Seattle author Mary Daheim’s “Alpine” mystery series takes place in a gorgeous town in the Cascade Mountains where newspaper editor Emma Lord solves murders and still meets her weekly deadlines. Wondering where to start with this series? Daheim brilliantly titles these in alphabetical order, starting with The Alpine Advocate, The Alpine Betrayal and so on up to the newest entry, The Alpine Traitor, just out this spring. For more cozy nights, try Daheim’s Bed-and-Breakfast mystery series.
But wait! What in the world is a “cozy”? My friend asked me that the other day, but she didn’t express herself quite so cleanly. I usually describe a cozy mystery as being the kind of book where the murder takes place off-stage and is solved by a smart, witty amateur sleuth. It’s not an exact definition, but it will do. Think Agatha Christie, except the books don’t have to be British, set in a village or feature someone like Miss Marple. In fact, a new crop of cozies feature younger stars and more urban settings. The Agatha Awards, presented annually, is a great place to get ideas for stellar traditional mysteries that best epitomize the standard that Dame Christie set. Although not specifically talking about cozies, the awards criteria for the Agatha state: “The genre is generally characterized by mysteries that contain no explicit sex, excessive gore or gratuitous violence; usually featuring an amateur detective, they have a confined setting and characters who know one another.” Kind of what I said.