Cozy mysteries for the holidays

During the holiday season, we all want to curl up indoors and enjoy our favourite things. At Severn House, one of our favourite things is a good cozy mystery, and we’ve selected six of the best to recommend to you for the holidays. So sit back, relax, and see what catches your eye.

Oh, and Happy Holidays!

The Severn House Team x

 

Faux Pas by Shannon Esposito

9780727885395

ISBN 9780727885395       Available in hardback and eBook

Introducing ‘doggie-yoga’ instructor Elle Pressley, in the first Paws & Pose Mystery – featuring canine cuties, Florida sunshine, a sexy Irish PI . . . and murder most horrid.

Doggie-yoga instructor Elle Pressley just wants to teach her classes at Moon Key’s Pampered Pet Spa & Resort and save enough money to move out of her crazy mother’s house. But when her deceased childhood dog, Angel, shows up, she knows she’s about to be in danger. Sure enough, one of her clients winds up dead, and Elle is pulled head first into the investigation. For the prime suspect is Dr Ira Craft . . . the husband of Elle’s best friend, Hope.

Elle is determined to clear Ira’s name, for Hope’s sake, and she enlists the help of Irish private investigator Devon Burke. But someone is determined to stop Elle from uncovering the truth. And now that Devon’s involved, it’s not just Elle’s life that’s in danger: her heart is too . . .

“This series debut from the author of the Pet Psychic mysteries embraces the absurd and has fun poking at the wealthy characters” – Kirkus Reviews

The White Shepherd by Annie Dalton

9780727885210

ISBN 9780727885210       Available in hardback and eBook

First in the brand-new Oxford dogwalking mystery series: an intriguing new departure for award-winning YA writer Annie Dalton.


Anna Hopkins’ daily walk through Oxford’s picturesque Port Meadow is rudely interrupted when her adopted white German Shepherd, Bonnie, unearths a bloodsoaked body in the undergrowth. For Anna it’s a double shock: she knows the victim. Naomi Evans was a professional researcher who had told Anna she was working on a book about a famous Welsh poet, and who offered to help Anna trace Bonnie’s original owner.

From her conversations with Naomi, Anna is convinced that she was not the random victim of a psychopathic serial killer, as the police believe. She was targeted because of what she knew. With the official investigation heading in the wrong direction entirely, Anna teams up with fellow dogwalkers Isadora Salzman and Tansy Lavelle to discover the truth.

“An inventive plot, charismatic characters, and even some black humor combine to make this a good choice for suspense junkies” – Booklist 

“YA author Dalton makes her adult mystery debut with this classic British whodunit; its canine element will delight Susan Conant and Laurien Berenson fans.”- Library Journal

Buried in Beignets by J. R. Ripley

9780727885432

ISBN 9780727885432         Available in hardback and eBook

Maggie Miller’s attempt to run from her troubles leads her to Table Rock, Arizona, her own beignet café . . . and disaster.

Welcome to Table Rock, Arizona, the place where folks who aren’t too keen on the ‘mainstream’ move to. Maggie Miller has come here to forget about her dead husband. OK, so he isn’t really dead. That’s just what she tells everybody. Recently divorced, Maggie flees Phoenix and the sight of her husband and his new wife and moves to Table Rock to be closer to her own family. She’s also planning on opening her own beignet and coffee business.

But that dead guy in her storeroom might just put a kink in her plans. Unless she can figure out who killed him, and why, she might never open for business . . .

“Recipes and tips add seasoning to Ripley’s appealing mix of quirky characters and slapstick humor” – Publishers Weekly

Mrs Pargeter’s Principle by Simon Brett

9781780290744

ISBN 9781780290744    Available now in hardback and eBook

After a hiatus of seventeen years, we are delighted to announce the return of Mrs Pargeter.

For Mrs Pargeter, it is a matter of principle that she should complete any of her late husband’s unfinished business. Amongst the many bequests he made to her, perhaps the most valuable is his little black book, in which he listed all the people who ever worked for him. And as Mr P might have been a career criminal, these contacts come in very useful whenever she has a crime to solve.

