Thursday, May 28, 2015

Let Us Read. Amen!

The City:  Atlanta

The Date:  28 May 2015

After reading The Forgiveness of Sins (which was released on 19 May by Bloomsbury), I want to reaffirm something I said in my debut entry earlier this month.  While, I am sure The Grantchester Mysteries are classified as a cozy series, I really disagree.  While there certainly is that comfortable glow of village life - especially English village life in the books - this series has an edge that I honestly haven't found in other cozy series.  First of all, this series is unique in that each volume is not one mystery, but a collection of six short mystery stories that stand alone.  And part of the uniqueness is that in spite of the fact that there are six separate stories there is a thread of continuity in terms of time and the progress of the characters' lives.  As far as I know, this particular format is not part of the traditional cozy formula.  

This is a series that I can, once again, thank Jeff for.  He came home one day a couple of years ago with the first volume in the series, The Shadow of Death.  He was intrigued by fact that the main character was an Anglican priest.  He was further intrigued by the novel fact that the author, James Runcie, was the son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, who officiated at the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.  Jeff knew this would totally appeal to my Catholic self (not to mention my anglophile/royal lover self)and he was right.  Although, I have to admit, that there was a tinge of disappointment that the main character wasn't a Catholic priest in the Father Brown tradition. However, in retrospect, I'm glad Sidney is an Anglican priest, because it has given so many wonderful opportunities to his character that simply would not exist if he was a Catholic priest.  

The Forgiveness of Sins, is for me, thus far the best of the four volumes that have been published. There's a wonderful "settledness" about certain aspects of Sidney's life that I am glad for and that will allow for very interesting character development in the next two volumes.  From the beginning, James Runcie declared that there would be only six volumes in the series spanning from 1953 to the mid-1970's. Once again, this is another very unique aspect of the series:  that it's finite from its inception which I believe  disqualifies it in the cozy category.  I personally, like idea of the finiteness.  Perhaps not every series, but so often, the series cozy addicts follow, create impatience regarding the progress of the main characters' lives.  Case and point:  it took 17 books and 13 years of my life for Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy to get married. I was happy to do it, happy I did it, but nonetheless it was still 17 books and 13 years of my life.  So, sometimes I think it's nice to know that a series will have a limited run.  

As I've said before, this blog isn't about writing in-depth book reviews, therefore, I will cease talking about this recent title in the Grantchester Mysteries and move on to its newest incarnation:  the BBC's production for television simply named:  Grantchester.  I am a huge fan of this production.  The producers, writers, director and most especially, the actors, completely bring that "edginess" to the series that the books have.  The scripts are tight, intelligent and infinitely sophisticated.  As an actor myself, I rejoice in the high quality of the writing.  These very talented actors are all extremely lucky to have such wonderful scripts to work with and their understanding and appreciation shows, because they all give first-class, intelligent, sensitive performances.  This is most noted in the actor who portrays Sidney Chambers:  James Norton. 

Let me just get something out of the way, right now, so that I can move on.  This actor is so handsome, so sexy and such a good actor it's hurtful.  And that collar just sends me over the edge.  Ok.  Now that I've gotten that off my chest ...

In any case, the series is probably one of the best mystery series from the BBC in a while.  It's unique and interesting; beautifully art directed and beautifully acted.  A case where the books and the series are perfect compliments to one another and both worth investing time and money in.  I hope this will encourage others to read the books, watch the BBC series or both!

For more information on the Grantchester Mysteries, both the books and the television series, please visit:

For more information on Mr. Runcie, please visit:

As always, I would love to hear from all my fellow Cozy Addicts and , of course, should you wish to know more about me, please visit my website:

June will be bringing two new cozy titles from series I read, so please stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tea - Table For One

The City:  Atlanta

The Date:  20 May 2015

Dear Laura Childs aka Gerry Schmitt, whose recent Tea Shop Mystery, Ming Tea Murder, I have just completed - I have a slight bone to pick with you.  So, we all know, that I am a Cozy Mystery addict.  Fine.  Now what would be the last thing that I needed?  Easy peasy answer:  another Cozy series to take on.  And yet, not only has this opportunity been offered, it comes from a writer who already has 3 - count 'em - 3 ongoing series - two of which I read.  Who, you ask, could that culprit possibly be?  Easy peasy answer: Laura Childs aka Gerry Schmitt.

