Not one, not two, but all three of the books in this month’s cozy column received starred reviews!
★ Mango, Mambo, and Murder
Miriam Quiñones-Smith has just relocated from New York City to tony Coral Shores in Miami. A former food anthropologist, she lands a gig teaching Caribbean cooking on a morning show and works to grow a social circle, but at her very first meeting of a women’s club, one of the attendees keels over. Mango, Mambo, and Murder has everything you look for in a cozy mystery but also feels like a breath of fresh air. Author Raquel V. Reyes fills this story with details that make it feel real, despite there being a character named Sunny Weatherman. Cuban American Miriam and her family, friends and co-workers are well-rounded personalities whom readers will be eager to learn more about. Miriam’s attempts to find a killer take her to strip malls filled with questionable folk healers and incredible restaurants serving Cuban American standards like ropa vieja and pollo a la plancha. Reyes incorporates Spanish into characters’ dialogue throughout, adding authenticity, while subtly providing context so that readers who aren’t Spanish speakers won’t miss a beat. Dig into this inviting, suspenseful feast for the senses.
★ The Man Who Died Twice
It’s impossible to single out any one feature that makes The Man Who Died Twice such an absolute treat. The plot is a crackling mystery: Septuagenarian retiree and amateur sleuth Elizabeth gets a coded message from someone in her past asking for help, as he’s stolen a lot of diamonds from some very angry people. When two people are killed, the hunt is on for the killers and the diamonds. English TV presenter and comedian Richard Osman creates real magic with his characters. They are frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious but also entirely real and three-dimensional. There’s also dogged police work, tradecraft most devious, a lot of cocaine and those diamonds. If possible, this sequel is even better than the Osman’s charmer of a debut, The Thursday Murder Club. This series is both a load of fun and an ode to how the power of friendship is important throughout one’s life but especially during the final stretch. Don’t miss it.
★ Seven-Year Witch
Seven-Year Witch finds Josie Way settling into life as a librarian in rural Wilfred, Oregon, and deepening her powers as a witch, thanks to letters left to her by her grandmother. The old mill in town is set to be turned into a lavish retreat center, but rumors that the site is cursed raise local hackles, especially when the disappearance of one of Wilfred’s inhabitants is followed by the discovery of a bloody weapon. Josie’s love interest, FBI agent Sam Wilfred, returns to town, but things between them are complicated by the news that he’s married with a baby. Author Angela M. Sanders uses the eerie atmosphere to great effect and also plays with the assumed charms of a small town. For example, the locals lose some of their warmth when there’s a killer in their midst. Josie’s witchcraft plays into solving the mystery, but the story feels realistic overall. Full of false leads and truly surprising reveals, this terrifically plotted mystery is hard to put down.