I read mostly thrillers and noir so cozies aren’t really my go-to read, BUT every once in while it’s great to switch up, which is why I’m recommending two engaging and thoroughly entertaining reads: The Merry Widow Murders (Cormorant Press) by Melodie Campbell and The Devil’s Chew Toy by Rob Osler.
BOOK ONE: THE MERRY WIDOW MURDERS
Melodie and I are longstanding author friends and I’m big fan of her Derringer-winning Goddaughter novella series. Melodie, AKA The Mesdames of Mayhem’s Queen of Comedy, got her training in stand-up, so she’s always written short. Do take a look at her featured story, “The Kindred Spirits Detective Agency” on the Mesdames’ website and see how she creates a world in under 2000 words. That takes skill!
Melodie confided to me that writing “long” for a standard novel posed a challenge. And it’s a challenge she’s overcome beautifully in The Merry Widow Murders. Her mystery is set in 1928 aboard a luxury ocean liner. Lady Lucy Revelstoke, the wealthy young widow of an English lord, is travelling back to England when someone dumps a dead stranger in her cabin. Was this planned or an unhappy accident? Lucy and her two sidekicks, Lord Tony and her maid, Elf, don’t wait to find out. They try to dispose of the body discretely, but things don’t go as planned.
Lucy has a shady past, which would ruin her in the conventional society of the day. To safeguard her reputation, Lucy must solve the stranger’s murder. The mystery has many twists and turns and a satisfying ending. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of ocean-going life, the food and art deco decor. Melodie skillfully weaves in social comment about the position of women in 1928 and the strictures of social convention.
BOOK TWO: DEVIL’S CHEW TOY
I had the pleasure of meeting Rob Osler in person at Left Coast Crime in Tucson this year. Fellow author, Stephen Buehler, who’s also a professional magician, invited me to LCC’s Author Speed Dating – not as an author pitching a book but as a reader. This proved to be terrific training for how to pitch to readers and a most enjoyable way to discover new authors and books.
Rob’s book stood out, not only because it was nominated for a Lefty Award, but because of his humorous pitch. His bookmarks were dog bone-shaped and he promoted The Devil’s Chew Toy with a funny poem – doggerel, get it?
The premise is hilarious. Hayden McCall is a shy high school teacher, who because of his height, is constantly mistaken for one of his students. His love life isn’t great nor is his luck. Venturing out to the local gay bar, he is accidentally punched in the face by Camillo, the hot disco dancer. Feeling bad for him, Camilo takes him back to his place. The morning after Hayden wakes up to the police banging on the door. Camilo has disappeared – and Hayden is not only a suspect, he’s saddled with Camilo’s pit bull terrier.
Aided by Camilo’s feisty lesbian friends, Hayden tries to find him through a series of mishaps and misadventures. Camilo’s disappearance is tied to a shady pet store, appropriately named Barkingham Palace. Hayden solves the mystery and – surprise – for once there are NO murders in the book!
Both books 5-star reads and highly recommended!