Another departure from my usual reading habits. Don't get me wrong, now. I adore mysteries. I just don't typically go for the cozy variety. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I tend to steer clear of fiction that is too formulaic. If there are certain events which have to happen (for example, discovering the dead body of a prominent member of society) and it has to happen at a certain time, and there are certain events that must come next in order to be true to the genre, I generally won't enjoy the read.
I also like to stay away from books that are too light. When I read (or watch a movie or television show) I want to be dragged on an emotional rollercoaster so intense it leaves me breathless at the end. If I'm not pulled deep enough into the characters' minds, if I don't feel their pain and their joy, if the pathos of the story does not give me that fluttery feeling deep down in my gut, I won't experience the catharsis I was seeking and won't enjoy the book (or the movie or the television show).
So imagine my surprise when I found myself totally engrossed in a toe-tinglingly cozy mystery in my quest to find my next Book of the Month.
Smugglers & Scones by Morgan C. Talbot. What a fun book! Really, I should revamp my criteria for a good read. Just because it doesn't leave me weeping by the end doesn't mean I can't enjoy it. And I really did. I loved this book.
I said in last month's post that it is often the world-building that draws me into a book. That was certainly true of this one. I loved the description of the old house, the detailed backstory about the famous author, the quaint seaside town, the quirky cast of characters, and the food. All of it. I loved all of it.
I totally want to spend the night in the Moorehaven Bed and Breakfast Inn. The only people who are allowed to stay there are mystery authors, but that shouldn't be a problem for me. I've written one mystery novel, so that counts, right? I hope so. Ms. Talbot, can you please give me Pippa Winterbourne's number? Or does the B&B have a website I can look up? A vacation in the Pacific Northwest sounds like just what I need right now.
I also craved scones the whole time I was reading this book. I craved them for about three days before I finally realized there are recipes at the end of the book. Yeah, you heard me. Scone recipes right there in the book! And, yep, I baked them. And they were delicious. I'd rather be eating them in the dining room of a historic bed and breakfast which was once the home of a famous author, but eating them in my own kitchen wasn't a terrible experience. Again, Ms. Talbot, that phone number, please? I need to book a room at this hotel. Now.
Okay, so the house is gorgeous and the food is delicious. What about story? Does it deliver? Absolutely! But it's the world-building that makes it so fantastic. I think that's often true of fiction that falls into one of these limited genres. You know the mystery is going to play out in a fairly predictable pattern. What makes it unique is the setting, the characters, and the backstory. And all those things came together nicely by the end. Things which were mentioned casually in early chapters became significant later on, rewarding the reader for paying attention at the beginning. And though the progression of events was predictable enough to qualify the book as a cozy mystery, the actual details of the mystery managed to take me by surprise.
If you're a cozy mystery fan, you should definitely check this book out. Even if you're not (remember, I don't often read cozies) you should still give it a chance. It won't disappoint.