As usual, before I even begin a title, I go to the very back to see what the next title will be so I can pre-order it; sure sign of a true cozy addict.  As I happily discovered, the next title in The Tea Shop Mystery series would be, Devonshire Scream and in The Cackleberry Club series, Egg Drop Dead and in The Scrapbooking Mysteries series,  Parchment and Old Lace (a series that I have, hither, refused to succumb to) and then, right there was this horrible, ominous announcement:  Warning To Readers ... that then went on to announce that Laura Childs aka Gerry Scmitt was coming out with a new series:  The Afton Tangler Thriller series whose first title would be, Finders Creepers.  I couldn't believe my eyes.   I couldn't believe my eyes.  How was it remotely possible that Laura Childs aka Gerry Schmitt had the nerve - let alone the energy - to announce a new series?  Seriously?! I was dumbstruck.  Worse than that, it was a series I had every intention of reading.  Which then made me think, well, hell, why not consider reading the Scrapbooking Mysteries and just be done with it.  Then ... I found an article on-line from 2014 on Laura Childs aka Gerry Schmitt and it stated that she was going to write a FIFTH series. FIFTH!!!!! Oh come on,  that's just plain insane and unfair and yet ... will I?  Won't I? Only time will tell.

Delaine for Tea or not Delaine for Tea?  That is the question.

In the meanwhile, Ming Tea Murder was, for me, one of the best stories
in the series.  It was a very fast moving, clean, concise, mystery with a wonderfully surprising twist.  I must admit I had a slight suspicion who the culprit was and I ended up being right (a rare occurrence for me), but I kept getting thrown off-guard which is always the sign of a good writer. And, as always, I love visiting with all the regulars: dear Drayton, wonderful Haley, Miss Dimple and even Delaine.  I do think, however, it's time we began to get Theodosia seriously on the matrimony track, although I don't know about Max.  He always seems to be a bit of a wet noodle for someone like Theodosia.  However, most of the time, matrimony is a natural progression for characters in a series and one that fans of this series are waiting for.  

One interesting fact I garnered from the article written in 2014 is that Laura Childs aka Gerry Schmitt was one of the first Cozy writers to incorporate recipes.  I can tell you from first hand experience, the recipes are always wonderful and always work.  And the many tea resources listed at the end of each title, reaffirm the fact that Laura Childs aka Gerry Schmitt is one bewildering force of non-stop energy, inspiration and passion.  Thank you Laura Childs aka Gerry Schmitt for all your artistry and love.  Your Cozy fans ... especially this one ... is deeply grateful.

To get the complete overview of the infinitely energetic Laura Childs aka Gerry Schmitt please visit her website:

As always, I welcome all fellow Cozy Addict comments and should you wish to know more about me visit my website:

PS - A very belated thank you to my beloved mother, Nona, for the question mark background I use on my blog.  It was a study of the pearl question mark broach that appeared in my debut blog.  She did the study in the mid-1950's and her broach is one of my favorite pieces of jewelry as well as one of my earliest visual memories.  Ma always wore the broach with her two-piece black and white wool suit with its flared skirt and button up top with a matching narrow stole trimmed with black fringe on the bottom. And yes, that is the suit and the broach and I do have them.  My mother always kept the suit and I asked for it. Only children can be that way.  Thanks, Ma. I love you! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Cozy Wedding Bells - At Last!

The City:  Atlanta

The Date:  15 May 2015

Now that I am a confessed and unrepentant Cozy Mystery Addict - it's time to make another confession:  I cry at weddings.  I'll cry at anybody's wedding:  family, friends' ... perfect strangers'; weddings in films, on television.  And the wedding of Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy - 13 years in the waiting for me - was no exception.  Jeff was asleep on the couch totally unaware of my sobbing and the tears streaming down my face as I read the last pages of the newest Gaslight Mystery by Victoria Thompson:  Murder On Amsterdam Avenue. 

