Favorite Cozy Mystery Reads for 2012

Ay! 2012 is on its way out! I can barely believe a whole year has passed since this very calendar day of last year! Where has the time gone?!? I have been so lucky to have both of my adult children living so close to my husband and me. Our son is here in San Antonio, and our daughter in Austin, 75 miles away. Perhaps that is why the year seems to have flown. I truly believe that while our daughter lived in Cambridge, the years seemed to just drudge on and on. I wish they would go by faster when the goings are good, and slow down when we are content!

As this is my last entry of 2012, I thought I would end the year by posting a terrific, suggested “theme” of Lynn T:

“Since 2012 is winding down, I just had an idea for a December/January blog or discussion. Amazon always has their top books for 2012. We could list our top 5 (or less) favorite reads for 2012. Just an idea. Maybe with our monthly favorites, you feel this would be repetitious.

I would be interested in learning what were the absolute favorites of  the cozy-mystery blog readers for the year of 2012.”

I am going to start the list by saying that I have read a lot of really good Cozy Mystery books this year, as well as some real stinkers, some of which I couldn’t even keep interested in for my “50 page rule.” Yes, I’m sorry to admit it, but some of these books were full of idiotic twists, paper-thin characters, and sleuths that (and notice I didn’t say “sleuths who” – since they couldn’t have been considered fully developed “people”) decided to take it upon themselves to confront a murderer, since they were indeed the sleuths, and the author knew they would have to stick around for the next installment of the series. Good grief!!!

Anyway, to get back to Lynn T’s idea, I have read several really good Cozy Mystery books this year, but since most of them were books by authors who were already on my “favorite authors” list, I thought I would tell you about my new “find” this year. Don’t get me wrong, I have added a few new-to-me authors to my “favorites” list, but this author is someone who, I am pretty sure I would have found on my own. Since I wrote an entry about this author, I will post the entry to explain why I selected him.

Tarquin Hall: Files of Vish Puri Mystery Series (Here is an entry that explains why I picked Hall.)

So, would you tell us about your Favorite Cozy Mystery Reads for 2012, and why you picked these books or authors. Thank you!

As usual with these types of entries, I will add the books/authors who you all comment about to the list:

Favorite Cozy Mystery Reads for 2012

Ellery Adams (aka J. B. Stanley, Jennifer Stanley, & 1/2 of Lucy Arlington): Written in Stone (Books by the Bay Mystery Series)

Susan Wittig Albert: The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree (Darling Dahlias Mystery Series)

Susan Wittig Albert: Cat’s Claw (Pecan Springs Mystery Series)

Donna Andrews: Meg Langslow Mystery Series

Suzanne Arruda: Jade del Cameron Mystery Series

Marian Babson: all of her books, especially her Trixie & Evangeline Mystery Series

Donald Bain & “Jessica Fletcher”: Murder, She Wrote Mystery Series

Nevada Barr: The Rope (Anna Pigeon Mystery Series

Lorna Barrett (aka L. L. Bartlett & Lorraine Bartlett): Booktown Mystery Series

M. C. Beaton: Agatha Raisin Mystery Series

Rhys Bowen: Molly Murphy Mystery Series

Rhys Bowen: Lady Georgiana Mystery Series

Lilian Jackson Braun: The Cat Who ***** Mystery Series

Simon Brett: Fethering Mystery Series

Jennifer Chiaverini: Elm Creek Quilts Series (not a mystery)

Laura Childs

Kate Collins: Flower Shop Mystery Series

Cleo Coyle (aka Alice Kimberly): Coffee House Mystery Series

Deborah Crombie:  Kincaid & James Mystery Series

Mary Daheim: Emma Lord Mystery Series

Diane Mott Davidson: Goldy Bear Mystery Series

Krista Davis: Domestic Diva Mystery Series

Jo Dereske: Miss Zukas Mystery Series

Monica Ferris: Needlecraft Mystery Series

Amanda Flower: A Plain Death (Appleseed Creek Mystery Series)

Sue Grafton: V is for Vengeance (Kinsey Milhone Mystery Series

Kerry Greenwood: Phryne Fisher Mystery Series

Kerry Greenwood: Corinna Chapman Mystery Series

John Grisham: The Litigators

Tarquin Hall: Files of Vish Puri Mystery Series (Here is an entry that explains why I picked Hall.)