Attending the funeral of the rich and respected Sir Normington Winthrop, because his is one of the names in the little black book, Mrs Pargeter sets out to discover the connection between Sir Normington and her late husband. Her investigations will draw her into a shady world of gun-runners, shifty politicians – and a kidnapped vicar.

“Great fun, a delightfully madcap romp” – Booklist starred review

“Brett’s customary wit and good humor abound” – Publishers Weekly starred review

Heirs and Assigns by Marjorie Eccles

9780727885289

ISBN 9780727885289    Available now in hardback and eBook

Introducing Detective Inspector Herbert Reardon in a new mystery series, perfect for fans of Downton Abbey.

November, 1928. Family and friends have gathered at the Shropshire country home of Penrose Llewellyn to celebrate the retired wealthy businessman’s 60th birthday. But the morning after what should have been a convivial supper party, their host is found dead in his bed – and the circumstances look decidedly suspicious.

As he questions the victim’s nearest and dearest, DI Reardon discovers there are several deeply concealed secrets lurking amongst the Llewellyn clan – and he is convinced that not everyone is telling him the truth, or at least not the whole truth. Those who stand to inherit most from Pen Llewellyn’s will – if it can be found – are under the strongest suspicion, and among them hides a ruthless killer.

“Will delight fans of the TV series Downton Abbey and authors Simon Brett and Kate Kingsbury” – Library Journal starred review

Death at Dovecote Hatch by Dorothy Cannell

9780727884800

ISBN 9780727884800        Available now in hardback and eBook

The second in the brand-new Florence Norris series.

November, 1932. Still reeling from the recent murder at Mullings, country estate of the wealthy Stodmarsh family, the peaceful little village of Dovecote Hatch is about to be rocked by news of another violent death. When mild-mannered Kenneth Tenneson is found dead from a fall down the stairs at his home, the coroner’s inquest announces a verdict of accidental death. Florence Norris, however – the quietly observant housekeeper at Mullings – suspects there may be more to it than that.

Florence’s suspicions of foul play would appear to be confirmed when a second will turns up revealing details of a dark secret in the Tenneson family’s past. Determined to find out the truth about Kenneth’s death, Florence gradually pieces the clues together – but will she be in time to prevent a catastrophic turn of events?

“Agatha Christie meets Downton Abbey in Florence’s second case, a charming reminder of all the country house murders of Britain’s golden age” – Kirkus Reviews

50 novels

We at Severn House would like to be the first to offer our congratulations to the prolific Fay Sampson, who is celebrating the publication of her 50th novel.

Fay is the author of the Suzie Fewings genealogical mystery series for adults, as well as a number of books for children.

The Wounded Thorn, Fay’s 50th publication, is the first in a new mystery series featuring retired friends Veronica and Hilary as they become embroiled in a mystery surrounding Glastonbury’s sacred thorn tree.

To mark this wonderful achievement, Fay is hosting a celebration at her local library in Exeter, UK. All are welcome!

50th book party

Editor’s Pick – Blood Tracks

ISBN 9780727885678

ISBN 9780727885678

Everything is shiny and new this month; publisher Kate has chosen BLOOD TRACKS, the first in a new series by new to Severn House author Matt Hilton. 

Kate said:

“We are delighted to welcome to the Severn House list Matt Hilton, author of the bestselling Joe Hunter thrillers, with BLOOD TRACKS, the first in a brand-new series, introducing an engagingly mismatched, bickering pair of sleuths in private investigator Tess Grey and laidback Southern renegade ex-con Nicolas Villere, known to all as Po. When she accepts a commission to track down state witness Crawford Wynne, Tess knows that Po is the only one who can help her in hunting Wynne through the bars and bayous of rural Louisiana. But when events take a decidedly sinister turn and the pair realize they are not the only ones on Wynne’s trail, one thing becomes increasingly clear: if they don’t cover each other’s backs, they are both going to die.