My great-aunt and uncle, Sophie and Nicholas
I am quite confident I was not the only one crying and joyfully celebrating their union - hurling fantasy rice. For the legions of fans of Ms. Thompson's series, this is something we've all been waiting for for a long time.  As Ms. Thompson states in her Author's Note at the end of the book - as a reward for our loyalty and patience, she has written another Gaslight Mystery to be released 3 November of this year, entitled, Murder On St. Nicholas Avenue.  It's no surprise therefore, that I have already pre-ordered one for me, one for my mother and one for my Aunt Martha.

The day we all three received Murder On Amsterdam Avenue, we laid aside the books we were in the middle of reading and started digging in.  And I think it's safe to say none of us were disappointed.  

Aside from the glorious, long-awaited marriage of Sarah and Frank, this story was face-paced, engaging, interesting and had a clever plot.  The characters were all well-developed and Ms. Thompson proves, once again, not only what a great storyteller she is, but that she ranks among the elite of cozy mystery writers.

Since the purpose of my blog is show the love for the cozy series I read and their writers, I don't feel the need to write an in-depth book review of new titles.  

I have a new cozy title in waiting that I will write about once I've read it and May and June will see several new cozies for me.  Bring them on!

In the meantime, be sure to order your copy of Murder On Amsterdam Avenue and pre-order your copy of Murder On St. Nicholas Avenue.

Should you wish to learn more about me, please visit my website:  And of course, I'd love to hear from all of my fellow cozy addicts.

Until next time!

PS - I thought I'd include the photo of my great aunt and uncle because they were married probably around the same time Sarah and Frank did and I wanted a visual reference of how they might have looked.  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Debut Blog

The City:  Atlanta
Date:      May 2015

As this is the debut entry of my blog it may be rather long, although, I hope, not tedious.  Only you can judge.

My name is Gregory Nassif St. John and I’m a Cozy Mystery addict and I follow 27 cozy mystery series.  If you count The Phryne Fisher Mysteries, The Charles Lennox Mysteries and The Grantchester Mysteries, that makes 30 series I follow, although, I hardly categorize the latter three as “Cozies” even though they do make me feel very cozy. 

I pinpoint this addiction as beginning in late May of 2002.  My husband, Jeff and I walked into Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers on Greenwich Avenue in Manhattan one evening during a stroll and it proved to be a fatal mistake both in my reading habits and my book collecting. We were living in Manhattan at that time (I had been living there for nearly 20 years and had somehow never walked into that bookstore). Over the years, I have desperately tried to recall how stepping into that bookstore started me on the cozy addictive downward spiral. I have a vague memory of the lady behind the counter asking me what I liked to read.  Now, I have always been a mystery reader beginning with the Meg Duncan series and the Bobbseys, proceeding to make my way through Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Judy Bolton, Ken Holt, Trixie Belden and far too many more juvenile series to even mention both well known and obscure.  And I, of course, read all of Sherlock Holmes and worship Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers.  But by 2002, my reading material had been mainly limited to 19th century English literature – most especially Dickens, which is how I think this whole sickness got started.  Because when I answered her question by saying I loved Dickens she pounced and said, “Well, then you would love this new series that has only been out a few years.  There are four titles and they’re right there on that shelf.” She was pointing at the shelf near the door – where at that moment I had my hand on the doorknob ready to leave while Jeff was paying for a book he had found – (probably a Perry Mason).  For some unknown reason, I took my hand off the doorknob and pulled out the first book of the four titles and read the back description.  Now … I would have proceeded out the door; not really interested in getting involved in what I thought was probably some uninteresting, mindless read. (Yes, I realize that’s rather a snap judgement, however…)  And I was still quite gun shy from the bandwagon I had jumped on three years earlier that I had sworn I was never going to jump on.  And of course, when I did jump on it I became completely obsessed.  So I was in no humour to jump on another. (That bandwagon by the way was the Hogwarts Express.) Anyway, remembering my trip on the Hogwarts Express and where it had lead me, I put the book back on the shelf, politely refusing her suggestion and repositioning my hand on the doorknob when Jeff, in what would become a pattern between us, insisted I get the books, grabbed them off the shelf and paid for them.  I kept trying to prevent the sale, but it was no use. (In fact, he has become responsible over the years, either by buying me a “first in a new series” he’d discovered or point one out to me in the bookstore).  That insistent purchase of his on my behalf was a pivotally fatal and definitive moment in what would be the great change in my reading material.  The series was called, “The Gaslight Mysteries” by Victoria Thompson, and the main character was a mid-wife named Sarah Brandt.  The stories were set in turn-of-the-century New York.  I am making this confession and launching this blog now since I really do believe it was May when this happened 13 years ago and it has been every May since that I await the next installment.   In any case, the die was cast and I took my four books home.  I thought, “well, he bought them for me the least I can do is read them”.  And I did.  And I was hooked. Hopelessly hooked. I found myself in some kind of pseudo-opium-like cozy haze. Before I had even finished those first four titles, I was frantically trying to find out when the next title would be released.  Victoria was the first author I reached out to, begging her to get Sarah and Malloy together.  She very graciously answered me and gently reminded me that although there were already seven books,  in real time in the storyline only a minimal amount of time had passed and it would be inappropriate at the turn-of-the-century for them to “get together”.  Boy when that first kiss came – I can’t even remember which book now – I whooped with joy.  I’m pretty sure I’ll cry at their wedding.

