Best cosy mystery series or just plain cosy series?
August 6, 2014 7:21 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a book series to get into that's easy and light, now that I have a kiddo.

I like Agatha Christie and, thinking of her, I googled "cosy mystery writers" without realising that Cosy Mystery (or Cozy if you're American) is actually a genre. Yay! Only there are way too many authors to choose from.

I searched previous posts but couldn't find anything with these parameters.

My ideal series would have lots and lots of books in it, and would combine the acid humour of Love in a Cold Climate and Cold Comfort Farm with the English coziness of the Guernsey Literary etc Society. Plus mystery.

Come to think of it, mystery is not even essential - just a good long series that's funny, intelligent and well-written and with likeable characters that get nice and developed. Please give me your recommendations!
posted by reshet to Writing & Language (30 answers total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't say they are acidly funny, but I enjoy the Meg Langslow books (up to 17 or 18 now) by Donna Andrews. They are funny, full of likeable characters, and very light.
posted by jeather at 7:23 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series is calling your name. They're delightful.
posted by Lemmy Caution at 7:24 PM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Mapp and Lucia series.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:30 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes yes to Flavia de Luce. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith is also very cozy and gentle.
posted by charmedimsure at 7:35 PM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Seconding the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.
posted by queens86 at 7:42 PM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed the Her Royal Spyness series, and found it easy to get into at a time when I was both easily distracted and travelling.
posted by escapepod at 8:07 PM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity series.
posted by goml at 9:56 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ahhh, I asked a similar question for similar reasons, previously.

What you want now is The Paradise.

On Netflix. Probably on BBC, too.

Much much better and different from Mr. Selfridge, but very much in the Downton Abbey/Agatha Christie range.

Uplifting, not a drag.
posted by jbenben at 11:50 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

M.C. Beaton writes 2 different series. One is the Hamish Macbeth series which is set in Scotland. The other is Agatha Raisin.

The Hamish Macbeth stories are centered around a highland police officer who is doing his very best to do as little as possible and not lose his job. This is complicated by the fact that there are highlanders and incomers dropping like flies, and he is a very good investigator.

Agatha Raisin is my favorite. She starts out as a suspect in a poisoning case " Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death". And becomes a private investigator as a result. The first three books are very well fleshed out. Very funny, with plenty of humor at Aggie's expense. She is quite the character. Oh, and it's set in the Cotswolds.

Both have many books in the series. The one thing I wish is that her later books were as well fleshed out as the first three of Agatha Raisin books. There was a lot of story that wasn't directly moving the plot, but I loved it all.

Start with Quiche of Death, it's a hoot.
posted by moonlily at 1:39 AM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

The 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith is not a mystery series, but is a very entertaining look at the intersecting lives of a group of people in Edinburgh's New Town. It fits the bill for "funny, intelligent and well-written and with likeable characters that get nice and developed. "

(I love Agathe Christie, but I find that genre 'cozies' are often drastically different from her work. A lot of them are saccharinely twee, which might annoy you if you like more acid humour. Some of the series written by Americans but set in England can be inauthentic enough to set your teeth on edge if you actually know the UK well.)
posted by Azara at 2:18 AM on August 7, 2014

Anything by Charlotte Macleod --- she wrote four series, and they're all good!
posted by easily confused at 2:47 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

This probably seems a bit off-track, but Terry Pratchett's Discworld series actually fits most of your criteria. I mean, yes, there are wizards, but you shouldn't let that put you off. You could try The Wee Free Men (part one of the sub series about witch-in-training Tiffany Aching. If you like them, there are loads of others of varying quality with different casts of characters (the later ones are better than the earlier ones).
posted by Grangousier at 3:00 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am also an Agatha Christie fan and enjoy the Father Brown short stories by G.K. Chesterton. Father Brown is a kindly and seemingly "simple" Catholic priest, with a deep understanding of human nature which helps him solve baffling crimes. The mysteries aren't as shocking as what you would come across in Christie, but instead rather gentle and certainly cozy!
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 4:10 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you are a cat person, give Lilian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who... series a try. I used to gobble these up from my local library when I was in high school. They definitely fit the Cozy Mystery genre, especially after the main character moves from the city to the smaller town of Pickax (around book 5 or 6 I think?)
posted by Roommate at 4:35 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am currently reading the Longmire series by Craig Johnson and I love them.
posted by aclevername at 5:01 AM on August 7, 2014

Well, this isn't a book but an old BBC series: Hetty Wainthropp Investigates. (It's free on YouTube but the video quality isn't always great.)

I am almost finished with a binge-watch of this currently and am enjoying it quite a bit. Lots of delicious scenes from around Lancashire. The main character is a grandmotherly sort who uses various ruses to investigate, and her sidekick is none other than a very young pre-LoTR Dominic Monaghan. The series was based on a novel called Missing Persons, iirc.
posted by cardinality at 5:45 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't read Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series, but have absolutely devoured the Miss Fisher Mysteries on Netflix. Looks like there are about 20 books currently in the series. They're set in Australia in the late 1920s.

