In some ways, it might be a bit surprising to hear that Ellen Byron is one of the more recommended authors in the recent Cozy Mystery recommendations posts. After all, she only has a single series, and it has only had three books released, one per year since the first entry came out Many authors nowadays are putting out three (or more!) books a year, often several different series at the same time, at a pace that personally I can find a bit overwhelming – there’s only so much time in a day after all!
So it can be very refreshing when a quality author is obviously spending their time to “get it right”, releasing one well-written, carefully crafted book per year rather than releasing an endless stream of new series in a hope that something will stick. Looking at Byron’s writing credits, it’s easy to see why she’s gotten so popular so quickly. She might be relatively new to Cozies, but she’s certainly no stranger to comedic writing, with credits to episodes from popular sitcoms such as Wings and Just Shoot Me!.
With that in mind, it shouldn’t be any surprise that Plantation Shudders is far more polished than the average debut novel has any right to be. Most authors take a bit of time to really get their stride and discover their writing voice, but the Cajun Country Mystery Series started strong, and it isn’t any surprise that the debut novel (and other entries since) have had multiple award nominations. Indeed, Body on the Bayou, the second entry, won a Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel in 2017.
In addition to being one of the better written Cozies that has come out in recent years, Plantation Shudders also benefits from having a great setting in Pelican, a small town in Louisiana, and the Crozat family plantation, now converted into a bed and breakfast. Pelican and the Crozat plantation both give a feeling of the civil gentility of the old south, but the novel doesn’t shy away from addressing some of the darker elements of the old south, which can be a refreshing change from some settings in Cozies that seem to be entirely positive portrayals. (Aside from the surprising murder rates of course!)
The Crozat family, including the sleuth herself, Maggie Crozat, are also enjoyable and likable without becoming “over the top” or “zany” in inappropriate places. For example, Maggie’s Gran is portrayed as a fiesty older woman with plenty of spirit left in her – but she’s also an older woman, and it’s clear that the events of the novel make her more tired than normal, which is a surprisingly realistic and sympathetic reaction to such high stress situations as murder investigations (well, at least to someone else who is finding herself slowing down a bit in recent years…).
If you’re looking for a strong, well-written, modern Cozy with a great setting and interesting characters, I highly recommend giving the Cajun Country Mystery Series by Ellen Byron a try!
PS: For those looking for interesting looking Cajun-inspired recipes, be sure to check out the end of the book, as it has several great looking recipes!