And now comes the part where I am unsure exactly how I got to obsessively follow 27 Cozy Series or which one came next; I honestly can’t remember – that cozy haze completely confusing me. I believe I then proceeded to begin a series called “Aunt Dimity” by Nancy Atherton to which I not only became hooked, but so deeply emotionally involved in the progress of the characters that I reached out to the author to tell her how wonderful I thought her characters and stories were.  It was no surprise that anyone who wrote such dear stories and created such dear characters would write me back and confirm what a lovely, person she is.  I immediately sent her a picture of the orange bunny I got for Easter 1965 and she put him up on her website.  Now, let me assure you, that I am no groupie.  I don’t like stuff like that.  But I have to admit I have written several of the authors because I am so smitten with their characters, their stories and their writing in general. Cleo Coyle a.k.a Alice Kimberly a.k.a Alice Alfonsi author of The Coffee House Mysteries and The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries is another writer who has created such indelible, wonderful characters and who was very kind to answer my e-mail of fan devotion.   Anyway, from the turn-of-the century New York of Mrs. Brandt to the paranormal world of Aunt Dimity, to the Village Blend Coffee House of Clare, Matt and Madame, for 13 years – and with no end in sight - I have religiously followed and continue to follow the series listed below (some of these series are finite – with no further titles being written and released).  Please take a moment to visit these wonderful authors’ websites.  They are all great storytellers and I am happy to spread the good news of these series for true mystery loving readers


The series that started it all and truly, consistently one of the very best!


A sophisticated and beautifully written series and a joy for all mystery and Austen lovers.


One of the loveliest and dearest cozy series with so much heart. 


A series that will so engage you in the lives of the characters and make you care so deeply, you won’t believe it.  For all who haven’t explored this series you’re in luck because anthologies of the early titles are being published. 


Well, here’s one of those cases where I just don’t know how any one person can possibly find the time to write so many stories.  I have gotten myself involved in two of the three, but I have vowed not to succumb to the third. Sorry Laura.


I started to resist this series  … for about five seconds ... and then it was the point of no return. 


Ok.  If for no other reason – the titles alone are worth exploring this series.  But I warn you, you will get hooked so quickly you won’t now what hit you.  A series with great characters, great humour and great stories.


For any Anglophiles, both these series are ideal.  They both have a very different tone from other cozy series and it’s a wonderful world to visit. Here's another writer who has three series, but I refuse to be pulled into a third!


Another series that frustrates one’s romantic nature when the main character, Lindsey and her main squeeze are having conflict and all you want is for them to get married.  Sigh.  And yet, worth the frustration!


Probably one of the best new series.  Very interesting characters and great mysteries.


A Novel Idea is one of the first series I hooked my Aunt Lila on and she loved it because the main character’s name is Lila.  And her mother, Althea, is one of the greatest characters in Cozies.  And then … there had to be another series didn’t there?  And I live in Georgia, don’t I?  So how on earth could I resist starting – yet another series – with a title like Peaches and Scream?  Is there no end to the madness? Geez.


