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 2020 Top 10:

1. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
2. Firewatching by Russ Thomas
3. Hid From Our Eyes by Julia Spencer-Fleming
4. A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen
5. The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig
6. The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James
7. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
8. White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton
9. The Lion’s Den by Katherine St. John
10. Haunted Homicide by Lucy Ness

And my favorite discovery of the year was the Lucy Stone mysteries by Leslie Meier.

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

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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 

Coq au Vin (A Nanette Hayes Mystery #2) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593314128
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard - August 31st, 2021

In the second installment of the Nanette Hayes Mystery series, Nan is on her way to Paris in search of a missing relative. . . but will she lose more than just her heart in the city of love?

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Drumsticks (A Nanette Hayes Mystery #3) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593314142
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard - September 28th, 2021

In the third book in the Nanette Hayes Mystery series, Nan finds a voodoo doll is bringing her some much needed luck...until the doll's maker is murdered and Nan is dragged into the investigation.

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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 

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Bring Your Baggage and Don't Pack Light: Essays Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385546157
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday - July 13th, 2021

Wherever Helen Ellis is going, I want to tag along! The baggage might be heavier this time, but the laughs are bigger. Whether she's talking about a friend's messy divorce or a yard sale she always finds the funny. Every time Ellis releases a new book I swear I'm going to only read a few essays at a time, and inhale the entire book in one go. It's hard not to when each essay feels like sitting down with a friend who is about to tell you a really juicy story.

This is Ellis at her funniest and her most heartfelt. - John

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The Rocky Road to Ruin: An Ice Cream Shop Mystery (Ice Cream Shop Mysteries #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250267061
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Paperbacks - July 27th, 2021

Riley Rhodes has returned to her home town for a funeral, and to lick her wounds after an assignment with the CIA went wrong. Riley's best friend Caroline just lost her mother. Caroline wants to save her mother's ice cream shop and farm, but her brother wants to sell the land to a developer. When Mike is murdered, Riley tries to solve the crime and help Caroline save Udderly Delicious. 

A Rocky Road to Ruin has a great sense of community, and it makes me think of how  the small businesses in cozies have a lot in common with independent bookstores. They become a place where neighbors come together and make new friends. I guarantee the ice cream flavors in this will have you drooling! - John 

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British Murder (A Lucy Stone Mystery) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781496726278
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Kensington - February 25th, 2020

This collection contains two Lucy Stone mysteries set in England. In English Tea Murder, Lucy and her friends are enjoying a nice trip to the UK, but a member of their tour group drops dead not long after their flight takes off. In British Manor Murder, Lucy and her friend Sue have been invited to stay in an old English Manor where nothing seems to be going right.

Since these both take place outside of Tinker's Cove (the main series location) this is an excellent place to jump into my new favorite cozy mystery series! - John 

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The Hidden Knife Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525518525
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Nancy Paulsen Books - June 1st, 2021

Melissa Marr's new world is full of magic, friendship, and adventure. At its heart, The Hidden Knife is a story about the different ways we fight, grief, and finding the people in the world we can rely on. - John 

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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 

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Lost in the Never Woods Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250313973
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Swoon Reads - March 23rd, 2021

Wendy Darling and her brothers went missing for 6 months. John and Michael were never found, and Wendy has no memory of that time. Now kids are going missing again, and Peter Pan has shown up. Peter Pan, the imaginary character she’s told stories about for years.

Lost in The Never Woods by Aiden Thomas is a beautiful and dark spin on Peter Pan. Thomas writes about grief and growing up with such urgency. This is dark fairy tale YA at its best. And how gorgeous is this cover?

This twist on Peter Pan is dark and genius. The kind of twist that will make it hard for me to see Peter Pan in any other way. Thomas has made Pan completely their own. - John 

Burn It All Down Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316496957
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - May 25th, 2021

Take the ride of a lifetime with this mother/son buddy comedy James Patterson praises as “audacious, addictive, highly entertaining.”
Eighteen-year-old aspiring comic Joey Rossi just found out his boyfriend has been cheating on him for the past ten months. But what did he expect?