Saturday, June 20, 2015

OMG! Cozy Surprise(s)!

The City:      Atlanta

The Date:      20 June 2015

Hmmm.  My goodness, where to begin?  You know, once in a while a Cozy Mystery will have one of those truly "OMG!" moments.  And that "OMG!" even breaks down into different categories:  "OMG!", "why didn't I figure that out?", and "OMG!", "I can't believe that just happened!".  Rarely does a cozy have both those moments, however, Lorna Barrett's recent title in the Booktown Mystery cozy series,"A Fatal Chapter" has them in spades!

Because I am a Cozy Addict and want to recruit more addicts, I will not reveal either of those two "OMG!" moments.  It's important that I don't because for those wanting to begin the series I think the two "OMG's!" in this title need to be experienced without any spoilers from me.

I am a great fan of this series, as is my 87 year old Aunt Lila.  The town of Stoneham, New Hampshire is where the two main characters, sisters Tricia and Angelica Miles, live and it is one of those wonderful cozy fantasy towns we all want to live in or visit in spite of the inordinate number of murders/crimes that occur.  Of course, I think the grounding tool cozy writers use to deflect the unreality of these fantasy towns is the inordinate number of murders and crimes that occur.  Yet somehow, I don't think that ever really stops any cozy addicted reader fantasizing about owning one of those never-failing businesses with their amazingly clever names.  

Haven't Got A Clue
"A Fatal Chapter" is the ninth title in this series and the ending was a true "OMG!" moment that made me burst into tears.  I won't say whether they were happy or sad tears.  However, I do want to say something about Tricia and Angelica.  Ms. Barrett's weaving of their characters, their personalities, and their relationship throughout the series has been intricate, interesting and quite wonderfully realistic within the fantasy structure of cozy mysteries.  Their development has surprised me on more than one occasion and as much as I like them both I confess that I have an ambivalence about them both; not something I'm used to in cozy mystery reading. My ambivalence towards Tricia and Angelica is rare for me.  Usually, that would be impetus to cease following the series, however, oddly enough my ambivalence isn't a turn off and  I see this as a testament to Ms. Barrett's gift in grounding her characters in a kind of reality.  Strangely enough, it's that reality that engenders my ambivalence, but at the same time, keeps me interested and caring about their lives and where they're going. That's the sign of a truly good writer.  

In "A Fatal Chapter"Angelica's character, has, for me, come full circle. And I think the ending of "A Fatal Chapter" sets the stage for Tricia to finally get on with her journey; and about time too.  That is a not-so-subtle hint, Ms. Barrett, to get Tricia a serious love interest and a clear picture of what she wants to do with her life. She's middle-aged and I don't want to see her end up an old-maid.  And I certainly hope I don't see she and  Angelica turn into spinster sisters!  But I know you won't let that happen.

That said, this a series most definitely worth reading. It's a series that will keep you on your toes I promise!  Please check out Ms. Barrett's website and Facebook page.  Did I really need to discover she writes two other series?

And, as always, I'd love to hear from fellow cozy addicts.  If you wish to know more about me, please visit my website:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


The City:   Atlanta

The Date:   17 June 2015

When a person is a Cozy Mystery Addict, it's probably a safe bet that they are also a Bibliophile.  So how on earth is a Cozy Mystery Addict supposed to pass up a series entitled A Bibliophile Mystery?  This was my dilemma in 2009 when I picked up the first title in this series.  I feel I have to make a slight confession.  When I read the synopsis, I wasn't too enthused about beginning a series set in California.  Being the worst kind of Eastern Seaboarder - especially after nearly 30 years in New York City - I thought it would be just a little too hippy-dippy for me.  Thankfully, the need to satisfy my addiction won out over my groundless prejudice and it's a good thing it did. Now, mind you, my initial reaction wasn't completely unfounded because there is plenty of hippy-dippy in this series:  the commune of Dharma, Brooklyn's sage burning, white witch mother, Becky; siblings named after places where they were either conceived or born -  not to mention Guru Bob for pete's sake.  But it's all written with a lot of heart and a lot of grounding and that makes it lovable, believable and deeply endearing.  The main character, Brooklyn, is one of those wonderfully strong, kind cozy heroines that you come to love deeply and root for constantly; especially when it comes to her love interest, Derek Stone.  

From the very beginning I loved this series and perhaps one of the reasons was the inclusion of characters like Vinnie and Suzie and Jeremy and Sergio who are positive representations of loving, gay couples.  This inclusion appears in several cozy series I read and I am grateful to the writers who do it.  It is especially important to me as a loyal reader of these series, considering that I am a gay man, married to the person I have committed my life to for over 15 years - who I have created hearth and home with and with whom I live in openness and dignity and pride. I believe it is very important for writers - especially writers in the genre of cozy mysteries - who appeal to a very large audience with a diverse range of demographics  - to help raise consciousness and break down peoples' preconceived notions. This kind of gentle activism is noble and honorable and socially responsible. Most importantly, in creating characters like Vinnie and Suzie and Jeremy and Sergio, it reinforces the simple truth that we all need to love people simply for who they are.  So thank you, Ms. Carlisle for your sense of social responsibility, openness, love and generosity of spirit.

I must admit, most everything about this series makes me feel quite warm and happy and, of course, cozy,  in spite of the fact that I am one of those people who are not great fans of terms like "organic" or the overly zealous "save the trees" attitude. (That's what 30 years in New York City can do to one). And of course, that state of mind is completely antithetical to Dharma and Guru Bob.  My heavens, if Becky were real and met me she would probably tie me to a bed of sage and start in on a month's worth of wicky-wacky to set me on the right path!

