45 Best Cozy Mystery Novels Essential 2019 Guide To First Book Of A Series

45 Best Cozy Mystery Novels: Essential 2019 Guide To First Book Of A Series

Cozy mysteries remain a popular sub-genre within mystery and suspense space and die-hard fans know all about best books, who to follow and what to read next.

But if you are new to this category and are confused about what makes a mystery a “cozy”, here is a hint: Cozy mysteries are considered “gentle” books; no graphic violence, no profanity, and no explicit sex. Most often, the crime takes place “off stage” and death is usually very quick. Prolonged torture is not a staple in cozy mysteries.

Is that your cup of tea? If the answer is yes, here are 45 books, first in a series, to get you started:

1. Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody Book 1) by Elizabeth Peters. Amelia Peabody, that indomitable product of the Victorian age, embarks on her debut Egyptian adventure armed with unshakable self-confidence, a journal to record her thoughts, and, of course, a sturdy umbrella. On her way to Cairo, Amelia rescues young Evelyn Barton-Forbes, who has been abandoned by her scoundrel lover.

Together the two women sail up the Nile to an archeological site run by the Emerson brothers-the irascible but dashing Radcliffe and the amiable Walter. Soon their little party is increased by one-one mummy that is, and a singularly lively example of the species.

Strange visitations, suspicious accidents, and a botched kidnapping convince Amelia that there is a plot afoot to harm Evelyn. Now Amelia finds herself up against an unknown enemy-and perilous forces that threaten to make her first Egyptian trip also her last.

2. Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (Hannah Swensen, #1) by Joanne Fluke. This book is coming to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries as Murder She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder Mystery starring Alison Sweeney, Cameron Mathison, Gabriel Hogan and Barbara Niven.

Take one amateur sleuth. Mix in some eccentric Minnesota locals. Add a generous dollop of crackling suspense, and you’ve got the recipe for this delicious new mystery series featuring Hannah Swensen, the red-haired, cookie-baking heroine whose gingersnaps are almost as tart as her mouth and whose penchant for solving crime is definitely stirring things up.

3. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce, #1) by Alan Bradley. It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

4. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax #1) by Dorothy Gilman. Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was a widow with grown, married children. She was tired of attending her Garden Club meetings. She wanted to do something good for her country. So, naturally, she became a CIA agent.

She takes on a “job” in Mexico City. The assignment doesn’t sound dangerous at first, but then, as often happens, something goes wrong. Now our dear Mrs. Pollifax finds herself embroiled in quite a hot Cold War—and her country’s enemies find themselves entangled with one unbelievably feisty lady.

5. Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple #1) by Agatha Christie. Miss Marple encounters a compelling murder mystery in the sleepy little village of St. Mary Mead, where under the seemingly peaceful exterior of an English country village lurks intrigue, guilt, deception and death.

Colonel Protheroe, local magistrate and overbearing land-owner is the most detested man in the village. Everyone–even in the vicar–wishes he were dead. And very soon he is–shot in the head in the vicar’s own study. Faced with a surfeit of suspects, only the inscrutable Miss Marple can unravel the tangled web of clues that will lead to the unmasking of the killer.

6. The Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin, #1) by M.C. Beaton. Putting all her eggs in one basket, Agatha Raisin gives up her successful PR firm, sells her London flat, and samples a taste of early retirement in the quiet village of Carsely. Bored, lonely and used to getting her way, she enters a local baking contest: Surely a blue ribbon for the best quiche will make her the toast of the town.

But her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Browne not only snubs her entry—but falls over dead! After her quiche’s secret ingredient turns out to be poison, she must reveal the unsavory truth…

Agatha has never baked a thing in her life! In fact, she bought her entry ready-made from an upper crust London quicherie. Grating on the nerves of several Carsely residents, she is soon receiving sinister notes. Has her cheating and meddling landed her in hot water, or are the threats related to the suspicious death? It may mean the difference between egg on her face and a coroner’s tag on her toe.

7. Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey, #1) by Dorothy L. Sayers. Lord Peter Wimsey investigates the sudden appearance of a naked body in the bath of an architect at the same time a noted financier goes missing under strange circumstances. As the case progresses, it becomes clear that the two events are linked in some way.

