Joan Hess : Maggody Mystery Series & Claire Malloy Mystery Series

When I started getting the information together to make up the February 2012 Mystery Book New Releases list, I was VERY happy to see that Claire Malloy is “coming back” after a four year hiatus. Yahoo!

I have “been with” Claire since… some time in the 1980s. That’s a doggone long time! I started thinking about just how much time I’ve been a follower of Joan Hess… Good grief! Almost thirty years!!!

I started with Joan Hess when she was known as Joan Hadley. I read both of her Theo Bloomer mystery books. I then jumped over to her Maggody Mystery Series. I enjoyed Arly, Ruby Bee, Delia, Kevin Buchanan, Jim-Bob Buchanan and his wife (who happens to be a Buchanan-Buchanan!) so much that I started recommending them to my Cozy Mystery friends.

I “felt at home” in the small Arkansas town, and loved its citizens. (I don’t know what that says about me!) Arly seemed to be the only voice of reason in the entire town of Maggody. As the sheriff, Arly had to contend with moon shine, an interfering mother, a mayor who was shady (at best!) a mayor’s wife who thought of herself as blue-blood royalty, and a slew of other rather UNconventional characters.

Let me take a moment to remind some of you of something I have found to be true for me most of the time. I have talked before about how I usually like only one series by an author. I usually find that I’ll like an author’s one series so much that their second or third (even fourth and fifth series!) will  usually seem lacking to me… weak. So, it took me a while to finally try Joan Hess’ Claire Malloy Mystery Series. I didn’t think there was any way I could enjoy Claire as much as I enjoyed reading about Arly’s adventures in Maggody. Boy, was I wrong! Not only did I like the Claire Malloy Mystery Series as much as the Maggody Mystery Series, I actually grew to like it even more!

So, while I was glad in 2010 when the next of Joan Hess’ Maggody mystery books was published (The Merry Wives of Maggody) after four long years  – I have been made even happier becoming aware of the fact that Joan Hess is finally publishing the  new Claire Malloy mystery book next month – Deader Homes & Gardens – after a long four year absence.

So to all of you I say Yahoo! Those of us who follow both of Joan Hess’ Cozy Mystery series have some really good reading ahead of us, and… if anyone knows Joan Hess… please pass on my sentiments: I love your mystery books, but I sure do wish you would write ’em faster!


  1. linda says

    Danna, I dearly love both Joan Hess series. I didn’t know Joan Hess had an A.K.A. I will look this name up. Thanks for the info.

  2. Deb says

    I’ve had just the opposite experience. I discovered Claire Malloy when I was working and could actually afford hardcover books, so I have a number of firsts of that series. When I tried the Maggody books, it was like they were written by two different authors, and I never really got into those.
    I had the same experience with the two series by Claudia Bishop (nom de plume of Mary Stanton). The first one, the Hemlock Falls Mysteries about two sisters (polar opposites) running a lovely inn in upstate New York, was just my cup of tea. The second, about a veterinarian named Dr. McKenzie, is very different. I’m sure both of them have lots of cozy fans, though!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Deb, you are so right about the Claire Malloy and the Maggody series seeming like they are written by different authors. That may be the reason I like both of them…

  3. Lynn T. says

    I started reading the Maggody series in 2011 and have now read the first 5 books. I have laughed outloud several times while reading them. They read fast as they don’t seem to have any slow spots.
    My sister who has read both series says she likes the Claire Malloy series better. I have read the first one in the series–Strangled Prose. I will read more of that series too.

    I read newly published cozies but this year have been reading some cozies from the late 80’s and 90’s too. Am so glad that I have as I have enjoyed Joan Hess and Carolyn Hart (Henri O).

    As to different series by an author, I found at first in books by MC Beaton that I liked the Agatha Raisin only. Read one or two of Hamish Macbeth and didn’t care for them. Then I read several more and Hamish grows on one. I now like the Hamish series very much.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Lynn T, that Maggody group is a crazy mess of characters, isn’t it?

