This book was brought up in my book club, but passed over until I brought it up again. Now, I have a complicated relationship with cozy mysteries. I’ve watched a lot of PI/detective/police series (Criminal Minds, Bones, Sherlock, The Rookie…), and I love the official consultant stories (Monk, White Collar, Castle, The Mentalist…). But cozy?
For those who don’t study genres like an English major/writer/editor, let me define the difference.
Cozy Mystery is a subgenre of the Crime genre. According to Shawn Coyne, cozies are
…told from the point of view of the amateur sleuth, who usually has some expertise that others lack that enables them to figure out the mystery.– The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know
I’ve tried reading cozy mysteries before. Not only do they fail to keep my interest, but they straight-out irritate me when some little busybody–who has no authority to snoop around–puts their nose in the way of the cops. Even “Murder, She Wrote,” with Angela Lansbury, has a moment in most episodes (I’m currently in season 5) as the police look at JB Fletcher and ask “What are you doing here?” Then, she must explain her connection to the case to excuse and justify her involvement.
Rant over, I don’t love cozies . . . but I enjoyed “Death in the Park” enough to look up book 2.
Story and Characters
Sunni Taylor has a leg up over the neighborhood busy-bodies as she’s a journalist. She’s used to city life that’s always hopping, so when she moves to the small town of Firefly Junction, she feels over-qualified and bored to report on a quilting club. Outside of work, Sunni keeps busy by renovating her old house into a bed-and-breakfast inn–a lofty dream considering its crumbling condition and haunted resident.
That’s all long-game stuff that will likely stretch itself through the 13+ book series.
As for Book 1 specifically, it gets through the mandatory introductions to the many characters and different settings with tiny bits of intrigue by mentioning the haunted resident of the home.
The tough part about mysteries is they always have a large character cast (more people to suspect), but Sunni has two dogs, sisters with families, house friends, co-workers, and cops to keep track of–outside the usual long list of suspects.
Unfortunately, even with the many characters, I pinned the killer (or at least the motive and reason for the killing) loooong before it was officially revealed . . . Maybe that was just me with my understanding of story-telling and red herrings.
Sunni still annoys the cops with her investigations and has an irrational desire to solve the crime before the police, but the irritation is turned into romantic banter as she and Detective Jackson flirt between their grumblings.
The dirtiest part of this book was a reference to a love affair and some teenage boys peeping into the girl’s locker room. Minimal swearing (no F-bombs), and even the limited violence is fairly tame. It’s on par with “Murder, She Wrote,” which is TV PG.
Like I said, I get bored/annoyed with most cozy mysteries, but “Death in the Park” had enough hints of paranormal and romantic banter to keep me interested. To anyone who enjoys clean murder mysteries, I highly recommend “Death in the Park: Firefly Junction.” *****4.8 stars*****
PS. If you’re curious what Sunni’s tri-color border collies look like, they’re incredibly similar to my tri-color aussie.