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.

Staff Pick Badge
The House in the Cerulean Sea Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250217288
Availability: Able to Backorder
Published: Tor Books - March 17th, 2020

While The House in the Cerulean Sea feels like a quiet little book it speaks so loudly of understanding, love, and found family. You'll want to hug it to your chest and carry it with you. And you will carry it with you, because each tender moment in this book will leave its mark on your heart. - John

Staff Pick Badge
Firewatching (A Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler Novel #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525542025
Availability: Able to Backorder
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - February 25th, 2020

"A pitch-perfect blend of the best of the old and the best of the new--all the traditional strengths and charms are here, with a fresh and relevant twenty first-century edge. I loved it."--Lee Child

Hid from Our Eyes: A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery (Fergusson/Van Alstyne Mysteries #9) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312606855
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Minotaur Books - April 7th, 2020


New York Times
bestseller Julia Spencer-Fleming returns to her beloved Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series with new crimes that span decades in Hid from Our Eyes.

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

An O Magazine Best Book of the Year

“Stylish… a compelling take on the eternal question of how good people morph into criminals. Terrific.”People, Book of the Week

The Fell of Dark Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250155849
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Feiwel & Friends - July 14th, 2020

What's a boy to do—in Caleb Roehrig's YA paranormal romance The Fell of Dark—when his crush is a hot vampire with a mystery to solve?

The only thing August Pfeiffer hates more than algebra is living in a vampire town.

The Woman in the Mirror: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250230058
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Minotaur Books - March 17th, 2020

Rebecca James unveils a chilling modern gothic novel of a family consumed by the shadows and secrets of its past in The Woman in the Mirror.

Staff Pick Badge
Home Before Dark: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781524745172
Availability: Able to Backorder
Published: Dutton - June 30th, 2020


One of USA Today's Best Books of 2020

“Sager is a master of the twist and the turn. . . . You have to read to the very last page to find how who did what to whom and why.”
—Rolling Stone

Staff Pick Badge
White Trash Warlock Cover Image
ISBN: 9781094067964
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Blackstone Publishing - October 13th, 2020

Adam Binder has The Sight. He can see the supernatural around us. He uses his power to track down cursed artifacts while searching for his father. Adam's gift has always been the cause of tension with his family but now his brother Bobby needs his help. Can Adam forgive his brother for committing him and help Bobby's wife?

This is one of the freshest, most original debut Urban Fantasy books I've read in years. If you've been missing the genre like I have, you need to pick this one up. I can't wait to chat with David about it! - John

Staff Pick Badge
The Lion's Den Cover Image
ISBN: 9781538733639
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grand Central Publishing - June 30th, 2020

Sex, betrayal, and intrigue: A dream vacation on a luxurious yacht turns deadly in this pulse-pounding beach read "chock full of delicious characters who flaunt their sins . . . like the latest Birkin bag" (Adriana Trigiani).

Belle likes to think herself immune to the dizzying effects of fabulous wealth.

Staff Pick Badge
Haunted Homicide (A Haunted Mansion Mystery #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984806772
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - September 29th, 2020

Avery Morgan is starting a new job at the Portage Path Women's Club. Her new boss Muriel is pretty terrible from the moment Avery walks into the mansion that houses the club, and it's no shock to anyone when Muriel is murdered. 

But a body isn't the most shocking thing Avery will find in the basement of the mansion. She also discovers a ghost from the days when the basement houses a speakeasy. Can the two of them solve the murder together? The relationship between Avery and Clemmie (the ghost) made me smile. I absolutely loved this one! 

Lucy Ness is a pseudonym for Kylie Logan and Casey Daniels. This series is perfect for Juliet Blackwell fans! - John 

Staff Pick Badge
Valentine Candy Murder (A Lucy Stone Mystery) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781496727015
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Kensington - December 29th, 2020

The Lucy Stone series is my new obsession. I've devoured 7 of them in the last few weeks. Lucy Stone is a mom living in Tinker's Cove, Maine. Between dropping off the kids at school, serving on the library board, and (eventually) writing for the local paper she finds herself solving mysteries. A lot of cozies feature single women who have returned to their small town, but I love that Lucy is a mom and has deep ties to her community. You see her worrying about family finances, and since the series starts in the late 90s you also get to see her adapt to technology.

These books are a little more serious than you would expect them to be based on the covers, but they're still on the cozy side. I would compare them to the Callahan Garrity books that Mary Kay Andrews wrote as Kathy Hogan Trocheck.

Digging into a log running series can be daunting, but the books in the series stand on their own so you can jump in anywhere. You can pick a favorite holiday and start there. If you want to read the series in order I recommend starting with book 3, Trick or Treat Murder (which is included in Halloween Murder). There are a few plot things in the first two books that might turn off some cozy readers, and I'm happy to chat with you about those, but you really can jump in with book three. - John