My Love Affair with Mystery Series

It was many years ago now.

A friend suggested I read - I think because I was a "cat person" -  a mystery series known as "The Cat Who" books.  Each book was entitled "The Cat Who..." (did something) and featured a cat with preternatural intelligence who would solve mysteries - typically murder - for his owner, a nouveau riche newspaper writer who, because of the requirements of his vast inheritance, has moved to a smallish city somewhere in what might be UP Michgan or might be Maine.

The books are delightful.

And I had discovered "cozy mysteries."

What is a cozy? Well, usually it involves a quirky individual in a smallish community who solves grizzly murder mysteries. Along the way, you'll be treated to meals eaten, community events attended, quirky friends, a quirky romance or two, and the inner workings of a quirky job or hobby or lifestyle: reporter (that one is popular), minister, coroner or doctor, teacher - you get the idea.

They're called "cozies," I suppose, in that they resemble that delightfully British invention, the "tea cozy." A tea cozy is a typically quilted wrapper that goes around a tea pot to keep the water warm while the tea steeps. So,in their way, cozies wrap you in a world, a place, a time, and people and the whole effect is - well, cozy. Not to mention a great many of them are based somewhere in Great Britain.

I read (and listened) my way through all of The Cat Who - to the point of sorrow when the original writer passed away and was replaced with a writer who simply didn't understand the style or the characters. This, of course, is an occupational hazard for series writers.

The Cat Who, should you be so inclined, is an American series that features Jim Qwilleran, a crime beat reporter from a big city who has a drinking problem. He inherits - through murder - two Siamese cats, Koko and YumYum. He then inherits - through regular old death - a not-so-small fortune, but, to collect on it, must move to a small city in the middle of somewhere indefinable, but utterly likable. There, he turns the mansion he inherits over to the town for a museum, and remodels an apple barn into his summer quarters, and lives in a townhouse in the winter. He makes friends, joins civic organizations, attends parties, visits the local diner, finds a girlfriend (or two), and solves an inordinate number of murders for such a small community.

But along the way, we are introduced to a variety of fun and lovable characters who become real for us, so that we look forward to each new meeting. And of course, there is the other necessary element for any cozy mystery: you must have many of the clues the main character does so you can start guessing whodunit as you read.

Having run out of The Cat Who I then discovered Hamish MacBeth.  Hamish lives in the Highlands, Scotland, in a wee town where everybody knows everybody's business, so everybody knows that Hamish is sweet on the daughter of the Laird, has a cat and a dog, and needs a wife, for Heaven's sake. There are a pair of oddball sisters, and the occasional visitor from elsewhere, but as Hamish is a handsome, if slightly unreliable, officer of the law, his many encounters with death and deception are to be expected.

The stories are full of Scottish lore and location, and are thoroughly fun. And there are lots them, so you will have a long, winding footpath of a read through this series.

The final series I'll mention - and there are too many to do justice to the many fine series there are - is another Highland series (if you detect a pattern here, you're a good sleuth - my mother, from whom I borrowed these,  has a thing for Scotland!) - the common thread being the author, A.D. Scott (of course!).  This series features another small town in the mid-fifties, and a female reporter for the town's little weekly. She is in an unhappy marriage when we first meet her, but has much in store for her as her life, and various dark deeds, unfold. I'm only on the second of a set of about eight that my mother let me have. And while cozies really deserve to be read in the winter when the sun sets early and there's a fire in the fireplace, there's nothing wrong with a Tiki torch and a lawn chair, either!


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