8. The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence #1) by Agatha Christie. Tommy and Tuppence, two young people short of money and restless for excitement, embark on a daring business scheme – Young Adventurers Ltd.

Their advertisement says they are ‘willing to do anything, go anywhere’. But their first assignment, for the sinister Mr Whittington, plunges them into more danger than they ever imagined.

9. Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #1)  by Rhys Bowen. When Darcy runs off on another secret assignment, I am left to figure out how to travel to Italy sans maid and chaperone to help my dear friend Belinda, as she awaits the birth of her baby alone. An opportunity presents itself in a most unexpected way—my cousin the queen is in need of a spy to attend a house party in the Italian lake country.

The Prince of Wales and the dreadful Mrs. Simpson have been invited, and Her Majesty is anxious to thwart a possible secret wedding.

What luck! A chance to see Belinda and please the queen as I seek her permission to relinquish my claim to the throne so I can marry Darcy. Only that’s as far as my good fortune takes me. I soon discover that Mummy is attending the villa party and she has her own secret task for me. Then, Darcy shows up and tells me that the fate of a world on the brink of war could very well depend on what I overhear at dinner! I shouldn’t be all that surprised when one of my fellow guests is murdered and my Italian holiday becomes a nightmare.

10. Death On Demand (Death On Demand, #1) by Carolyn Hart. At Annie Laurance’s Death On Demand bookstore on Broward’s Rock Island, South Carolina, murder most foul suddenly isn’t confined to the well-stocked shelves. Author Elliot Morgan’s abrupt demise during a weekly gathering of famous mystery writers called the Sunday Night Regulars is proof positive that a bloody sword is sometimes mightier than a brilliant pen.

With Annie is the unenviable position of primary police suspect, the pretty young mystery maven and her wealthy paramour, Max Darling, embark on an investigation into a classic locked-room mystery with high stakes. For failing to unmask a brutal and ingenious killer could mean prison for Ms. Laurance. While success could mean her death.

11. Murder With Peacocks (Meg Langslow, #1) by Donna Andrews. Three Weddings…And a Murder.

So far Meg Langslow’s summer is not going swimmingly. Down in her small Virginia hometown, she’s maid of honor at the nuptials of three loved ones–each of whom has dumped the planning in her capable hands. One bride is set on including a Native American herbal purification ceremony, while another wants live peacocks on the lawn. Only help from the town’s drop-dead gorgeous hunk, disappointingly rumored to be gay, keeps Meg afloat in a sea of dotty relatives and outrageous neighbors.

And, in whirl of summer parties and picnics, Southern hospitality is strained to the limit by an offensive newcomer who hints at skeletons in the guests’ closets. But it seems this lady has offended one too many when she’s found dead in suspicious circumstances, followed by a string of accidents–some fatal. Soon, level-headed Meg’s to-do list extends from flower arrangements and bridal registries to catching a killer–before the next catered event is her own funeral.

12. Aunt Dimity’s Death (An Aunt Dimity Mystery, #1) by Nancy Atherton. Lori Shepherd thought Aunt Dimity was just a character in a bedtime story…Until the Dickensian law firm of Willis & Willis summons her to a reading of the woman’s will.

Down-on-her-luck Lori learns she’s about to inherit a siazable estate–if she can discover the secret hidden in a treasure trove of letters in Dimity’s English country cottage. What begins as a fairy tale becomes a mystery–and a ghost story–in an improbably cozy setting, as Aunt Dimity’s indominable spirit leads Lori on an otherworldly quest to discover how, in this life, true love can conquer all.

13. Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden, #1) by Charlaine Harris. Aurora Teagarden, small town librarian and true crime buff, is looking forward to the monthly meeting of the Real Murders Society, a group of fellow crime enthusiasts who share a unique interest in historical murders.

The Society meetings are the highlight of Roe’s social life in sleepy Lawrenceville, Georgia, and she’s ready for a quiet night of discussion, coffee, and cookies. But after she finds the body of a Society member in a staged crime scene eerily similar to the one the group was supposed to discuss that very night, Roe finds herself at the center of a murderous story of her own.