      A few days ago, I found myself thinking about some of the more popular Cozy Mystery authors, and it occurred to me that a lot of them started writing their series in the 1980s and 1990s.

      I really enjoyed the first several books of the Agatha Raisin mysteries. I think that for me, when the titles stopped using the “Agatha Raisin and the” part in the title, they stopped being as much fun as they had been.

      • Lynn T. says

        I still enjoy the characters and antics in the town of Maggody. Reading about the series on this site sent me in search of the books. My favorite was Mischief in Maggody. I was laughing out loud when Mrs. Jim Bob Buchanan took in the children of Robin Buchanan. One of my favorite characters so far has been Hammett. He made me laugh aloud many times. He did return in a later book. Am ready to start the 6th in the series soon.

        As to Agatha Raisin I totally agree with the first books being the best. Remember laughing when she entered into the local quiche contest. She was new to me so was quite surprised and amused as to what she entered into the contest. It was like “What!” Also, remember laughing over her “instant” garden. I remember terms being new to me like “old trout” etc. Also, all of the supporting cast were new and fresh too. Enjoyed many reading moments with the early Agathas.

        • Danna - cozy mystery list says

          Lynn T., I think Agatha’s “instant” garden was my biggest laugh. I actually know people who remind me of her…

  4. Susan says

    For some reason, I’m not so keen on the Claire Malloy books, but I adore the Maggody books! I didn’t know that there had been a new one out. Thanks, Danna!
    Like Linda, I’d never heard of the Theo Bloomer books, either, but since I was only in my early teens when they came out, I’m not too surprised. (Gets kicked off the list for making Danna feel old! :) )
    I hadn’t discovered cozies back then, although I was working my way through Christie, so I suppose it’s no surprise what I read now…
    Cheers all!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Susan, I wasn’t in my “early teens” when they came out, but I also wasn’t driving a big Cadillac sedan!

  5. Regina says

    I like the Murder in Maggody series better than Claire Malloy. It is hilarious. I did not begin to read it when first published but now I await each one eagerly. I must look up the Theodore Bloomer series. I have 3 books on my shelf to begin reading, Leslie Meier’s, Faye Kellerman’s and Burdette’s. Another author I started late was Faye Kellerman. Now I can’t wait for her new book.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Regina, have you read either of Roberta Isleib’s mystery series (Advice Column and Golf Lovers’ series)?

      • Lynn T. says

        Purchased the Lucy Burdette book when it recently came out. Haven’t read it yet.
        The reason I did was I really liked Roberta Isleib’s Advice Column series. Also was able to track down and purchase her Golf Lovers series which are in my TBR stack.

    • Virginia says

      I too like the Maggody series better than the Claire series (I find Claire’s daughter too bratty!! but love Ruby’s mothering technique!)

      Does anyone know if Ms. Hess’s books are available for e-readers? I’d just like to buy all the Maggody series for Christmas a have a good laugh over the holidays!

  6. says

    I too have followed the mystery adventures of both Arly and Claire and have enjoyed them all. The earliest, purchased as they were published in paperback, are now rather tattered as they are yet another series that I like to re-read from time to time.
    I was also thrilled to see the newest Maggody book because the previous one left us with a bit of a “cliff-hanger” with Ruby’s hint about Arly’s condition.
    I’ve already pre-ordered the Kindle edition of Claire’s new adventure.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Andie, your memory is better than mine! I usually have to be on chapter two of a book before I can remember what happened in the last book… and that’s from my favorite authors list!

      • linda says

        Danna, I am right now reading Mary Daheim’s “The Alpine Winter.” I dearly love this series. Emma and Milo are two more of my all time favorite characters.. This book though, I can’t see how anyone can get a really good gist of what the story is about without reading “The Alpine Vengeance.” Love this series though. Mary Daheim is a very terrific writer. Love her characters, plots. Hope she NEVER quits writing!

