Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Coziest Mystery

I have been re-reading Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, which I know is lame, but I also read Lean Mean Thirteen, which was really funny. More laugh-out-loud than the last couple, I think. But the new book I've just finished is The Tale of Hilltop Farm by Susan Wittig Albert, the first in her Beatrix Potter mysteries. She's the author of the China Bayles herb shop mysteries (Thyme of Death, et al), which I always liked but haven't read recently. Not sure why. At any rate, Hilltop Farm takes place in 1905, when Beatrix Potter visits the town of Near Sawrey, where she has purchased a farm. Wittig Albert clearly did a lot of research on Potter's life, the time period, and Sawrey, cramming in many, many facts and trivia, which spill over into a Historical Note at the end of the book. This series appears to have everything the coziest mystery needs: talking animals (to each other, not to people), villagers with almost unreadable dialects, small-town intrigue, Victorian details like the woman who (gasp) shows her ankles. I found it utterly charming. If you like your mysteries with exciting twists and turns or pulse-pounding suspense or a focus on the mystery at hand rather than the village gossip, well, this is SO not the series for you. But if you find charming tales of village life with historical background and talking animals to be just the thing for a summer read, pick this one up. It was cuter than cute and so fun I didn't care how thin the mystery was.

I have quite a stack of YA, mystery, and romance novels for the summer, so hopefully I'll be posting more frequently now the Evanovich re-reading is over. Not to mention Harry Potter and Thursday Next reviews coming up in the next week or so!

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