Victoria Hamilton: Vintage Kitchen Mystery Series

David Handler: Berger & Mitry Mystery Series

Veronica Heley: Murder in Mind (Ellie Quicke Mystery Series)

Joan Hess: Deader Homes and Gardens (Claire Malloy Mystery Series)

Hazel Holt: Mrs. Malory Mystery Series

Maddy Hunter: Dutch Me Deadly (Passport to Peril Mystery Series)

Miranda James (aka Dean James, Honor Hartman, & Jimmie Ruth Evans): Cat in the Stack Mystery Series

J.A. Jance: Left for Dead (Ali Reynolds Mystery Series )

J.A. Jance: Judgement Call (Joanna Brady Mystery Series

Laurie R. King: Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes Mystery Series

Jill Marie Landis: Tikki Goddess Mystery Series

Laura Levine: Jaine Austen Mystery Series

Karen MacInerney: Gray Whale Inn Mystery Series

Charlotte MacLeod (aka Alisa Craig): The Family Vault (Sarah Kelling Mystery Series)

Charlotte MacLeod (aka Alisa Craig): Rest You Merry (Peter Shandy Mystery Series)

Susan Elia MacNeal: Maggie Hope Mystery Series

Margaret Maron: Deborah Knott Mystery Series

Jenn McKinlay (aka Lucy Lawrence & Josie Belle): Cupcake Bakery Mystery Series

Amy Patricia Meade: Don’t Die Under the Apple Tree (Rosie the Riveter Mystery Series)

Marcia Muller: City of Whispers and Looking for Yesterday (Sharon McCone Mystery Series)

Louise Penny: A Beautiful Mystery (Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery Series)

Terri Reid: Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery Series

Hank Phillippi Ryan: The Other Woman (Jane Ryland & Jake Brogan Mystery Series)

Maggie Sefton: Knitting Mystery Series

Joanna Campbell Slan: Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-n-Craft Mystery Series

Dana Stabenow: Restless in the Grave (Kate Shugak Mystery Series)

Victoria Thompson: Gaslight Mystery Series

Elaine Viets: Murder is a Piece of Cake (Mystery Shopper Mystery Series)

Jacqueline Winspear: Maisie Dobbs Mystery Series

Suzanne Young: Edna Davies Mystery Series

If you’re interested in seeing a whole lot more recommendations made by Cozy Mystery readers, click here: Monthly Cozy Mystery Recommendations.


  1. Bev S says

    Two authors I read and thoroughly enjoy are Monica Ferris and her Betsy Davenport series. Betsy inherited a needlework shop when her sister died and she generally has a mystery in which she helps the local police solve a murder (nothing graphic) in this series. The series is set in Minnesota and is a quick read and a fun read.

    The other author is Jennifer Chiaverini and her Elm Creek Quilt series. This is a fun series and the owner of her childhood home has converted it into a quilters retreat set in Pennsylvania.

    Both would probably qualify for the mystery series, although the Elm Creek series isn’t a mystery series, just ladies getting together and women helping women.

    Just a thought. Everyone have a Joyous, Healthy, and Happy New Year. Bev

    • alfred says

      Bev A series you might be interested in is Amanda Lee’s Embroidery mystery series. I too loved the Monica Ferris mysteries as well as these and don’t do either, but when reading them they make you feel like you want to get out and learn the craft. If I am not mistaken the first book is the Quick and the Dead. Give it a try and see what you think.

  2. Kath says

    New to me this year and the one that immediately came to mind when I had to think of a favorite this year is Karen MacInerney’s Gray Whale Inn Series. I loved the setting (I am from New England originally) and loved the building of characters from book to book.

    • MJ says

      Kath, I really enjoy the Gray Whale Inn series, too. Evidently this past year she also wrote ‘Blueberry Blues’ – a Gray Whale Inn short story, only available on Kindle (I have a Nook, so can’t read it!). She has another Gray Whale Inn mystery due out in 2013.

      You might be interested to know she started a new series. The first book is ‘Mother’s Day Out’, set in Austin, TX. It was released Dec. 7th. I haven’t read it yet, but since I like her style of writing, I certainly will give it a try.

  3. Lynn T. says

    The best read for 2012 for me was The Family Vault by Charlotte MacLeod. I chose this book due to the excitement it gave me when I read it. I thought “She can really write!” I must have been reading too many formula driven books prior to this book. It was creative, original and humorous. I saw how good a book could be. I think I had forgotten that with some of the past reads..
    I felt I was a passenger in a car with her. I didn’t know where we were going but it sure was going to be fun. We took twists and turns, discovered surprises and finally arrived at the end. I am now reading both of her series. I always picture Charlotte with a smile on her face as she wrote.