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that members of the Real Murders Society have become targets of a knowledgeable copycat. With the help of handsome police detective Arthur Smith and the town’s dashing new resident, mystery novelist Robin Crusoe, it’s up to Roe to discover if the murderer is one of the group’s own and to piece the perplexing puzzle together before another body appears.

14. Borrower of the Night (Vicky Bliss, #1) by Elizabeth Peters. Meet art historian Vicky Bliss, She is as beautiful as she is brainy–with unassailable courage, insatiable curiosity, and an expertise in lost museum treasures that often leads her into the most dangerous of situations.

A missing masterwork in wood, the last creation of a master carver who died in the violent tumult of the sixteenth century, may be hidden in a medieval German castle in the town of Rothenburg. The prize has called to Vicky Bliss, drawing her and an arrogant male colleague into the forbidding citadel and its dark secrets. But the treasure hunt soon turns deadly.

Here, where the blood of the long forgotten damned stains ancient stones, Vicky must face two equally perilous possibilities. Either a powerful supernatural evil inhabits this place. . .or someone frighteningly real is willing to kill for what Vicky is determined to find.

15. The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1) by Jasper Fforde. The first installment in Jasper Fforde’s New York Times bestselling series of Thursday Next novels introduces literary detective Thursday Next and her alternate reality of literature-obsessed England—from the author of Early Riser

Fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse will love visiting Jasper Fforde’s Great Britain, circa 1985, when time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously: it’s a bibliophile’s dream. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense.

All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection. But when someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature and plucks Jane Eyre from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday is faced with the challenge of her career. Fforde’s ingenious fantasy—enhanced by a Web site that re-creates the world of the novel—unites intrigue with English literature in a delightfully witty mix.

16. The Thin Woman (Ellie Haskell Mystery, #1) by Dorothy Cannell. Ellie Simons longs to be thin—and married. But with her single-minded passion for éclairs and clotted cream, her prospects on both counts seem dim. That’s why the summons to attend a family reunion at the old ancestral home is about as welcome as a snakebite. How can she show up with her embarrassingly full figure in her humble unmarried state and keep her chins up?

Enter Bentley T. Haskell of Eligibility Escorts, a devastatingly attractive writer of smutty novels who also cooks like a dream. With Bentley posing as her besotted beau, Ellie feels brave enough to beard her batty relations in their den.

But mouldering Merlin’s Court is nothing like Ellie remembers, and with her wretchedly beautiful cousin Vanessa making eyes at Ben, and her malevolent old uncle Merlin popping up in the most unexpected places, it’s enough to put Ellie off her food. And the best—and worst—is yet to come, as the weekend leads to sudden death, unexpected romance, and a treasure hunt that promises epicurean Ellie wealth, hearth, and happiness . . . if she survives.

17. The Ghost and Mrs. McClure (Haunted Bookshop Mystery, #1) by Alice Kimberly. Young widow Penelope Thornton-McClure and her old Aunt Sadie are making ends meet by managing a mystery book shop—a quaint Rhode Island landmark rumored to be haunted. Pen may not believe in ghosts, but she does believe in good publicity—like nabbing Timothy Brennan for a book signing. But soon after the bestselling thriller writer reveals a secret about the store’s link to a 1940s murder, he keels over dead—and right in the middle of the store’s new Community Events space.

Who gives Mrs. McClure the first clue that it was murder? The bookstore’s full-time ghost—a PI murdered on the very spot more than fifty years ago. Is he a figment of Pen’s overactive imagination? Or is the oddly likable fedora-wearing specter the only hope Pen has to solve the crime? You can bet your everlasting life on it.

18. Death at Bishop’s Keep (Kathryn Ardleigh, #1) by Robin Paige. Kate Adrleigh is everything the Victorian English gentlewoman is not–outspoken, free-thinking, American…and a writer of the frowned upon “penny-dreadfuls.”Soon after her arrival in Essex, England, a body is unearthed in a nearby archeological dig–and Kate has the chance to not only research her latest story…but to begin her first case with amateur detective Sir Charles Sheridan.

