Monday, May 3, 2010

Trap Door by Sarah Graves

Cozies are, well, cozy. An ordinary person, just like you and me, finds crime in her community, sometimes right at her door. Unlike you and me, she just has to solve it, every time, even when she knows from experience how likely things are to go wrong in such an equation. What I love about cozies, besides the just like you and me part, is the gimmicky aspect of the genre. This one is a caterer, that one is a librarian. Oh, there's a rich gal who solves crime with the help of a ghost. Some knit, some bake cookies, some are young and callow and some have age and experience.  

Jacobia--Jake--Tiptree fixes things. More specifically, she continuously fixes the aged house in Maine to which she repaired when she divorced her husband (who has since died, and may be haunting said house) and left her job as a money launderer for the mob. Surprisingly, crime just seems to find Jake, no matter where she is. In Trap Door, the tenth Home Repair is Homicide mystery, Jake and her sidekick Ellie are trying to find the connection between the apparent suicide by hanging of a young local man, the former mob hitman whose barn he was found in, and the appearance in Eastport of Jake's former mentor, the amoral Jemmy. And, not only does the house need a new roof, but the roofbeams turn out to be infested with carpenter ants. What's a girl to do but throw up her hands, roll up her sleeves, and get to sleuthing?  

This is an adequate, middle-of-the-road series made more appealing by three things. First, there are the helpful home repair hints that appear at the beginning of each chapter. Second, the ongoing litany of the repairs themselves, which are terrifying (and hilarious) in their own right. And finally, there is the mysterious book. It popped up in a previous installment of the series and was sent off to some rare book experts for analysis (a very old book, it had been found squirreled away in the house and contained the names of all the owners of the house...including Jake's); the reader is tantalized by occasional e-mail communications between the men analyzing the book, and by a chilling announcement that comes at the very end. One hopes this means the book will be taking center stage in a subsequent volume of this series.


You should certainly try some of the cozy series mentioned above. Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen bakes cookies, keeps cats, juggles two boyfriends, and solves crimes up in Lake Eden, Minnesota. The first in her series--with recipes!--is Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder . Maggie Sefton's Kelly Flynn is an accountant who spends lots of time drinking coffee and shooting the breeze with the gals at the House of Lambspun, the local yarn shop, in Fort Connor, Colorado. Knit One, Kill Two is the first in this series, in which the beauty of the countryside and the colors and textures of the yarn is as important as the story. And, of course, there are Diane Mott Davidson's culinary mysteries, also set in Colorado and featuring amateur sleuth (and professional caterer) Goldy Bear. The first of these is Catering to Nobody .

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