comfortable with. When she finds a widely disliked church elder dead on the grounds, she quickly becomes a suspect. After all, Stanley King had said a woman would preach there over his dead body. Walker makes great use of Hope’s job: Pastors are sworn to confidentiality when people share information, and a gossipy small town has plenty to share. By the end, justice has been served, along with English tea (for which recipes are provided) and several diner meals that are the stuff of dreams. Readers will finish this mystery already hungry for more.
Hot to Trot
If you’re a cozy fan, then you know how often a knitter or bookstore owner stumbles onto a crime and solves it, launching a new side hustle as a sleuth. So the beloved Agatha Raisin is a breath of fresh air simply because she’s an investigator by trade. Hot to Trot finds Agatha fuming as her friend (and ex) Charles Fraith prepares to marry a mean-spirited socialite. When the woman turns up dead, Agatha and Charles are both suspects. Agatha’s creator, M.C. Beaton, died in 2019, but prior to her passing, she worked with author R.W. Green to ensure the series would continue as she intended. Hot to Trot would have made Beaton proud, with no fewer than three brawls as Agatha flits between exes and new loves before returning to her cottage and cats. Brew a pot of tea and join her.
A Lady Compromised
Rosalind Thorne is on the move in A Lady Compromised, the latest entry in Darcie Wilde’s series set in Regency England. A trip to help plan a friend’s wedding also means a chance to visit old flame Devon Winterbourne, but Rosalind is soon investigating whether an aristocrat’s suicide was actually murder. Wilde writes about high society social codes the same way Phoebe Waller-Bridge makes cheeky asides in “Fleabag.” A storyline involving Rosalind’s faithful maid, Mrs. Kendricks, whose security relies upon the decisions of her impulsive, independent employer, is a harsh reminder of the class differences concealed beneath the period’s polite veneer.