19. The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell. Trixie’s summer is going to be sooo boring with her two older brothers away at camp. But then a millionaire’s daughter moves into the next-door mansion, an old miser hides a fortune in his decrepit house, and a runaway kid starts hiding out in Sleepyside!

20. Glazed Murder (Donut Shop Mystery, #1) by Jessica Beck. Meet Suzanne Hart, owner and operator of Donut Hearts coffee shop in April Springs, North Carolina. After her divorce from Max, an out-of-work actor she’s dubbed “The Great Impersonator,” Suzanne decided to pursue her one true passion in life: donuts. So she cashed in her settlement and opened up shop in the heart of her beloved hometown.

But when a dead body is dumped on her doorstep like a sack of flour, Suzanne’s cozy little shop becomes an all-out crime scene. Now, everyone in town is dropping by for glazed donuts and gruesome details. The retired sheriff warns her to be careful—and they’re all suspects. Soon Suzanne—who finds snooping as irresistible as donuts—is poking holes in everyone’s alibis.

21. The Novice’s Tale (Sister Frevisse, #1) by Margaret Frazer. In the fair autumn of Our Lord’s grace 1431, the nuns of England’s St. Frideswide’s prepare for the simply ceremonies in which the saintly novice Thomasine will take her holy vows. But their quiet lives of beauty and prayer are thrown into chaos by the merciless arrival of Lady Ermentrude Fenner and her retinue of lusty men, sinful women, and baying hounds. The hard-drinking dowager even keeps a pet monkey for her amusement. She demands wine, a feast…

And her niece, the angelic Thomasine.

The lady desires to enrich herself and her reputation by arranging a marriage for the devout novice. She cares nothing for the panic and despair she leaves behind her.

But all her cruel and cunning schemes are brought to a sudden end with strange and most unnatural murder.

As suspicious eyes turn on the pious Thomasine, it falls to Sister Frevisse, hosteler of the priory and amateur detective, to unravel the webs of unholy passion and dark intrigue that entangle the novice and prove her innocence… or condemn her.

22. Eggs in Purgatory (Cackleberry Club, #1) by Laura Childs. Suzanne, Toni, and Petra lose their husbands but find independence when they open the Cackleberry Club. Then their cozy cafe becomes the scene of a crime when a lawyer dies with a secret on his lips and egg on his face. What this all has to do with a religious cult and Suzanne?s past could put her own life on the line.

23. The Cat, the Quilt and the Corpse (A Cats In Trouble Mystery, #1) by Leann Sweeney. Jill’s quiet life is shattered when her house is broken into and her Abyssinian, Syrah, goes missing. Jill’s convinced her kitty’s been catnapped. But when her cat-crime-solving leads her to a murdered body, suddenly all paws are pointing to Jill.

Soon, Jill discovers that Syrah isn’t the only purebred who’s been stolen. Now she has to find these furry felines before they all become the prey of a cold-blooded killer-and she ends up nabbed for a crime.

24. The Coroner’s Lunch (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #1) by Colin Cotterill. Laos, 1978: Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old medical doctor, has unwillingly been appointed the national coroner of the new socialist Laos. His lab is underfunded, his boss is incompetent, and his support staff is quirky, to say the least. But Siri’s sense of humor gets him through his often frustrating days.

When the body of the wife of a prominent politician comes through his morgue, Siri has reason to suspect the woman has been murdered. To get to the truth, Siri and his team face government secrets, spying neighbors, victim hauntings, Hmong shamans, botched romances, and other deadly dangers. Somehow, Siri must figure out a way to balance the will of the party and the will of the dead.

25. Gin & Daggers (Murder, She Wrote, #1) by Jessica Fletcher. Jessica Fletcher is off to London to deliver the keynote address at a mystery writers convention. She’s also looking forward to seeing her mentor, Marjorie Ainsworth, who’s hosting a party on her estate to celebrate her latest book. But a routine business trip becomes murderous business–when Jessica discovers Marjorie stabbed to death in her own bedroom.

