cozy or literary for you?

Sometimes I want a book that will take me out of myself, out of my world and all the cares of my world, and away into somewhere safe where problems are solved, disasters averted, and relationships healed. Then I'll read a cozy mystery perhaps, an fast-moving thriller, or a romance, and I'll enjoy the gentle respite they offer.

Other times I want something to absorb my attention, involving my thoughts and concerns in someone else's life, with that gentle hint that what I learn might, maybe, help in my own. Then I'll go for something literary; something longer perhaps, or more "different," more intriguing.

And sometimes one book will fulfill both purposes.

I've read a number of mystery novels recently, and some of them certainly leave me seeing the real world, or real history, slightly differently. Others just offer rest and relaxation. And all are fun. So here are just a few book reviews for you. Drink coffee. Enjoy!

First are a couple of stories from the Death and Damages collection. The set doesn't seem to be available any more, but the books were fun. Never Again by Angela Sanders combines a convincing depiction of post traumatic stress with a gruesome murder mystery. Psychological thrillers don't come under the "cozy mystery" heading for sure, but it's a fast read that offers the sureness that resolutions will be found. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee.

Suicide Blonde by Karen Bryson doesn't appear to be available as a standalone novel yet, but it's another "Death and Damages" psychological thriller, this time with mob bosses, sugar daddies, the internet and murder, told in gritty, first-person style. If you can find it, it's another to enjoy with dark five-star coffee.

Friends from the Edge by Heather Balog blends psychological thrills and mystery in a tale of now-grown teens, still coming to terms with a scene of childhood terror. The story switches between past and present, with lots of backstory and teen angst. Meanwhile the mystery waits in between. It's very teen, moderately dark, a long slow read. More dark five-star coffee perhaps.

Apple Die by Chelsea Thomas is a cozy small-town mystery where the girl left at the altar ends up planning the perfect wedding for a relative... a wedding that turns to disaster with the addition of a dead body. The characters are interesting. The plot moves along quickly, with fairly quick resolution of clues, and the introduction of a "hot" detective. Probably the beginning of another cozy series, it's a quick fun read to go with some lively 2-star coffee.

The Sidney Chambers mysteries qualify as cozy, set in Grantchester and Cambridge (a place close to my heart) and involving limited groups of enjoyable characters. But they also verge into literary, breaking with norms and accepting that people weren't all fitted to the same sweet mold, then or now, and that evil is often as hard to define as good. I'm working my way through the books and thoroughly enjoying them. Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie introduces town and people, with a small enticing collecting of mysteries - linked novellas perhaps. Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night by James Runcie adds questions of love and marriage to the list, and continues the pattern of several mysteries, connected by the passage of time and intersecting themes. And then there's Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil by James Runcie, with hippies and the sixties added to the mix. I'm really enjoying the books, their portrayal of Cambridge, and their lack of rose-colored spectacles. Rich, elegant, complex four-star coffee would go well with them.

Beau Death by Peter Lovesey is also set in England, this time in Bath. It was recommended to me by Donna Fletcher Crow, one of my favorite authors, and an author whose books I have sometimes edited. I'd been enjoying one of Donna's books with scenes set in Regency Bath, so now I had the chance to enjoy the modern city, tinged with historical death. Literary allusions, fascinating history, a great protagonist who surely has plenty of backstory to be learned from earlier books (this is the only one I've read)... what more could I want. It's long but a fast, absorbing read, and I really enjoyed it. Gritty and thoroughly realistic, enjoy it with some bold dark five-star coffee.

Finally there's Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith. I'm addicted to the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, of course, so this one's a must-read. But it's also a truly delightful novel of precious relationships and healing grace. Enjoy with some delightfully complex four-star coffee.

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