    Other top reads: (no particular order)
    2, Rest You Merry (Charlotte MacLeod) It was a humorous and very enjoyable book. This is a book that will stay with me in memory.
    3.The Dahlias (Susan Wittig Albert)
    This is the first series that I read almost back to back. I enjoyed all 3 books equally but will pick The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree as it was the first book in the series. It grabbed my interest. It is a very laid back and very cozy series. In two of the books, there wasn’t a murder to solve but instead a series of small mysteries. I can see it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea esp if thrillers were ones main interest. The women in the garden club are very likable. If they were real and lived in my area, I would like to be a member in their club.
    4.Written In Stone-Ellery Adams
    I like this book so much I feel it should be up for a 2012 cozy mystery award. The series just gets better and better. This series should be read in order so as to understand the character development. The book was original and multi-layered. Again, besides being a good writer, she is an excellent story teller. I liked the mystery portion equally with the character/relationship portion. Again, the story took me along as I went along with Olivia into the back swamp area to meet with a local recluse. She was given a memory jug along with a warning. It was not formula drive but was original.

    Reading back what I read, it seems to me like the best books are the ones that take you into the story. You feel like you are on an adventure

  4. Sharon says

    Tough choices — so many good reads both old and new. Loved the Darling Dahlia series as well as Molly Murphy. Can’t omit Maisie Dobbs, Jade del Cameron, Sarah Woolson, as well as “Don’t Die Under the Apple Tree” by Amy Patricia Meade. As I said, too many to list.

  5. readerdiane says

    I found Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman series. I loved the different pacing of her writing. I read the whole series-love it.

    My other favorite is Terri Reid-has a touch of paranormal-ghosts.

    • *Susan says

      Dianne, if you love the Corinna Chapman books, (As I do!) you might also like the same author’s ‘Phryne Fisher’ mysteries.
      Melbourne, Australia again, but the 1920’s this time, rather than today. At least worth a try.

  6. Patti S. says

    I loved the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries by Victoria Hamilton. I liked the first book, A Deadly Grind. Also like the Maggie Hope mysteries, especially Princess Elizabeth’s Spy. There are so many, M C Beaton, Maggie Sefton, Jenn McKinlay, Hazel Holt, Donald Bain and the Jessica Fletcher mysteries. Happy New Year and happy reading everyone! Thanks Danna for this nice site and for all you do!

  7. Karen says

    I found Simon Brett in 2012 and really enjoy his Fethering Mystery series. I listen to audiobooks, rather than read, and Simon Brett is also the narrator, as well as the author, and he is an excellent narrator. I grew up in England, so can relate to the location of the stories, and the two amatuer sleuths, Jude and Carole, are very like me and my friend (except we aren’t amatuer sleuths).

  8. Deb says

    I’m reading the first Phryne Fisher novel by Kerry Greenwood on my new Kindle. I love this series, but had never read the early ones. It’s great to find out how Phryne got back to Australia (where she was born), how she got her maid, and all the other background, plus a very good mystery. I highly recommend Cocaine Blues and all the ones that follow.
    My husband got me the Kindle for Christmas, and I got myself the NOOK HD+. Wow! I love reading on the big tablet, along with all the other features, and I love reading on the little Kindle too. I passed my NOOK tablet on to my daughter, who is going to use it to borrow books from the library. Of course, I also have 62 actual physical books out of the library.
    I remember my father saying that someday we would have our money on a card we could put in our pocket, and read books on a machine no bigger than a transistor radio. He would be loving all of this!
    This year I am really going to try to keep track of my reading so I’m not scratching my head at the end of the month when it’s time to tell our favorites. I can’t possible remember them for the whole year!
    A very Happy New Year to all.