26. Truly, Madly (Lucy Valentine, #1) by Heather Webber. Lucy Valentine is as smart as can be, as single as you can get, and so not qualified to run a matchmaking service. But when her parents temporarily step down from the family business, Valentine, Inc., it’s Lucy’s turn to step up and help out—in the name of love.

Plus, her rent is due. Here’s the problem: Lucy doesn’t have the knack for matchmaking. According to family legend, every Valentine has been blessed by Cupid with the ability to read “auras” and pair up perfect couples. But not Lucy. Her skills were zapped away years ago in an electrical surge, and now all she can do is find lost objects.

What good is that in the matchmaking world? You’d be surprised. In a city like Boston, everyone’s looking for something. So when Lucy locates a missing wedding ring—on a dead body—she asks the sexy private eye who lives upstairs to help her solve the perfect crime. And who knows? Maybe she’ll find the perfect love while she’s at it…in Heather Webber’s Truly, Madly.

27. The Body in the Belfry (Faith Fairchild #1) by Katherine Hall Page. During her years spent in New York City, Faith Fairchild was convinced she had seen pretty much everything. But the transplanted caterer/minister’s wife was unprepared for the surprises awaiting her in the sleepy Massachusetts village of Aleford.

And she is especially taken aback by the dead body of a pretty young thing she discovers stashed in the church’s belfry. The victim, Cindy Shepherd, was well-known locally for her acid tongue and her jilted beaux, which created a lot of bad blood and more than a few possible perpetrators — including her luckless fiancé, who had neither an alibi nor a better way to break off the engagement.

Faith thinks it’s terribly unfair that the police have zeroed in on the hapless boyfriend, and so she sets out to uncover the truth. But digging too deeply into the sordid secrets of a small New England village tends to make the natives nervous. And an overly curious big city lady can become just another small town death statistic in very short order.

28. Cloche and Dagger (Hat Shop Mystery, #1) by Jenn McKinlay. Not only is Scarlett Parker’s love life in the loo—as her British cousin Vivian Tremont would say—it’s also gone viral with an embarrassing video. So when Viv suggests Scarlett leave Florida to lay low in London, she hops on the next plane across the pond. Viv is the proprietor of Mims’s Whims, a ladies’ hat shop on Portobello Road bequeathed to both cousins by their beloved grandmother, and she wants Scarlett to finally join her in the millinery business.

But a few surprises await Scarlett in London. First, she is met at the airport not by Viv, but by her handsome business manager, Harrison Wentworth. Second, Viv—who has some whims of her own—seems to be missing. No one is too concerned about the unpredictable Viv until one of her posh clients is found dead wearing the cloche hat Viv made for her—and nothing else. Is Scarlett’s cousin in trouble? Or is she in hiding?

29. A Clue for the Puzzle Lady (Puzzle Lady #1) by Parnell Hall. Cruciverbalists, rejoice!!! Pick up a pencil and get ready to solve the puzzle–and a puzzling murder–in this lively debut of a unique amateur detective, Miss Cora Felton, the reigning queen of crosswords. Cora’s an eccentric old lady with a nationally syndicated puzzle column, an irresistible urge to poke into unsettling events, and a niece who’s determined to keep her out of trouble. In a slyly amusing and wickedly suspenseful mystery, this delightful heroine takes her first crack at playing sleuth. Only this isn’t fun and games….It’s murder.

Violent crime is rare in tiny Bakerhaven. When the body of an unknown teenage girl turns up in the local cemetery, Police Chief Dale Harper finds himself investigating his first homicide. Nothing about this case is straightforward. Even a thorough search of the crime scene fails to reveal who she was, the murder weapon, or why the killer left her body in a graveyard minus her shoes. A cryptic message on a scrap of paper she carried seems to be a crossword puzzle clue. Could it have been left by the killer? If so, what does it mean?

Fortunately for Harper, Bakerhaven is the new home of Miss Cora Felton, the famed “Puzzle Lady” herself, whose popular crossword puzzle column graces newspapers nationwide. Yet bringing Cora Felton into this case could be his most costly mistake. For though she may look like someone’s sweet old grandmother, behind those twinkling eyes and that slightly mysterious smile lies a woman with a whopping secret…and some hidden vices. What’s worse, one whiff of mystery turns Miss Felton into a modern-day Miss Marple.