        • Danna - cozy mystery list says

          Linda, I have found that it is really, really helpful to read a mystery series in chronological order… but since I always do that, it’s difficult for me to gauge if someone who hasn’t read the previous books would be lost or able to catch on to what is going on…

          • linda says

            Danna, I finished reading this book this morning. This was another “hard to put down book.” To me this was the best one for Emma and Milo yet. I thought as I read the book that just maybe this was going to be the last one of the series. Then, when I did finish the book, just maybe this isn’t the last one after all. I sure hope not.. I love the characters in this book. Even the hard nosed deputies! I love Emma and Milo.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      I agree with Susan, Dayna. It’s rather unlikely that Joan Hadley will put out another Theo Bloomer mystery…

  7. Julia says

    I started with the Claire Malloy books and really enjoyed them so I moved on try the Maggody ones as well. Overall I prefer the Claire Malloy ones, because I have to be in the right sort of mood for Buchanon clan not to drive me nuts

    Of authors who maintain multiple series, the only one I can immediately say I enjoy all series wholeheartedly is Elizabeth Peters. I started with the Vickie Bliss books and loved them, and although I admit it took a few books to woo me, I also love the Amelia Peabody series as well. I think my issue with multiple series rises from the fact that setting is very important to me, and frequently one of the things an author creates a new series to explore is new settings.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Julia, you might have touched on the exact reason I prefer Claire Malloy. You’re right in saying one might have to be “in the right sort of mood for the Buchanon clan…”

      • linda says

        What I like about the Buchannan crowd in this series is the laugh out loud stunts they pull. I love Arly’s mother and her friend, although right at this moment I can’t remember her name. Love all those people. But yes, Claire and her group are also among my favorites.

        I love this kind of series.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Thanks for asking, Alfred. I ended up driving out of town for about 40 miles and discovering I had left something behind. After I got home, I decided that I will have to book a flight to go out to Colorado. I am just not ready to drive for one and a half days (each way)… especially after the first 80 miles being so ridiculously futile! I thought it might have been a bad omen!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Ann, I love book covers! I think they can help an author (or in many cases the publisher) relay the type of book that lays between the front and back covers.

  8. Regina says

    I am glad that you made it safely to CO. I have a daughter living there, and it is a beautiful state, so wide open spaces. Speaking of CO why not add Diane Mott Davidson to the list. Her catering books are fascinating. As I grow older, I have come to appreciate mysteries that give a “feel” for that area. If I can’t go there I can read about. I might have read one of Roberta’s Islieb books, but I am not certain.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Regina, I didn’t continue driving to Colorado, so am still at home.

      Since I will be doing a “What are you reading, and please recommend the author if you are enjoying the mystery?” each month, I will add Davidson to a future monthly list. I am pretty sure that someone will be reading on of her books then…

  9. Ellen says

    This is so funny/weird! Joan Hess was one of the first authors I discovered via the internet – it had to be back in the early ’90s. Somehow I came upon a mystery web site that had an interview with her. Her books (Claire Malloy) sounded like something I would like so I started reading them. Enjoyed that series enough to buy some Maggody ones too but have yet to start them… Yes, my TBR pile is VERY OLD!

    Now I want to hunt for that mystery web site. They mentioned another author called Ruth Birmingham – who is actually a guy name Walter ???? I think.

    Thank you Danna for bringing this up.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Ellen, you are NOT kidding about your TBR pile being VERY OLD!!!

      I, too, have books in my TBR shelves that have been there for years… I have a tendency of getting new books and then reading them… instead of making myself wait until I read all of my TBRs.

      • Julia says

        Danna, I too have a bad habit of getting new books before I’ve read all the old ones, but I blame it on a traumatic experience from years ago.

        I had just started working at a bank, my first job after college, and about six months or so into it I came down with the chicken pox (part of the glories of working with the public). I was stuck at home for two weeks recovering…and I ran out of new books to read! My sister volunteered to pick some up for me if I could specify the ones I wanted, but since my way of buying books at the time was to wander my favorite mystery bookstore and chat with the owner about what looked good, I couldn’t offer any suggestions.

