The City: Atlanta
The Date: 20 July 2015
In "Grace Cries Uncle", the sixth title in The Manor House Mysteries by Julie Hyzy, Ms. Hyzy gifts us with a very compelling mystery that eases the reader into dis-ease. This is most poignantly the case when her sister, Liza enters the picture and I knew right away that I just plain wished she hadn't entered the picture at all. In the great land of cozies, Ms. Hyzy finally answers a mystery that has served as a tantalizing through-line in the series. She also provided a heart-thumping twist at the end that made me cry, "uncle!", meaning for me - "I give in - this has been way too much of a cozy-coaster ride for me - I can't breathe!" Of course, this is a good thing. It is the sign not only of a good writer, but, more wonderfully, a great storyteller. And Ms. Hyzy is most certainly that: a great storyteller. The proof is in the pudding here because in the cozy cabinet of mysteries Ms. Hyzy provides us with two series. I, of course, follow both and have hooked my Aunt Lila on both. In addition to the Manor House Mysteries, Ms. Hyzy authors The White House Chef Mysteries. While I adore both of them, I am only going to focus on The Manor House Mysteries in this blog entry because I will write about the upcoming title in the The White House Chef Mysteries, "Foreign Eclairs", when it is released on 5 January 2016.
When an author pens more than one series, it's always interesting to compare the series with regard to characters, tone, and ambience. And while both main characters in each of the series are strong, intelligent, independent individuals, they are very different just the series themselves are very different.
I have to be honest and admit that I have a great, great affection for Olivia Paras, the main character in The White House Chef Mysteries and that's all I'll say for now. However, Grace Wheaton, the main character in The Manor House Mysteries, is not someone I find myself loving unconditionally. There's no ambivalence here - I truly do love Grace as well as the whole cast of characters - otherwise I wouldn't be a loyal follower of the series. This is one of those series where the author includes positive gay characters in her supporting cast in the series. In this case it's Grace's roommates, Scott and Bruce. There is an honestly deep love and respect in the household portrayed here, with unconditional friendship, affection and loyalty. That alone, can win my loyalty to a series. Yet, Grace can oftentimes frustrate me and part of my frustration is my frustration at being frustrated because I always keep wondering why I am frustrated. I am happy to report that after reading this title and being put through the emotional ringer I finally pinpointed the source of my frustration: Grace needs a beau; it's time for her to get serious about someone. I am a firm believer in and advocate for the "main-character-needs-a-main- squeeze" angle. I think this is an essential component in the success of keeping one's audience in cozies. Let's be honest, what makes a cozy a cozy, is employing that Dickensian device where the bad guys get their comeuppance in the end and the people who are in love (and who we want to be) - really do get together. The "main-character-needs-a-main-squeeze" issue came up in the most recent title of another series I read and when I addressed that concern in this blog and in an e-mail I sent to the author, they assured me that this issue would be addressed in the next title. I suspect that since the sub-mystery plot that has been tantalizing us all throughout The Manor House Mysteries has been solved, the groundwork has been laid for Grace's love life. I just hope that the sister angle will be resolved in the next installment in such a way that it becomes a dead issue because I really wasn't happy about the sister turning up or the way she turned out and I never want to hear of her again. Of course, only time will provide those answers when the next Manor House Mystery appears. In the meantime, check out Julie Hyzy's website where you'll get all the information on her two wonderful series:
As always, I'd love to hear from all my fellow cozy addicts. Should you wish to learn more about me, please visit my website:
Until the next cozy!