Your Job Will Kill You

This is the second and, one might hope, final installment in my guide to “cozy mystery” novels. The first installment sampled the “culinary mystery” subgenre. This installment covers mysteries themed around various jobs/professions/hobbies.

As I confessed in installment one, I am not an expert in the cozy mystery genre. I am, however, fascinated by both its broad range and, paradoxically, its exacting specificity. All settings appear to be available to cozy mystery authors, and said authors take full advantage by selecting some of the oddest circumstances for their stories.

Like last time, there is only one rule for selecting a book for this list: I had to find it on the Dillsburg Area Public Library shelves. I did not select for quality nor did I select according to series order, cover art, previous knowledge of the author, or any other factor. It is as close to random chance as is possible.

I will add this additional detail. While building the culinary mystery list, I was stunned by the sheer number of such titles. I had to do additional research and needed an outside source. Luckily, there is one: I used it for this list as well.

With that said, here is brief taste of the job-related mystery.

1.) Reading Up a Storm by Eva Gates. Of course, I am going to start with a crime-fighting librarian. But this crime-fighting library happens to work in a lighthouse. Hence the title of the series: Lighthouse Library Mysteries. There is also a cat involved – pets being yet another subgenre for the cozy mystery. I conducted an extensive search (by which I mean five minutes of Google time) to find an actual library built inside an actual lighthouse. I could not find one. Perhaps there is no such thing. No matter! That simply shows that Eva Gates is very imaginative indeed. There are eight books in this series. Alas, DAPL has but one title.

2.) The Cat, the Quilt, and the Corpse by Leann Sweeney. Even my brief perusal of cozy mysteries makes it quite clear: cats figure prominently. Quilts are also near the top of the list. Why not combine them for a truly deadly combo? Thus, we have Jillian Hart, the main character of the Cats in Trouble Mystery Series who just so happens to own a business making quilts for cats. Of course, she does. The series appears to have eight titles, DAPL owns at least two.

3.) Thread End by Amanda Lee. Our crime fighter here is one Marcy Singer, intrepid murder investigator and embroidery shop owner. In the world of cozy mysteries, it appears that needlework is but a small step from crime. If you are sewing and/or knitting, murder will follow.

4.) Purl Up and Die by Maggie Sefton. See? Another fiber arts crime series! The Knitting Mystery series appears to be on the long side, at least 16 volumes of which DAPL has at least three. It is unclear to me whether or not the hero actually owns a knitting shop, runs a knitting class, or is otherwise an avid knitting hobbyist. Unclear as to the number of cats involved.

5.) Knockdown by Sarah Graves. Graves, I am sorry to report, is a pen name – honestly, is there a better name for a writer of murder mysteries? The series in question is called Home Repair is Homicide. At first, I thought the crime solving heroine might be a carpenter or painter or perhaps just an all-around contractor. No, this crime series orbits around a single home repair job: a fixer-upper in small town Maine. In the cozy mystery world, here is what happens. You decide to paint your porch: murder! Patch up a chimney? More murder! If you completely renovate several rooms, one supposes a serial killer is the logical conclusion. There are at least 16 titles in the series which makes this specific small town more dangerous than Kabul, Afghanistan. DAPL owns at least 4 titles in the series.

6.) Final Sail by Elaine Viets. I saved this for last because the series title says it all; it is a Dead-End Job Mystery. The premise is that the hero, one Helen Hawthorne, must work undercover in a “dead end job” to solve the crime – a different job for each title in the series. DAPL has but one of the possible 15 titles. Even so, from this one book, it seems clear that Viets has a different idea of “dead end” than I do. Without getting too much into detail, it involves phrases like “luxury yacht”, and “cruising to the Bahamas” – so obviously these are not the dead end jobs that you and I have endured over the years.

As with my previous foray into culinary mysteries, this sampling is microscopic compared to the overall size of the genre. I have spent my entire life connected to the book world in one way or another, and the cozy mystery genre, despite its enormity, quietly caught me by surprise.

In closing I have a small request for readers of this blog. I would like to find more examples of this specific subgenre: A person who works at job X, but who also solves crime. Simply as a matter of curiosity, I want to find the quirkiest versions of this formula. If you have any suggestions, e-mail me: [email protected].

Craig Magee