        That experience made me vow, like Scarlett O’Hara, I’d never go hungry again!

        • linda says

          Julia, That is one of the reasons that I go to garage sales. Around here we can buy paperbacks for 25 or 50 cents. I will buy these so that I can make sure that I don’t have to “wait until tomorrow.” Then when I am done with these books I just donate them to the library for their book sales. Everybody has a chance to win. I hate being without a book to read!

        • Danna - cozy mystery list says

          Julia, I wish I could make myself put-off getting new mysteries until I read all of the ones in my TBR bookshelf.

          I have never had such a traumatic experience as you did with the chicken pox, but I can certainly understand your feast or famine feeling!

      • linda says

        This might be sort of dumb for me but I too often decide on picking a book up because of the covers. It just seems to set the stage for the story.

  10. Katy says

    Of all the websites out there, yours is my favorite! So excited about Joan Hess’ new book! Would anyone happen to know, is Ann B. Ross planning another book in the Miss Julia series? I miss these characters! Thank you.

      • Katy says

        Oh, my goodness! I am so excited! Thank you for the information. Can’t wait to read it!

        Also, just fyi, I am so into your website, I use it to keep track of where I am with all my favorite series, and there are many, on my library account. You can enter the last book you’ve read in a series “on your shelf” under “Completed” and I keep mine organized by author. Reason: I just reread “Bones of a Feather” by Carolyn Haines for the second time. I was so far into it before I realized I’d already read it, I couldn’t stop reading until I’d finished it again. I constantly work back and forth between your site and my library account. Helps me not miss any new releases and I LOVE IT! Thank you so much!

        • Danna - cozy mystery list says

          Katy, I absolutely hate it when I get that déjà vu feeling that I have already read my current Cozy Mystery, and am not quite sure…

  11. says

    I have been thinking about the Maggody series for a couple of days and I seem to remember that one of the earliest books in the series included a little brochure about “Ruby Bee’s favorite recipes from the bar and grill.”
    As I collect cookbooks, I have been awaiting the announcement of such a cookbook for at least twenty years.
    I love cookbooks and especially those by mystery authors and I think that one with recipes for some of the dishes described in the Maggody books would be terrific.
    I have the Lord Peter Wimsey Cookbook, which is fun to read, especially for anglophiles and I think anyone who loves the Maggody series would like such a cookbook.
    I think the earliest one I have is the Nero Wolf Cookbook but I think there may be earlier ones.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Andie, I didn’t know there is a Lord Peter Wimsey cookbook. I just looked it up on Amazon and see that it wasn’t written by Dorothy L. Sayers.

      • says

        You are correct, Danna. It was published in 1981, many years after her death.
        It is more of an homage to the many dishes mentioned in her mysteries, most created by the incomparable Bunter, much like the Madame Maigret’s Recipes.
        In my cookbook research, I’ve come across at least one scholarly treatise on culinary “art” in novels which cited these two cookbooks as examples.
        I’ve prepared at least a couple of the dishes, a sweet omelet and a potted meat, possibly others, when I first got the book.
        I don’t know just how many “mystery cookbooks” I do have, at least two are collections from several writers – “A Taste of Murder” and “A Second Helping of Murder” 1991 and 2007.
        And I have Joanne Fluke’s “Lake Eden Cookbook,” the most recent addition a few months back.

        • Danna - cozy mystery list says

          Andie, those sound like wonderful gift ideas to give to the mystery reader who has everything!

          • says

            Danna, I know from today’s post that you are away and you really don’t have to answer this which is simply for information you might like.
            I dug out my old copy of Murder on the Menu (1972) yesterday and I had forgotten that it is not just recipes but little vignettes into classic English Country House (or “Town”) settings and characters.
            Some of the chapters are titled:
            Those Who Live in Glass Houses
            The Admirable Eccentric
            The Flighty Daughter: How Debs are Bred
            The Constabulary: A Hunting We Will Go
            The Deadly Dull Palate
            The Post Funeral Lunch: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
            and so on.
            It has a lot of fun reading in it, as well as several very interesting recipes.
            Doesn’t “Chicken Breasts in Brandy Cream” sound sublime?
            A lovely gift indeed for the mystery lover.