  9. linda c says

    Wow Danna, You do have a special knack for asking the almost impossible when you ask for only one favorite
    from us. I have read so many books this year that were so good to list just one is almost impossible! There were other topics this past year where you asked for “only one!”
    Some of the books that I really and truly loved this past year were:
    1. John Grisham’s “The Litigators”
    2. Marcia Muller’s “City of Whispers” and “Looking For Yesterday”
    3. Mary Daheim’s “The Alpine Winter”
    4. Sue Grafton’s “V is for Vengeance”
    5. Margaret Maron’s “Three Day Town”(Am now reading “Buzzard’s Table.)
    6. Nevada Barr’s “The Rope”
    7. Joan Hess’ “Deader Homes and Gardens”
    8. J.A. Jance’s “Left For Dead” and ” Judgement Call”
    9. Susan Wittig Albert’s “Cat’s Claw” and “The Darling Dahlias”
    10. Dana Stabenow’s “Restless in the Grave”
    11. Rhys Bowen, all of the books that she released this year.
    12. Veronica Heley’s “Murder in Mind”
    To give a favorite is just about impossible but if I am only to pick out just one, then that one would more than likely be Joan Hess’ “Deader Homes and Gardens’. No, maybe the favorite would have been the books by Marcia Muller. But then again maybe the favorite was Veronica Heley’s book. I know it only took me a day and a half to read the book by John Grisham. So just maybe that was the favorite. I guess I can’t pick out just one Danna.
    This 2012 was a very good year for reading. Hope this New Year of 2013 will be just as good, if not better.
    I do think my greatest ‘reading’ accomplishment was to get my darling Hubby interested in reading. He is a different person when he is reading. He seems to be more calm and content. At least he isn’t just arguing with the referees and umpires or arguing with TV commercials as much anymore!
    Happy New Year Everyone. Happy Reading! Long live the printed page!!

  10. says

    i also like tarquin hall. i read THE CASE OF THE MAN WHO DIED LAUGHING. MURDER IS A PIECE OF CAKE by elaine viets. her mystery series – this series will hold your interest from page one. DUTCH ME DEADLY by maddy hunter she takes old people different places in the world. it is a fun series

  11. says

    Good list. I liked the Jacqueline Winspear books but got fed up with her constant change of point of view. I spent half the time trying to figure out whose point of view it was.

  12. Marianne says

    I don’t think her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books are really “cozy,” but my best discovery this year was definitely Laurie R. King. My favorite book of the year was A Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny.

  13. Mary H says

    My favorites for 2012 were Cat in the Stack series by Miranda James, Kelly Flynn Mystery Series by Maggie Sefton, Scrapbook Series by Joanna Campbell Slan, Bookshop Mysteries by Lorna Barrett, Coffeeshop Mysteries by Cleo Coyle. Just to name a few…..

  14. Patty H says

    My favorite in 2012 was the Maggie Hope series by Susan Elia McNeal beginning with Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Another favorite series of mine is Victoria Thompson’s stories of Sarah Brandt a midwife in New York City beginning with Murder on Astor Place.

  15. Regina V says

    Danna I tried to think of a favorite author for 2012 and found myself stumped. Many of mine have been mentioned, but here are some I enjoyed. Margaret Maron in every year she produces another well written book in series about Deborah Knott. Mary Daheim has 2 series on going, but I am partial to Emma Lord over the Bed and Breakfast one. It is all a matter of taste. Donna Andrews, her wacky Virginia series has me laughing all the time. I just finished Deborah Crombie’s books about 2 Scotland Yard detectives, a nice mixture on domestic and police procedural. Do not forget “Miss Zukas” the well organized librarian. When that series ended, I felt as if I had lost a best friend. Those are a few of my favored authors.

  16. BB says

    As for cozies, during 2012 I read the entire “The Cat Who…” series by Lilian Jackson Braun, except for the short story collection “The Cat Who Had 14 Tails.” I loved these stories, not just because I have an affinity for felines, but because Ms Braun was such a gifted author. She incorporated “fancy words” and cultural references to literature, music, etc. in her work and I would always feel…well, smarter when I finished one of her books. I wish Ms Braun had been able to finish “The Cat Who Smelled Smoke” before her death to possibly give readers a sense of closure. I’ll miss Qwill, Ko-Ko, and Yum-Yum.

    I would be remiss to not mention the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. By no means cozy, it’s the series that got me started reading books for JOY again after decades of absence.

    At the end of 2011 I had expiring coupons to a theater. Couldn’t get in to see the movie I’d intended, so decided on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Afterwards, I thought, “Wow, I’ve got to read that story.” I stopped at the library on the way home and naturally all copies of the book were checked out so as soon as I got home, I ordered a second-hand copy. As usual, there was a lot more in the book than made it to the movie. I was delighted to learn the story didn’t end and there were two more related books. Somewhere during the second book I realized my passion for reading *books* for pleasure had been revitalized and decided to check out eReaders. Well, as they say the rest is history… Now I read both “real” books and digital (which I never thought I would). The best thing is READING again!

    Thanks for this site, Danna. So nice being able to share our favorite books, authors, and *life* with others.

