Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Alert! There's a Man in the Cozy Writing Room!

The City:  Atlanta

The Date:  28 July 2015

Continually having to admit one's weakness is both tiresome and not a little embarrassing.  I mean, do I really need another series? The answer will be always, "maybe not need, but want!", but then again, "not really."  It's a dilemma.  But let me offer this excuse: this is a a new cozy series written by a man. I know there are cozies written by men and I will admit that I'm not familiar enough with those series to use as a comparison, but somehow I don't think there is a cozy, written by a man who's main character is a woman.  I could be wrong, of course, however, that's the excuse I'm using for starting the new Mary Handley Mystery Series written by Lawrence H. Levy who's debut title is Second Street Station.

It's 1888 Brooklyn, New York.  The Brooklyn Bridge is only five years old, electricity has come to New York City only six years before, AT&T is three years old and there is no underground transit system.  Like the cozy trailblazers Victoria Thompson of the Gaslight Mysteries and Rhys Bowen of the Molly Murphy Series (both series I read and love) a vivid portrait is painted for us of life in New York City at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.  Mr. Levy gives us a wonderfully strong and progressive character in Mary Handley - completely believable - infinitely likable - most definitely generating curiosity about where she's going in the future.  He sets his story up using historical figures like Thomas Edison, J.P. Morgan and Nikola Tesla to create a compelling and uniquely interesting mystery.  I loved Mr. Levy's characterizations of the historical figures that lent a greater reality to who they probably really were as human beings as opposed to our romantic historical vision of who they were.  And as someone who lived in New York City for nearly 30 years, it's always interesting to be transported to the New York City of the late 19th century - especially considering that - in spite of the ever quick paced death of New York City - there is still a lot that remains from Mary's time.

While I almost never offer criticism, I hope Mr. Levy will take my next comments kindly because they are meant as a gesture of goodwill  because I want to see the series succeed.  And considering he has super-stiff competition in the cozy culture from very well-estabished writers with very loyal fan bases, I don't want there to be any room for unnecessary criticism going forward.  Two things didn't ring true for me.  First was use of language in some instances that - regardless of class - was distinctly not 19th century.  Mr. Levy's contemporaries are very careful about this and tailor their verbiage accordingly.  The second thing is that it is essential Mr. Levy establish whether Mary's family is Irish Catholic or Irish Protestant.  From this title, I have to assume they are Protestants considering that the times in this book where Mary joins her family for their weekly Friday supper, meat was served.  No Irish Catholic - indeed no Catholic - ate meat on Friday any time of the year in 1888.  So I urge Mr. Levy to clarify this before the second novel is printed because readers will notice!

In spite of these two points, I most certainly will continue with the series.  I have already pre-ordered my copy of Brooklyn On Fire that will be released on 19 January 2016.

I sincerely recommend The Mary Handley Series to lovers of Sarah Brandt and Molly Murphy.  Mr. Levy has done a wonderful job creating the voice of a strong female character in the world of cozy mystery heroines.  Please visit his website:

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

Until next month, when Mystery In the Paperback Parlor - the second title in the Book Retreat Mystery Series by Ellery Adams - is released - Happy Cozying!

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