The recent title in this series, Ripped From The Pages,  was a compelling read with a great story, although I confess that I did miss the San Francisco gang a lot and even the villainous Minka (well just a little).  The story moved and kept me wondering; always a good sign in a mystery.  And although I won't give away the delicious last line - I say to you, Ms. Carlisle, that I hope the next title sees that long-awaited for moment the focus of the next title!

As we all know by now, I'm a hopeless bibliophile.  I
A partial view of our library 
even married a librarian for heavens' sake.  Between us we probably have between 7000 and 8000 books, so I guess it really is no surprise I'm addicted to a series with the word "bibliophile" in it.  And goodness knows, I would love to learn how to book bind, but alas, as craftsy as I am, I simply am not precise and careful enough to ever learn such an art. I can, however, make some kick-ass bookmarks and do so all the time. 

Although I do not follow Ms. Carlisle's other series, The Fixer-Upper Mysteries, I encourage my fellow Cozy Addicts to check out The Bibliophile Mysteries;  you won't regret it.  And you absolutely must visit Kate Carlisle's website.  It is - hands down - one of the very best cozy author websites around. Also, don't forget to visit her Facebook page!

And, as always, I'd love to hear from my fellow addicts.  Should you wish to know more about me, please visit my website:

Until next time, when I write about cozy author, Lorna Barrett, her series The Booktown Mysteries, and her current title that I am reading, A Fatal Chapter, happy cozy reading!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Please Pass the Murder ... I Mean The Syrup

The City:    Atlanta

The Date:    13 June 2015

Just remember, I am an unrepentant Cozy Mystery addict and unabashedly I admit that yes, I started another series.  In my defense, I saw this title on the "new mysteries" shelf and purposely ignored it, but guess who came along?  Jeff.  Who saw it and asked why I was not interested, to which I responded firmly that I was most certainly not interested in beginning another series. It was lie of course, but I walked away nevertheless.  The next time I was in the bookstore, I just picked up the book.  Big mistake.  But I was resolved not to get involved, so, again, I walked away.  Unfortunately, I began thinking about it as I lay in bed.  The very worst of signs. It was turning into "The Lost Weekend". Therefore, it will come as no surprise that the next time I was in the bookstore, I caved, I bought, I read, I adored.  

There are a number of factors that appeal to me about this series.  The first, is the whole Chicken and Waffles enigma that began for me with the classic film noir motion picture, "Mildred Pierce" starring my beloved Joan Crawford.  In the story, Mildred works her way up from a waitress to a hugely successful restauranteur. Her restaurant chain, Mildred's, becomes famous for Chicken and Waffles.

If only this was a real place I could go to. 

For years, I tried to find out exactly what this Chicken and Waffles dish really was.  I mean, fried chicken, baked chicken ... which chicken parts...?  Gravy and syrup ... gravy or syrup ... both? 

Miraculously, I discovered that the bowling alley restaurant down the street from us served Chicken and Waffles. Their version serves large, fried chicken fingers with gravy and waffles with syrup. Though my taste buds and stomach were finally satisfied in such a yummy way, Halia's recipe in the book calls for fried chicken wings, but does not mention gravy.  However, it seems waffles with syrup remain the constant.  Unfortunately, the mystery remains about this dish. It seems I will never get the definitive answer, although I seem to be getting closer.  All I really want to know is how it was served at Mildred's! Does anyone have the answer?

Perhaps the greatest appeal for me about this new series - A Mahalia Watkins Soul Food Mystery by A.L. Herbert - is something very personal.  Over the last 35 years, I have been profoundly blessed to have forged deep bonds with four remarkable women of color.  Beginning with my friend, Katherine whom I met in the Theatre Department at school and one of my first friends there, to my friend Rhonda, one of my greatest champions, to my glamorous friend Lisa who was my "work-wife" for eight years in the last place I worked in New York City, to my friend, Karen, who was my "train-wife" on New Jersey Transit - these beautiful, strong, kind, generous, loving women have been among my staunchest friends and guardian angels. The main character, Halia, possesses so many of the qualities that these amazing women have that it's no surprise I had an immediate  affection for the series just because of Halia.  Wavonne ... well, when you live and work in New York City for nearly 30 years, you encounter a lot of ladies like Wavonne.  There's a roughness about her character that might put some people off, but for me, she is an echo of something familiar and oddly comforting.  

Halia and Wavonne in front
of Sweet Tea Restaurant
In addition to these beloved women, for two and a half years I worked in a word-processing pool at Nynex Corporation where there were nine of us:  seven black women, one hispanic woman and me, the gay guy.  It was a culture unto itself and all the people who worked in that company treaded very carefully when they walked through the door of our space.  None of those women played and everyone knew it. My time there was by and large a wonderful experience even though it ended unhappily for me ... but that's another story.

This series, unfortunately for me, promises to be a favorite.  A.L. Herbert's writing is tight, the story well woven, and the characters perfectly constructed - reminiscent of so many people I know, love and have encountered in my life both black and white.  There is humor and humanity - truth and heart in this new series and great recipes to boot!  I love the fact the recipes are interspersed throughout the book as opposed to being relegated to the back of the book.  

I am not sure if A.L. Herbert is a man or woman; I'm dying to know.    However, you can follow A.L. Herbert and the Mahalia Watkins Soul Food Mystery Series on:


I'm looking forward to more titles in this series and by the looks of the Amazon inventory, it's selling like hotcakes!  

As always, I'd love to hear from my fellow Cozy Addicts.  If you want to know more about me, please visit my website:

Until next time!