  17. Mary Joy W says

    My favorites for 2012 were Simon Brett’s Fethering and Lorna Barrett’s Booktown.
    In Fethering, I love the totally opposite characters who become best friends and love reading about the simplicity and routine of life in the town of Fethering (even though they are always discovering dead bodies!) Nothing graphic or scary in these.
    Same could be said of Lorna Barrett’s Booktown series. I love the comfort of these stories practically all taking place in walking distance radius and the relationship between the sisters and how it changes. No sister in these, but writing as Lorraine Bartlett in the Victoria Square Series, more of the same feeling. These are not super cranial, but my happy escape books. They are filling the void of some of my favorite authors who are no longer published.
    I do read more “academically” challenging books, lol, but the above authors fill one of my reading needs!

  18. Deb says

    i’m really enjoying Suzanne Young’s Murder by Mishap. she pulled me in right away when the main character got her head stuck in a fence while trying to reach what I’m sure will turn out to be an important clue!

  19. Kalena says

    I love the David Handler series. It should be read in order because the characters go through some amazing twists and turns. I find the on-again, off-again relationship between Mitch, a Jewish guy who is a former NY Times film critic and Desiree, a no-nonsense African-American cop fascinating to read as they adjust to live in a small, insular New England island village. At the other end of the country, I’ve visited the Hawaiian Islands with Jill Marie Landis’ inventive group, a transplanted mainlander and her troupe of elderly (and not very skilled) hula dancers. The Hawaiian touches are authentic and the characters are just good fun. My list continues with Laura Childs, Diane Mott Davidson, Laura Levine, Margaret Maron and Elaine Viets.

    Personally, I’m tired of the bakery owner mysteries because I can’t tell one from the other! But I have to confess I am enjoying a new one, Arsenic and Old Cake by Jacklyn Brady. Happy New Year, everyone!

  20. Judith says

    There were a number of cozy mysteries I loved reading this year – some new series and some old favorites. If I had to pick one favorite, it would be the return of Trixie and Evangeline. With a new book in the series by Marian Babson out this year, I re-read all of the earlier books in the series (as well as Murder, Murder Little Star which features a character who makes appearances in the Trixie and Evangeline books) before reading the latest one. I love spending time with these two older actresses as they continue to pursue their careers and deal with the bodies that crop up. It doesn’t matter that I know the solution to the mystery, I’m laughing so hard at the situations that Trixie and Evangeline find themselves in. I like all of Marian Babson’s books, but this series is my favorite of her books.

  21. MJ says

    I’ve read many good books in 2012 and some ‘not so good’ books. I will highlight two new ones that haven’t been mentioned yet, which I thought were stand-outs for the year.

    As I wrote in the July recommendations, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘A Plain Death’ by Amanda Flower, the first book in a new series. It’s a compelling mystery along with insightful customs of the Amish (and varied between sects) lifestyle. The main protagonist is ‘English’ (Amish term for the non-Amish), and the story is told from her perspective. She recently moves to this community to start a new position at the local college. The other two main characters are ‘former Amish’. The author lays the groundwork of some interesting subplots for future stories. It is a well crafted story which has several twists and turns, some with menacing aspects. This author takes a creative approach of an interesting/informative theme and combines it with a mystery.

    ‘The Other Woman’ by Hank Phillippi Ryan is set in the Boston area. A fired TV anchor accepts a position with a small newspaper and begins to investigate shenanigans in the political arena. This story has many intriguing twists, political scandals with dirty tricks (of course), and murder mayhem! It is well constructed and a real page turner. Ryan always develops great characters. I also like the fact that ‘the end’ is indeed ‘the end’ and there is a resolution to the mystery (not all authors do this with their mystery storyline).

    In real life Ryan is an investigative TV reporter in Boston. As such, she certainly knows of what she writes. She is an excellent story teller.

  22. Angela says

    As a cozy mystery lover for decades, growing up on Nancy Drew then Agatha Christie, I have come to rely on your website for recommendations and information. Thank you! I really just wanted to see if you wanted to add M. C. Beaton’s “Death of a Valentine” to your Valentine holiday list. I also see you listed M. C. Beaton as one of your favorites for her Agatha Raisin series. I also love Agatha but Hamish is my all time favorite! Just love that tall, lanky, red headed Scottsman!

    I also love the Simon Brett Fethering series, as someone else commented, G. M. Malliet’s new British series, Lorna Barrett, and oldies but goodies, the mysteries of Georgette Heyer who has me rolling sometimes with laughter.

    Most of these I discovered thanks to your website so thanks again! Hope you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *