John's Staff Picks

John McDougall, Event Coordinator at Murder By The Book since 2010

I love watching the parts of a mystery fall into place, but I think what really pulls me in is the characters. Cozies are so fun because you get to know these small towns and wish you could visit. Reading about Lady Emily in Tasha Alexander's books is like getting to catch up with an old friend. I want characters that break your heart like Marc Rochat in The Watchers, or make you laugh like Victoria Laurie and Mary Kay Andrews's characters always do. I love picking up a book like City of Dark Magic and thinking, ‘These things shouldn't really fit together, but they totally do.’ You can't help but want to hang on for the ride.

For additional cozy mystery recommendations, check out John's Cozy Corner.


John's 2019 Top 10 Cozy Mysteries:

1. A Cup of Holiday Fear by Ellie Alexander
2. Coached to Death by Victoria Laurie
3. Murder Once Removed by S.C. Perkins
4. And Then There Were Crumbs by Eve Calder
5. Death in a Budapest Butterfly by Julia Buckley
6. The Calamity Cafe by Gayle Leeson
7. Wonton Terror by Vivien Chien
8. The Loch Ness Papers by Paige Shelton
9. Against the Claw by Shari Randall
10. Apple Cider Slaying by Julie Anne Lindsey

Non-Cozy Top 3:

The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Swipe Right For Murder by Derek Milman

Staff Pick Badge
A Beautiful Crime: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062853882
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - January 28th, 2020

Nick is leaving New York to meet his boyfriend Clay in Venice. Their plan? To con Clay's neighbor into buying some counterfeit silver and riding off into the sunset. Bollen perfectly captures the feeling of Venice for the first time, and immediately falling under the spell of the city. Experiencing the city through Nick's eyes was a joy, and reminded me so much of my first time in Venice. It also made me want to immediately plan a trip back. Christopher Bollen has beautifully blended literary fiction with the crime novel. John Boyne fans will find a lot to love here. - John

Staff Pick Badge
Firewatching (A Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler Novel #2) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525542025
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - February 25th, 2020

In a genre that really loves the "bury your gays" trope, Firewatching by Russ Thomas is a breath of fresh air. DS Adam Tyler works cold cases and keeps his head down, until he finds himself working on a high profile murder case. While working the case, Tyler realizes the victim's son is the same guy he went home with the night before. Tyler teams up with Amina Rabbani, and young Muslim officer hoping to make detective. Firewatching does a great job of showing Tyler and Rabbani trying to navigate the police force while also being oustsiders. With a fantastic cast of characters and an intricate plot, Firewatching is destined to be the first in a great series from Thomas. - John

Russ Thomas signs at MBTB on Wednesday, March 3rd with John McMahon.

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The Gravity of Us Cover Image
ISBN: 9781547600144
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Bloomsbury YA - February 4th, 2020

The Gravity of Us is a wonderful romance between the sons of two astronauts vying for spots on the first mission to Mars. Cal has moved from New York to Houston (actually League City) where he meets Leon. He's got a fairly hefty social media following, but he struggles with how NASA has tried to turn the search for the new astronauts into a reality show.  I loved how Phil approached the subjects of media, journalism, and the nostalgia for the 60s. There’s plenty of kissing, drama, and NASA.

If you were a fan of Red, White, and Royal Blue Casey McQuiston, you'll LOVE this one! - John

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Murder Once Removed (Ancestry Detective #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250189035
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Minotaur Books - March 19th, 2019

S.C. Perkins' Murder Once Removed is the captivating first mystery in the Ancestry Detective series, in which Texas genealogist Lucy Lancaster uses her skills to solve murders in both the past and present.

Staff Pick Badge
Watch the Girls Cover Image
ISBN: 9781478974239
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grand Central Publishing - June 4th, 2019

Liv Hendricks quit acting after her sister went missing. Her second chance at an acting career fails spectacularly so she ends up crowdfunding her own investigative web series. Her first case? Solving the disappearances of four woman who went missing outside a town known for the cult horror movies filmed there. My best friend recommended this one to me, and I had to keep texting him at each twist and turn because I was having so much fun with it. Watch the Girls is PERFECT for Riley Sager fans. - John

Staff Pick Badge
In the Shadow of Vesuvius: A Lady Emily Mystery (Lady Emily Mysteries #14) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250164735
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Minotaur Books - January 7th, 2020

I've been dying for this one since Tasha mentioned that she was sending Lady Emily to Pompeii! While exploring the ancient city, Lady Emily realizes on the plaster casts is actually a fresh body. As she and Colin start to investigate, it becomes apparent that someone doesn't want them to solve the case. Getting to visit Pompeii was a dream come true for me (my picture this week is me hugging Mount Vesuvius), and getting to visit it again with Lady Emily was a real treat. If you're new to the series, you can jump in with this installment. Tasha is a master at making her books work as stand-alones. - John

Hems & Homicide (Apron Shop Series #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250257949
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Paperbacks - December 31st, 2019

Welcome to the first in the Apron Shop mystery series by Elizabeth Penney, set in the quaint village of Blueberry Cove, Maine where an expert seamstress turned amateur sleuth is getting measured for murder. . .