A pacy and suspenseful chase thriller, crammed to the brim with tense and exciting action scenes, and introducing a pair of bone-chillingly nasty villains in the sadistic Suarez brothers, BLOOD TRACKS had me glued to the page from the outset. The author himself worked for 22 years in private security and the police force, and is a 4th Dan blackbelt: as a result his violent action sequences crackle with tension and authenticity. I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking for an eventful, gripping, action-packed thriller in the vein of Lee Child or Chris Ryan.”

Author feature – Jeri Westerson (Part III)

9780727885623Read on for the final installment of Jeri’s Q&A, or catch up with Part I and Part II first.

The contentious figures of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford were key figures in the court of Richard II, and the Katherine appears in this novel. What is your take on them and their relationship?

To royal watchers, they are the familiar Charles and Camilla of their day. Katherine was Gaunt’s long-time mistress, even having bastard children with him, and finally marrying him when Gaunt, already the richest man in England, had nothing more to prove. Gaunt already had his own impressive resume as a statesmen and general. You don’t necessarily get that far by being a nice guy, so I see him as a plotter and a shrewd businessman. It didn’t mean he didn’t have his tender moments. And his relationship with Crispin is singular and heart-wrenching when they do meet. Gaunt appears in most of the novels except for those years he is in Spain battling for his right to the throne of Castile. In his absence, Crispin encounters Gaunt’s son Henry Bolingbroke, part of the Lords Appellant who were harrying King Richard. He nearly takes the throne from his cousin (but it is some years later when he finally does). It is Crispin this time that plays the father figure to Henry whom he helped to raise. And after seven novels, I felt it was time to finally bring in Katherine Swynford. She, like Chaucer, will make occasional reappearances in the novels as time marches on.

Some of the aspects of medieval life which you have portrayed might surprise some readers; in particular, attitudes towards marriage and sex. Do you feel that modern and medieval people are more similar than we might think?

That’s a yes and a no. Some of their notions of love and marriage are familiar to us, but other aspects are certainly foreign. Marriage was not a romantic entanglement but a business relationship to create heirs and to cleave two houses and dynasties together, at least for the upper crust. For the lower, uh, crusts, it was also a combining of houses and fortunes and perhaps a way for a person to rise in ranks. An apprentice or servant might marry the widow of his former employer thus bringing him upward above his former class. This was the same for men and women. The merchant class in the medieval period were definitely upwardly mobile. Becoming an alderman of the city was to give you all but the nobility you sought. The sheriffs were chosen from the aldermen and the Lord Mayor chosen from the sheriffs. It was as high as you could go without a “sir” in front of your name, though many were acquiring that, too.

There is also another recurring character in the series, a person who was a real person in Crispin’s London, John Rykener. He was a cross-dressing male prostitute who serviced not only men but women as well, called himself “Eleanor,” and had other work as an embroideress. Homosexuality was little understood in this period, but was not as vilified as it was in later years.

The only information we have on Rykener was when he was arrested for plying his trade. Though he got himself in trouble for whoring he was in greater trouble for dressing as a woman. This seemed of more concern than his being homosexual (we tend to think of the medieval period as getting medieval on people with torture and abuses by the Church, but in England more of that occurred near the end of this period, as they entered the Renaissance.) In his court documents Rykener even claimed he had a husband who would defend him in this suit, living as woman as he did in the early fifteenth century, and though this might have been an unusual defence in its day, it did not seem to have been cause for outcry. Rykener is another of those friends Crispin acquired when he was first let loose on the streets of London without a clue as to how to survive, and Rykener’s place in the novels underscores the many diverse people that populated such a large city as London, making it as cosmopolitan then as it is now.

What have you got planned for Crispin next?

Jeri_2015 (1)The next book that I am currently writing and finishing up is A MAIDEN WEEPING. Crispin awakens from a drunken tumble the night before to find his bedmate dead, strangled. Accused of the murder, he is arrested and it’s up to his faithful apprentice Jack Tucker to do the investigation this time. It’s a medieval courtroom drama, involving a relic of the Tears of the Virgin, and the strangulation deaths of more women in London. Why are the Tears of the Virgin at the heart of it all, and will Jack find the real culprit before they convict and hang his master?