Now … the only complaint I am going to lodge is that it seems there are no new titles in this series and that’s too bad because it is a witty and bright series and I miss all those ladies! 


And here’s another lady who insists on writing multiple series that absolutely compel you to read.  I have addicted my mother and two aunts to Molly Murphy.  Were there ever greater characters than Sid and Gus? All three series stand alone in their style and tone and all worth reading.


Alice and her husband, Marc Cerasini, have created an amazing world with their books and their remarkable website.  The only thing that is killing me is waiting for The Ghost and The Bogus Bookseller to be published.    HOW MUCH LONGER?????!!!!!


Is there anybody who doesn’t want to live in the world created by Lorna Barrett and get to know those crazy sisters?  I doubt it.


As if I really needed a new series like as this – the Fantasy Island of every mystery loving reader on planet earth.  Hands down – hard to resist.  Don’t try.  Run don't walk.  Storyton or bust.


This is one of those unique and rare moments in cozy mystery writing.  Although, I have all the Pennyfoot Hotel Mysteries – I have not read them, however, the Manor House Mysteries are truly, truly wonderful.  The rare thing I am speaking of is that when the author decided not to continue the series, she did the most generous thing she could for her readers:  she wrote a wrap up on her website so that her loyal fans wouldn’t spend the rest of their lives wondering what the hell happened.  God bless you Doreen for that! 


This is a lovely and very wonderful series.  Unfortunately, the author passed away in 2010, but her books live on and they are so worth reading.


This is purely and simply not fair.  So not fair.  As an actor and a cozy addict – how does one resist a series like this?  It’s new and I’ve already preordered the next volume.  Not fair.  Bernard Shaw would have been proud.


One of those moments when the fatal words on the cover of a book: First In a New Series means trouble. I tried to walk away – I couldn’t.  This promises to be a great series.  Don’t’ shy away.



One of only two male writers I read, this series is at once sophisticated and charming.  While not a cozy in my opinion, it is a great mystery series to curl up with while having tea.  This author doesn’t seem to have his own website, but the books are all worth reading.


Again, not a cozy series, but just simply wonderful.  Wonderful enough to have the BBC create a television series.  And the television series is as wonderful as the books and the actors are all perfection.  The books are a must read and then a follow-up with the BBC series mandatory


I’ve saved something very special for last.  This is most definitely not a cozy series, but it is one of the best written mystery series ever - on par with Sayers, Allingham and Hyer.  It is sophisticated, compelling, witty and glamorous.  You will fall in love with Phryne and everyone in the series.  And although the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) production series “Miss Fisher” puts its own twist on things, it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the books.  The books and the ABC series stand alone brilliantly.  The actors are all absolute perfection, most especially the very, very beautiful Essie Davis who plays Phryne.  The series has one of the highest production values I’ve ever seen.  And Kerry Greenwood’s stories are an absolute must read for every mystery reading addict.  Kerry Greenwood is one of the author’s I reached out to and she responded with the same grace and wit that Phryne would have.  I so hope she will give us another Phryne mystery soon.

There you have it.  A full-blown addiction I know and not very pretty I admit. Hell, I have to keep a never-ending updated Excel spreadsheet just to keep up with new titles being released.  And honestly, considering that over 90% of these titles are printed by Berkeley Crime, you’d think they’d have some kind of “rewards program” for addicts like me, but alas, no -  even though they rake in quite a few hundred dollars a year from me as I maintain my habit.

Like most addicts, I like to share. I’ve gotten my Mother hooked on at least two series, my mother’s sister, my Aunt Martha on at least three series and my Aunt Lila – well, let’s just say she’s in a complete and permanent cozy haze and is deliriously delighted to remain there. In little over 14 months she read more than 100 titles.  I just keep them coming and she just continues consuming.

Since 2003, when I hooked my mother and my Aunt Martha on The Gaslight Mysteries over the Christmas holidays, I preorder the next title for each of us so that every May we are positively giddy with glee when we receive the newest installment.  And when I went to choose the series to begin addicting my Aunt Lila, I chose the Gaslight Mysteries – my beloved Mrs. Brandt – to begin what I knew would be the point of no return.  I wasn’t disappointed.  My Aunt Lila adored Mrs. Brandt and Frank and Mrs. Ellsworth – immediately. And all of us continue in a tortured state of bated breath for the long-awaited marriage of Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy.  Dear God please let this wedding take place this month with the release of “Murder On Amsterdam Avenue”!