Now Cora is snooping through crime scenes, questioning witnesses, and gaining a lot of unwanted attention. It’s just the sort of meddling, mischief-making behavior that drives Chief Harper to distraction and inspires many cross words from her long-suffering niece Sherry. But when another body turns up in a murder that hits much closer to home, Cora must find a killer–before she winds up in a black box three feet across…and six down.

30. 50% Off Murder (Good Buy Girls, #1) by Josie Belle. Maggie Gerber-one of the founding members of the Good Buy Birls- loves her quiet life in St. Stanley, Virginia. But all that changes when Sam Collins, her old flame, moves back to town as the new sheriff. On top of that, Claire Freemont, a librarian and the newest member of the Good Buy Girls, starts acting utterly strange.

When Maggie goes to visit her the next day at the library, she finds the body of a very dead man. Turns out the man is someone from Claire’s past. As the handsome new sheriff zeroes in on Claire, it’s up to Maggie and the rest of the Good Buy Girls to use their bargain-hunting skills to hunt a killer-while making sure they don’t pay too much in the process.

31. A Potion to Die For (A Magic Potion Mystery, #1) by Heather Blake. As the owner of Little Shop of Potions, a magic potion shop specializing in love potions, Carly Bell Hartwell finds her product more in demand than ever. A local soothsayer has predicted that a couple in town will soon divorce—and now it seems every married person in Hitching Post, Alabama, wants a little extra matrimonial magic to make sure they stay hitched.

But when Carly finds a dead man in her shop, clutching one of her potion bottles, she goes from most popular potion person to public enemy number one. In no time the murder investigation becomes a witch hunt—literally!

Now Carly is going to need to brew up some serious sleuthing skills to clear her name and find the real killer—before the whole town becomes convinced her potions really are to die for.

32. Catnap (Midnight Louie, #1) by Carole Nelson Douglas. The first Midnight Louie mystery, now in eBook, offers a publishing industry exposé. When Temple Barr, five-feet-zero of feisty redhead, goes in hot pursuit of a stray black cat streaking through a publishing convention exhibit hall, she stumbles over a big-time NY editor lying dead.

While Temple and Midnight Louie are on the case, the famous publishing mascots, a pair of Scottish Fold library cats named Baker and Taylor, are kidnapped for ransom. The pair must sniff out a murderer before Murder by the Book describes their fates.

33. The Case of the Missing Servant (Vish Puri, #1) by Tarquin Hall. The first in a detective series that “immediately joins the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency as representing the best in international cozies” (Booklist, starred review).

Meet Vish Puri, India’s most private investigator. Portly, persistent, and unmistakably Punjabi, he cuts a determined swath through modern India’s swindlers, cheats, and murderers.

In hot and dusty Delhi, where call centers and malls are changing the ancient fabric of Indian life, Puri’s main work comes from screening prospective marriage partners, a job once the preserve of aunties and family priests. But when an honest public litigator is accused of murdering his maidservant, it takes all of Puri’s resources to investigate.

With his team of undercover operatives—Tubelight, Flush, and Facecream—Puri combines modern techniques with principles of detection established in India more than two thousand years ago, and reveals modern India in all its seething complexity.

34. Bubba and the Dead Woman (Bubba Snoddy, #1) by C.L. Bevill. Bubba Snoddy is a good old country boy with a big problem. Although he’s personable, handsome, and lives in a historical Southern mansion in a small Texas town, he has just discovered the dead body of a woman to whom he was once engaged to marry.

His ex-fiancée was responsible for Bubba being thrown out of the military which in turn caused his shameful return to the tiny town of Pegramville, where everyone is a consummate gossip and no one has any secrets.

Sheriff John Headrick believes Bubba killed his ex-fiancée in a fit of vengeful rage. The townsfolk believe that Bubba killed his ex-fiancée in a fit of vengeful rage. Bubba’s own mother believes that Bubba killed his ex-fiancée in a fit of vengeful rage.

To top it all off, there are some mighty strange goings-on at the Snoddy Mansion, where ghosts walk the halls rattling chains in the midnight hour, and Bubba’s own sainted mother, Miz Demetrice, runs an illegal gambling ring. Rumors run merrily rampant about Bubba, decadent Snoddy ancestors, missing Civil War gold, a to-die-for sheriff’s deputy with the greenest eyes Bubba’s ever seen, and a Basset Hound named Precious who likes to nip first and ask questions later.

Bubba has to find out exactly who did murder his ex-fiancée and quickly before he goes to jail for the crime, or before someone murders him.

35. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, #01) by Alexander McCall Smith. Fans around the world adore the best-selling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and its proprietor, Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective. In this charming series, Mma  Ramotswe—with help from her loyal associate, Grace Makutsi—navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, good humor, and the occasional cup of tea.

This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter.

But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency received two Booker Judges’ Special Recommendations and was voted one of the International Books of the Year and the Millennium by the Times Literary Supplement.

36. The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (Cat Who…, #1) by Lilian Jackson Braun. The world of modern art is a mystery to many. But for Jim Qwilleran, it turns into a mystery of another sort when his assignment for The Daily Fluxion leads down the path to murder. A stabbing in an art gallery, vandalized paintings, a fatal fall from a scaffolding—this is not at all what Qwilleran expects when he turns his reporter talents to art.

But Qwilleran and his newly found partner, Koko the brilliant Siamese cat, are in their element—sniffing out clues and confounding criminals intent on mayhem and murder. This riveting beginning to the Cat Who series is the perfect cozy mystery for cat lovers to start sleuthing.

37. Catering to Nobody (A Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery, #1) by Diane Mott Davidson. Diane Mott Davidson’s winning recipe of first-class suspense and five-star fare has won her and caterer Goldy critical raves and a regular place on major bestseller lists across the country. In Goldy’s tantalizing debut, she serves up a savory dish of secrets, suspicions, and murder….

Catering a wake is not Goldy’s idea of fun. Yet the Colorado caterer throws herself into preparing a savory feast including Poached Salmon and Strawberry Shortcake Buffet designed to soothe forty mourners. And her culinary efforts seem to be exactly what the doctor ordered…until her ex-father-in-law gynecologist Fritz Korman is struck down and Goldy is accused of adding poison to the menu.

Now, with the Department of Health impounding her leftovers, her ex-husband proclaiming her guilt, and her business about to be shut down, Goldy knows she can’t wait for the police to serve up the answers. She’ll soon uncover more than one family skeleton and a veritable stew of unpalatable secrets–the kind that could make Goldy the main course in an unsavory killer’s next murder!

38. Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1) by Louise Penny. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods.

The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces—and this series—with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.

39. The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, #1) by Carolyn Keene. In this first of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, Nancy, unaided, seeks to find a missing will. Her search not only tests her keen mind but also leads her into a thrilling adventure. This volume presents the original, 1930 version of the story. In 1959 the story was rewritten and condensed and this original version went out of print.

40. A Morbid Taste for Bones (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #1) by Ellis Peters. A Welsh Benedictine monk living at Shrewsbury Abbey in western England, Brother Cadfael spends much of his time tending the herbs and vegetables in the garden—but now there’s a more pressing matter. Cadfael is to serve as translator for a group of monks heading to the town of Gwytherin in Wales. The team’s goal is to collect the holy remains of Saint Winifred, which Prior Robert hopes will boost the abbey’s reputation, as well as his own. But when the monks arrive in Gwytherin, the town is divided over the request.

When the leading opponent to disturbing the grave is found shot dead with a mysterious arrow, some believe Saint Winifred herself delivered the deadly blow. Brother Cadfael knows an earthly hand did the deed, but his plan to root out a murderer may dig up more than he can handle.

Before CSI and Law & Order, there was Brother Cadfael, “wily veteran of the Crusades” (Los Angeles Times). His knowledge of herbalism, picked up in the Holy Land, and his skillful observance of human nature are blessings in dire situations, and earned Ellis Peters a Crime Writers’ Association Silver Dagger Award. A Morbid Taste for Bones kicks off a long-running and much-loved series that went on to be adapted for stage, radio, and television.

41. Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1) by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs got her start as a maid in an aristocratic London household when she was thirteen. Her employer, suffragette Lady Rowan Compton, soon became her patron, taking the remarkably bright youngster under her wing. Lady Rowan’s friend, Maurice Blanche, often retained as an investigator by the European elite, recognized Maisie’s intuitive gifts and helped her earn admission to the prestigious Girton College in Cambridge, where Maisie planned to complete her education.

The outbreak of war changed everything. Maisie trained as a nurse, then left for France to serve at the Front, where she found—and lost—an important part of herself. Ten years after the Armistice, in the spring of 1929, Maisie sets out on her own as a private investigator, one who has learned that coincidences are meaningful, and truth elusive. Her very first case involves suspected infidelity but reveals something very different.

In the aftermath of the Great War, a former officer has founded a working farm known as The Retreat, that acts as a convalescent refuge for ex-soldiers too shattered to resume normal life. When Fate brings Maisie a second case involving The Retreat, she must finally confront the ghost that has haunted her for over a decade.

42. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (Mary Russell, #1) by Laurie R. King. An Agatha Award Best Novel Nominee • Named One of the Century’s Best 100 Mysteries by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association

In 1915, Sherlock Holmes is retired and quietly engaged in the study of honeybees in Sussex when a young woman literally stumbles onto him on the Sussex Downs. Fifteen years old, gawky, egotistical, and recently orphaned, the young Mary Russell displays an intellect to impress even Sherlock Holmes.

Under his reluctant tutelage, this very modern, twentieth-century woman proves a deft protégée and a fitting partner for the Victorian detective.

They are soon called to Wales to help Scotland Yard find the kidnapped daughter of an American senator, a case of international significance with clues that dip deep into Holmes’s past. Full of brilliant deduction, disguises, and danger, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the first book of the Mary Russell–Sherlock Holmes mysteries, is “remarkably beguiling” (The Boston Globe).

43. On What Grounds (Coffeehouse Mystery, #1) by Cleo Coyle. Ten years ago, Clare Cosi left an unhappy marriage along with a job she loved: managing the historic Village Blend coffeehouse in New York’s Greenwich Village. For a decade, she was happy raising her daughter in the quiet suburbs of New Jersey; but now that Joy is grown and gone, life has gotten way too quiet for Clare.

With a little cajoling from Madame, the Blend’s flamboyant, elderly owner, Clare agrees to return to her old job, and right from the start she gets one heck of a jolt. On her first morning back as Village Blend manager, Clare unlocks the front door to find her beautiful, young assistant manager unconscious in the back of the store, coffee grounds strewn everywhere.

As Anabelle is rushed to the hospital, police arrive to investigate, but Detective Mike Quinn finds no sign of forced entry or foul play, and he deems it an accident. Clare disagrees; and after Quinn leaves, there are a few questions she just can’t get out of her mind, like why was the trash bin in the wrong place? If this wasn’t an accident, are her other baristas in danger? And are all NYPD detectives this attractive?

44. Murder on a Girls’ Night Out (Southern Sisters, #1) by Anne George.  Country Western is red hot these days, so overimpulsive Mary Alice thinks it makes perfect sense to buy the Skoot ‘n’ Boot bar — since that’s where the many-times-divorced “Sister” and her boyfriend du jour like to hang out anyway. Sensible retired schoolteacher Patricia Anne is inclined to disagree — especially when they find a strangled and stabbed dead body dangling in the pub’s wishing well.

The sheriff has some questions for Mouse and her sister Sister, who were the last people, besides the murderer, of course, to see the ill-fated victim alive. And they had better come up with some answers soon — because a killer with unfinished business has begun sending them some mighty threatening messages.

45. Thyme of Death (China Bayles, #1) by Susan Wittig Albert. Susan Wittig Albert’s novels featuring ex-lawyer and herb-shop proprietor China Bayles have won acclaim for their rich characterization and witty, suspenseful stories of crime and passion in small-town Texas. Now, when China’s friend Jo dies of an apparent suicide, China looks behind the quaint facade of Pecan Springs. Though she finds a lot of friendly faces, China is sure that one of them hides the heart of a killer.

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