Seconding Agatha Raisin after hearing the radio series on the BBC. Penelope Keith was perfectly cast as Agatha. I wasn't sure what to expect and found the stories really enjoyable.

Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey novels are classics.

Josephine Tey only wrote 8 novels, but her writing craft is exquisite.

Ngaio Marsh wrote 32 Inspector Alleyn mysteries. The later ones get a bit silly.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 5:58 AM on August 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

In no particular order:

The Inspector Alvarez series by Roderic Jeffries.
The Marshal Guarnaccia series by the late Magdalen Nabb
The Inspector Bruno series by Martin Walker
The Richard Jury novels by Martha Grimes.

Oh, look, I was searching Anthea Fraser and found this:
posted by SemiSalt at 6:37 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

You should try Mary Daheim! A million murder mysteries set around a bed and breakfast in Washington state. I love them. If you haven't tried Diane Mott Davidson, I would recommend those, too. Since you mentioned that it doesn't have to be mystery, what about Adriana Trigiani? Her most famous series is Big Stone Gap, but I also loved the Valentine series. Jennifer Cruisie might be great for you, too. Good character development with smart dialog, mystery elements, lots of sex. I've read Welcome to Temptation a million times and still love it.
posted by Pardon Our Dust at 6:49 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try The Moosepath League series by Van Reid. More info. at the author's website.
posted by gudrun at 6:58 AM on August 7, 2014

Not tremendously snarky but well-written are the books in the Deborah Knott series (there are 18 so far; that should keep you busy) by Margaret Maron. The main character is, after the first book, a low-level judge in a fictional present-day North Carolina county; they are all murder mysteries, not legal mysteries. They are written in the first person. The first book in the series 'The Bootlegger's Daughter' won just about every mystery award possible. (Yes, Judge Knott's father WAS a bootlegger and the sire of a very large family, of which Deborah is the youngest and only female. It makes for a lot of interesting family and societal dynamics dealing with the changes as a rural county becomes ex-urban.)
posted by yellowdog at 7:00 AM on August 7, 2014

Seconding the unusual suggestion of Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Came in to suggest it myself, as it is absurdly cozy and there is usually a major element of unfolding-mystery involved.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:01 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you read any Dorothy Sayers, be warned there are instances of sudden casual anti-semitism that can be shocking to the modern reader. Other than that they're brilliant.

Thirding Flavia de Luce!

I would add Monica Ferris' needlework mysteries. It helps if you have an interest in needlework, but the characters are interesting enough that you could get into it even if you don't. They start a little slow but after the 2nd or 3rd or so they're great, and easy reads.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:32 AM on August 7, 2014

Seconding the Aunt Dimity series. You might also like the Corinna Chapman series by Kerry Greenwood.
posted by Lay Off The Books at 8:34 AM on August 7, 2014

How about Debbie Macomber?
posted by freezer cake at 9:36 AM on August 7, 2014

Based on a previous MeFi recommendation, I read my way straight through the Lady Julia Grey novels and am SUPER ANXIOUSLY awaiting #6 because there is a lot of momentum in the series arc and I need to know what happens next.

If you are reading on a Kindle, save yourself time and money and just grab the bundle of novels 1 - 3 for $10. They are cozy crack.

PS: If you are not reading on a Kindle and you have a babe-in-arms, I will only say that the Kindle is a marvellous device for one handed reading; lightweight, easy to turn pages with just one hand, and they can be picked up 2nd hand on Ebay for very little. Also, I read at a rate of knots (several hundred novels a year, including reading straight through several dozen series) and I could probably fund your child's college education with the money I've saved buying Kindle editions.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:23 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just remembered: the wonderful humorists Caryl Brahms and S.J. Simon. They're perhaps best known for their book No Bed for Bacon, which might have inspired aspects of Shakespeare in Love (and is a glorious, if historically unsound, romp through Shakespearean mythologia), but they also wrote a very funny series of murder mysteries set in a down-at-heel Russian ballet company, beginning with A Bullet in the Ballet. I think you could track down dog-eared second-hand copies on Abebooks. Sort of Agatha Christie meets The Red Shoes with jokes.
posted by Grangousier at 4:27 PM on August 7, 2014

It's a shame no-one's mentioned Sarah Caudwell's books, which fit what you're looking for perfectly. Well, except for the length of the series - unfortunately she only wrote four books. But it's got both the acid humour and the cosy setting that you are looking for.
posted by ontheradio at 5:27 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I loved the Mrs. Polifax series by Dorothy Gilman. An older lady gets imbroiled in mysteries that take her all over the world.
posted by primate moon at 5:52 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing Dorothy Sayers and enthusiastically seconding Sarah Caudwell although she is a bit dry for some people; I love her. In the classic Sayers/Christie mystery vein, there is also Marjorie Allingham and, already mentioned, Ngaio Marsh. If you don't mind historical settings, let me heartily recommend both Ellis Peters wonderful Brother Cadfael medieval mysteries as well as her fewer "contemporary" - 50s/60s UK - ones that are a bit harder to find, but well worth it and Lindsey Davis' delightful Marcus Didius Falco books, set in ancient Rome.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:26 PM on August 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

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