More information can be found on Jeri’s website, including a series book trailer, discussion guides, and Crispin’s blog.

Hidden – but not for long…

Karen E. Olson – author of the Annie Seymour and Tattoo Shop mysteries, Shamus nominee and winner of the Sara Ann Freed Award for best debut mystery novel – is trying something new. With her latest novel, HIDDEN, Olson has moved away from the cozy mysteries that made her name and instead written a gripping thriller which examines identity and the consequences of our actions.

ISBN 9780727885326.

Click to read an extract.

I normally start with a dead body.

I’ve written about a dead drag queen, Dean Martin impersonator, rock star, ex-husband, Yale student. The dead bodies pile up in murder mysteries, and my sleuths — reporter Annie Seymour and tattoo shop owner Brett Kavanaugh, in their respective series — are always on the case. As a longtime journalist myself, I find inspiration in headlines and news stories and glean my ideas from them. And their stories always begin with a dead body.

Which is why I was confused when I heard a new voice in my head:

“I’ve been missing for fifteen years.”

Who has been missing? And why?

There was no dead body. There was only someone who has been missing. Someone who knows she’s missing and is missing on purpose.

I began to add to that first sentence, and as I did, I realized that this story wasn’t like the others that I’ve written. There is no sleuth with a sense of humor and an edge surrounded by sidekicks faced with a murderer. Her name is Nicole Jones. Or is it?

I’m not surprised I moved away from the traditional and cozy mystery. While I do love traditional mysteries, I am not a big reader of cozies. I don’t like books with recipes or any other type of helpful tips about anything. I prefer darker stories, not necessarily with a lot of graphic violence, but a darker tone, perhaps foreboding is a better word. Traditional mysteries can straddle the line between suspense thriller and cozy, but they still have a different format. There is always that murder or crime at the center.

I do have a crime in HIDDEN. Nicole has committed a crime, and she has been hiding for fifteen years. This time, however, there is no dead body at the center, no whodunit. There is only Nicole and what she’s done and the consequences of that and whether she’ll survive.

Needless to say, I was out of my element.

Karen E Olson

Karen E Olson

I’d written about “what I know” when I wrote about reporter Annie Seymour. I was in newspapers for a long time. I challenged myself with writing about tattoo artist Brett Kavanaugh, since I have no tattoos and know nothing of that world. But in both cases, I was writing the familiar format. With Nicole’s story, I had to figure out a different pace, how to build suspense while having the reader already know her story. I did decide to parse out that information, to let her leak little bits of her past a little bit at a time. Her voice is different, too, lacking the humor in my previous books. She’s not the Sleuth on the White Horse solving a crime. She’s a criminal on the run and she’s always looking over her shoulder. Despite that, I needed to make her likeable enough for readers to want to spend a whole book with her — and the second book, since there is a sequel in the works. I’ve read enough thrillers with unreliable, unlikeable characters to know what I didn’t want to do with her. So she has friends, a job, a little house on a lovely little island off the coast of Rhode Island. I wanted to balance her past with her present.

Writing the book wasn’t easy. I began to call it my Manuscript from Hell when referring to it on Facebook and Twitter. I longed for the easy flow I experienced when writing my other books. I’d said at one point that writing a cozy wasn’t as easy as I’d thought, since there has to be a reason for the amateur sleuth to be solving a crime. But the puzzle solving came more naturally to me than this. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end before. Now the lines were muddled. My first draft needed better pacing, more suspense, so I went back and rewrote huge sections to try to reach that goal.

There were times when I thought about giving up completely, going back to what I was more comfortable with. But Nicole had a hold on me; I needed to finish her story and in the way that she wanted it done. She wasn’t going to let me off the hook.

But somewhere within the book, I had to do it.

I added a dead body.

To find out more, visit the Severn House website.

HIDDEN is now available in hardback and eBook.

Twitter: @kareneolson

www.kareneolson.com