  12. SALLY says

    Speaking of book covers, how does that work on Nook or Kindle? I love the covers on cozy mysteries and romances and would hate to miss them if I bought an e-reader. Does anyone remember Frank Frassetta’s covers of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars? They ended up in art galleries.


    • Deb says

      Sally, I just checked my NOOK copy of Affairs of Steak. The cover shows up in my Library and my Home Page (since it’s a book I haven’t read yet). But when I go to read it, the cover doesn’t appear. Yet it does for other books. I guess it depends on the publisher of the e-book. But you do get to see the cover in your library for all of them.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Sally, I looked up Frank Frassetta’s artwork, and I am pretty sure I have seen it before…

  13. says

    Just got the Claire Malloy Mystery Series today. I got it from a little shop in Cottingham UK and looked up the book on google and found this site.
    Good information and very friendly site.

  14. Tracy T says

    I absolutely ADORE Maggody!! My favorite was always Martians In Maggody, until I read Maggody In Manhattan! Muletrain To Maggody comes a close second nowadays, too. Having grown up in a small town (even if in New England, not down South), all the characters who live in Maggody are so very familiar. I read and re-read my Maggody collection endlessly and always laughing out loud.

    I tried the Claire Malloy series and while I like Claire, her stories aren’t as “true to home” for me as the Maggody ones are.

    We haven’t had a new Maggody book in what feels like such a very long time. I hope Ms. Hess is well and safe, and I hope she’s still scribbling. I want to know what happens to Arly and the whole crew next. There are issues that have been left hanging and I’m impatient to find out!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Tracy, it looks like Joan Hess has slowed her writing down in both of her series. I see that there was a four year gap between both of her series’ last books and their previous ones. I know about slowing down!

  15. Debbie K. says

    Thanks for your wonderful, intelligent blog. I love Joan Hess, especially the Maggody series. I wish I were a billionaire who could promise to leave Hess my entire fortune if she would do nothing but write Maggody books and finish that series. Alas, I’m a public school teacher with a severe dearth of fortune, so I guess I’ll just have to wait and hope. Thanks again, Deb

  16. Judith says

    Joan Hess will be one of the Lifetime Achievement Award recipients at next year’s Malice Domestic. The other two recipients are Dorothy Cannell and Margaret Maron.

  17. Ann says

    I read the Maggody series as each book came out and kept the collection. Just finished the whole series for the third time. I tend to read fast and miss facts. I still laugh at the antics of the characters. I hope there will be more after the Merry Wives book. I can’t find out anything. I like the Claire Malloy books but they don’t have the humor.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Ann, I wondered about Joan Hess’ Maggody Mystery Series, also. But when I look at the publication dates of her mysteries, I see occasional gaps between the years. So, there’s still hope that she will put out another one in the series…

  18. Jody says

    A friend recently told me about the Maggody series and I borrowed the first book from the library. Really loved it. Since then, I’ve been to several used book stores and have found most of the series. Just bought one of the books today. I only have a few more books to buy, so am excited to to continue the series.

    I’ve only read one book in the Claire Malloy series. I like the Maggody series better (it speaks to my redneck side), but will still continue the Malloy series (more of these books are available to me in the e-library. Meanwhile, I do also love both the Agatha Raisin & Hamish MacBeth series by M.C. Beaton.

    Another series I like but have a hard time finding used books is the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn.

      • Jody says

        It sounds like I have very good things in store for me while reading both series! Love that. So many series to read, so little time. And it doesn’t help that I keep adding more and more to my list of “must-reads.” But I love to read, and am happy to find so many enjoyable reads.

        Thanks for your comments!

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