One of the more welcome innovations in publishing over the last couple of decades is the integration of craft projects and recipes into cozy mysteries. What could be better than a pleasant read that comes with a batch of just-out-of-the-oven cookies or a pair of warm woolen socks as a DIY lagniappe? Of course, this sort of thing has been around forever in more ad hoc forms. I suspect I'm not the only one who set sail for the grocery store after reading the passage early on in Moby Dick where Ishmael describes, in mouth-watering detail, eating New England Clam Chowder for the first time. I mean, not only did I get a tasty meal out of it, but I also got a temporary reprieve from reading Moby Dick. Similarly, folks of a certain age will remember the stretch in the 1980s when one couldn't throw a dinner party that had any pretensions toward urban sophistication without at least one dish culled from Nora Ephron's Heartburn. It's just that the practice has been woven into the fabric of the books' now, and, in our eyes, it's a good thing. It's a very elegant way to engage readers on deeper--and more delicious--levels. Below some HCPL bloggers try their hands at recipes and crafts from our cozy mystery collection. Keep reading to the end for more cozies with crafts and recipes.
Sprinkle With Murder (Cupcake Bakery Series) by Jenn McKinlay
Reviewed and baked by Erin P.
Book Review: My favorite Jenn McKinlay series is and always will be the Library Lovers Mysteries, but for those not steeped in library science the Cupcake Bakery mysteries are a lot of fun. Tropes abound. The taciturn best friend, the secret crush, the odious fiancé that ends up dead leaving the main character the prime suspect. The characters are likable and the main character’s voice is funny and engaging. As cozy as a pair of fuzzy slippers.
Project: Tinkerbell Cupcakes
It is a plot point that the cupcake bakers are asked to come up with a number of original cupcakes for a wedding. The recipes for all of these are included in the back.
These were lemon cupcakes with raspberry icing.
With a little help from my mother, I baked a batch for my coworkers. I used the tricks the main characters outlined in the book, like using an ice cream scoop to get evenly-sized cupcakes.
Mostly they were a hit, but I was not entirely a fan of the icing. In the book, the main character talks about her buttercream frosting being half butter, half shortening, and the benefits of this mix. I think I prefer an all-butter or cream cheese frosting, but they were a hit with the branch staff.
A Murderous Tangle by Sally Goldenbaum
Reviewed and knitted by Darcy C.
Book Review: I’m not a cozy mystery reader in general, but stretching out of my comfort zone is always a good thing. This book is in the middle of the series, but I was able to read it as a stand-alone. The story itself takes place in a little seaside town in Massachusetts. Two women work to piece together the murder of a newcomer with the help of their local knitting group, as well as children, grandchildren, husbands, etc. While knitting itself is barely touched on, I enjoyed that the group of characters varied in age and experience.
Project - Forest Glade Cowl by Linda Dawkins - I admit I chose the book strictly for the pattern. This experienced-beginner pattern is evocative of one of the settings. The most difficult part of the pattern is casting on 220 stitches without twisting. The rest of the pattern is easy to memorize and can be knit while watching a movie. I was excited to finally use the skein of Bashful Armadillo Fibers in the “Texas Wildflowers” colorway that had been sitting in my stash for some time. I will be keeping this cowl myself
That pattern may be found on the designer’s website.
Bake Sale Murder by Leslie Meier – A Lucy Stone Mystery Series Book #13
Reviewed & baked by Natalie L.
Book Review: I have honestly always been fond of cozy mysteries. I enjoy sleuth-style murder mysteries because they are more relatable to the life of an average person who has a genuine interest in murder mysteries - like me! I’ve been reading books from the Lucy Stone Mystery Series for years, and I’ve always enjoyed her character. Lucy is a part-time journalist in her small, quaint town of Tinker’s Cove, Maine. In between her part-time job at the local newspaper, The Pennysaver, and being a full-time mother and wife, she always makes time to investigate and solve the local murders before the cops can figure out who the killer is. In this book, Lucy and her friends have a bake sale to make money for their Hat & Mitten Fund: a fundraiser they created years ago to help support families in need of hats, mittens, or school supplies for their children. The bake sale becomes very competitive between the town’s housewives, and when one doesn’t show up to her shift at the bake sale, Lucy is assigned to go check on Mimi at her house. Once Lucy arrives at Mimi’s house, she finds the cookies burning in the oven, and Mimi slumped over her kitchen counter with a large knife protruding out of her back. The inner sleuth in Lucy immediately comes out as she tries to solve this murder, and the more she digs into why someone had it in for Mimi, the more she realizes nearly everybody who knew her had a motive to do it.
Project - Kitchen Sink Cookies: I used one of the recipes from the back of the book that were cookies sold by one of the housewives, Chris, for the bake sale. They are Kitchen Sink Cookies – essentially, they’re peanut butter cookies with everything good put in them: oatmeal, chocolate chips, raisins, peanuts, walnuts, and tons of white and brown sugar. There was a lot of extra batter - much more than I could fit onto one baking sheet. What I felt was a personable touch to the character who made these cookies was at the end of the recipe, it said, “Chris notes: I usually make half the batter and freeze the other half. Then, when I need more cookies, I just defrost the dough, roll, and bake. Otherwise, this recipe makes a huge number of cookies. The cookies do freeze well if you prefer to not bake all at once.” I followed her advice and have frozen cookie dough waiting for me once I finish this first batch. It was a nice touch and made it feel like the character herself handed me the recipe. Thankfully, Chris wasn’t the one who killed Mimi!