With the confession of my addiction and my criminality in getting others hooked, it brings me to an important question:  What makes cozy mysteries so addictive?  And how can so many series exist; especially series that are similar in nature?  How does the market bear this?  I have no answer to the latter two questions, but I’ll take a stab at the first based on my own likes, dislikes and needs as a reader.  To invest the kind of time, money and emotion that any genre reading demands means one must be a true reader; someone who quite simply loves books and everything about them; the touch, the feel, the smell, the story, the characters, the cover art … everything.  I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have books and either was being read to as a small child or reading myself.  I carry a book with me wherever I go even if I know I probably will have no opportunity of reading it.  Because, one never knows, does one? What if something dramatic happens and I find myself in a situation where I am just sitting and waiting.  If I don’t have a book, what will I do?  It’s my security blanket.  In any case, what does make cozy mysteries so addictive?  Well, I think mysteries, especially series mysteries, in general, are addictive because the characters are indelible.  Case and point: Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot continue not only to survive, but thrive.  And is there really a world without Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys? Certainly, not in my reality.  But I think the term, “cozy” is the real key to the addiction.  These cozy mystery writers create places and people that are identifiable to us.  They paint pictures of those things in life that makes us feel secure and are most important:  hearth and home and love.  They tap into our fantasy lives.  Above all, they make us care about their characters and their lives – insisting on our emotional devotion.  Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy don’t exist, but loyal readers so desperately and sincerely want them to be married so that Catherine and Brian can have a mother and father and Maeve a complete family.  Hell … so Sarah and Frank can finally have sex for heavens’ sake!  And we know there are no journals that, when opened, a fine copperplate script appears as it does to Lori as a way for Aunt Dimity to communicate with her.  Yet, we buy into it; we allow it. That’s what we do when we go to the theatre or to the movies.  We suspend our reality so we can be transported somewhere else and hence, be entertained.  Books are personal.  Reading tastes – individual.  And cozy mysteries compel us to snuggle up and visit with our favorite characters as they play out their newest adventure.  We love them.  We cheer them on.  We smile and laugh with them and, yes, we even cry with them and for them.  This is the magic that cozy mystery writers make.  I am constantly amazed by what great storytellers these writers are.  In our present world, a world so confused, so at odds, so troubled – the stories and characters that the cozy community of authors offers us is a gift; a balm to soothe our troubles and an escape for us from the sad realities of now.

I heartily love all of my series; or couldn’t you tell?  I certainly have my sentimental favorites – although I won’t say which ones.  I don’t know how long the cozy trend will last – or how long some of the series I read will last.  The one thing I do know is that I am not interested in a cure for my addiction.  The amount of pleasure my cozies have brought me is not definable, but what these cozy mysteries have given to people like my mother, who’s only true enjoyment at this time in her life is to read or to people like my aunts who live alone and now have a world of wonderful stories and characters to keep them company, is absolutely immeasurable.  The cozy writers, their stories and their characters have opened a world up to people like my mother and my aunts that give them hours of happy diversion and that is a very special and very great gift. 

So I want to thank all the cozy mystery authors who have provided me with compelling stories and loveable characters that I look forward to visiting with every time a new title is released.  It’s like having mini-reunions throughout the year.  The hours of happy reading that they’ve have provided me with is something I will forever grateful for.  Keep them coming please!

I hope readers of this blog will check out all the websites of the writers I’ve listed.  There is so much more about these wonderful writers, their stories and their characters on their sites that I haven’t covered here.

Yes, I am a Cozy Mystery addict and I’m darned proud of it! If you're one, you should be too.

I’d love to hear from other cozy mystery addicts.  If you wish to know more about me please log on to my website:

PS – I have just completed reading Nancy Atherton’s recent Aunt Dimity:  Aunt Dimity and The Summer King.  As usual, Nancy gives us a charming and compelling read. Her gift in letting us witness the growth of her characters – watching the boys grow up and the miracle of a new baby girl – is what makes her one of the dearest writers of cozies with such a big heart.