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 2021 Top 10:

  1. The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman
  2. Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
  3. Before We Disappear by Shaun David Hutchison
  4. Tomb of the Queen by Joss Walker
  5. The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
  6. Rhode Island Red by Charlotte Carter (This series was my favorite discovery of the year)
  7. A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins
  8. Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
  9. Her Dark Lies by JT Ellison
  10. Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia

Favorite Cozies:
Murder at the Beacon Bakeshop by Darci Hannah
Poppy Harmon and the Pillow Talk Killer by Lee Hollis
Death in Castle Dark by Veronica Bond

Check out John's Recommendations Playlist on the MBTB YouTube channel.

Staff Pick Badge
Reckless Girls: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250274250
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Press - January 4th, 2022

Meroe Island has a dark history. From shipwrecks, to murder, and even cannibalism, it's sat abandoned in the Pacific for years. Lux's boyfriend has been hired to take two friends out to the island, and she's been invited to tag along. When they arrive, they find another (extremely rich) couple anchored there.Everything seems great at first, and then secrets start being revealed.

This is a book you'll want to take on vacation with you, and you'll gobble  it up just like I did. Your allegiances to the characters will change, and you'll love every delicious moment. - John

Staff Pick Badge
Shady Hollow (A Shady Hollow Mystery #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593315712
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard - January 25th, 2022

The small town of Shady Hollow has been rocked by its first murder. Otto Sumpf was found floating in the pond with a knife in his back. Vera Vixen is determined to solve the mystery and get herself a good scoop for the Shady Hollow Herald.

Did I mention that Otto is a toad, and Vera is a fox? Shady Hollow is town populated entirely by animals. Think Murder She Wrote if it was written by Richard Scarry! Shady Hollow is a great village mystery with a quirky little twist. I really enjoyed it, and I can't wait for books 2 and 3 later this spring. - John

Staff Pick Badge
Finlay Donovan Is Killing It: A Mystery Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250830449
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Minotaur Books - January 4th, 2022

A writer is misaken for a contract killer and hilarity ensues! - John 

Staff Pick Badge
Tomb of the Queen Cover Image
ISBN: 9781948967334
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Two Tales Press - June 8th, 2021

A librarian gets recruited by the CIA to help track down rare and magical books...

Jayne Thorne has just discovered that magic is real, and the CIA needs her help. After a crash course in Magic 101 she's sent to Ireland to investigate a rare manuscripti. The start of this series is everything I love about urban fantasy. A wise-cracking heroine who diffuses tense situations with a joke, plenty of adventure, and an interesting magical world that exists alongside our own. 

I can't wait for more adventures with Jayne! - John 

Staff Pick Badge
The Wife Upstairs: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250245502
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - November 2nd, 2021

Jane is a dog walker in the exclusive Thornfield Estates neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama. An orphan with not much to her name, Jane pockets small trinkets she thinks no one will miss and dreams of a better life. Then she meets the handsome and recently widowed Eddie Rochester. While Eddie's wife Bea was declared dead, they never found her body...

Sound familiar? It's Jane Eyre but written as a contemporary domestic suspense thriller! Instead of a beat by beat retelling, she takes elements from the story and puts her own spin on them. There's plenty of humor and plenty of moments that will leave you with your jaw hanging open. I inhaled this one, and I'm so excited to see what's next for Hawkins. - John

Staff Pick Badge
Rhode Island Red (A Nanette Hayes Mystery #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593314104
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard - July 27th, 2021

I've wanted to read these books for years, but never tracked them down since they were out of print. I inhaled all three this week and they were well worth the wait. Written in the late 90s, the series follows Nan, a jazz-playing saxophonist, in New York City (with a quick trip to Paris in book 2). Nan is a force. She's emotional, she's loyal, and she's going to do things her way. You'll want to put on some of your favorite jazz albums and get lost in her world. - John 

Staff Pick Badge
A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem (Ladies Most Scandalous #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781538736135
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Forever - November 10th, 2020

Newspaper columnist Lady Katherine Bascomb has ruined Detective Inspector Andrew Eversham's career after publishing a witness interview he missed. Can they work together to catch The Commandment Killer who has been terrorizing London? And what about the sparks between them?

Manda Collins perfectly blends romance and mystery together in these books. They're the perfect blend of Deanna Raybourn and Anne Perry with a little bit of Bridgerton thrown in.. - John 

Staff Pick Badge
Payback's a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593336069
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - October 5th, 2021

Emmy Harlow has returned to Thistle Grove to act as arbiter for a spellcasting tournament that will decide which magical family will run the town for the next 25 years. Can she help her town and get back at the guy who caused her to leave in the first place?

This book was SO MUCH FUN! I love the world Harper has created and I'm so excited that there's another book coming next year. - John

Staff Pick Badge
Dead Dead Girls (A Harlem Renaissance Mystery #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593199107
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - June 1st, 2021

Louise is blackmailed into helping the police solve a series of murders in 1926 Harlem. Full of fasion, music, and excellent crime solving! - John