John's Staff Picks

John McDougall, Event Coordinator at Murder By The Book since 2010

I love watching the parts of a mystery fall into place, but I think what really pulls me in is the characters. Cozies are so fun because you get to know these small towns and wish you could visit. Reading about Lady Emily in Tasha Alexander's books is like getting to catch up with an old friend. I want characters that break your heart like Marc Rochat in The Watchers, or make you laugh like Victoria Laurie and Mary Kay Andrews's characters always do. I love picking up a book like City of Dark Magic and thinking, ‘These things shouldn't really fit together, but they totally do.’ You can't help but want to hang on for the ride.

For additional cozy mystery recommendations, check out John's Cozy Corner.


John's 2018 Top 10:

1. Anger Is A Gift by Mark Oshiro
2. White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig
3. My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyikan Braitwaite
4. A Ladder To The Sky by John Boyne
5. The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews
6. Death By Dumpling by Vivien Chien
7. Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano
8. The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles
9. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
10. The Italian Party by Christina Lynch

Find of the year - The Bakeshop Mysteries by Ellie Alexander

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Anger Is a Gift: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250167026
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Tor Teen - May 22nd, 2018

Moss sees his school crumbling around him. He and his friends start to question why moneyis being spent on an increased police presence and metal detectors when they are forced to read xeroxed textbooks because there aren't enough to go around. My first contender for book of the year! The way Oshiro can switch between the horrors of police brutality to the sheer joy and excitement of a first crush is incredible. - John

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White Rabbit Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250085658
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Feiwel & Friends - April 24th, 2018

 Rufus was already having a bad night when his sister called and said, "I don't know to do. I'm so scared. I think I - HELP ME!" When Rufus finds her she's lying next to her boyfriend, knife in hand, and covered in his blood. Now Rufus needs to team up with his ex to clear April's name. Roehrig creates a real sense of danger for his characters as they try to piece together this well-plotted mystery. It's one of the best thrillers I've read in a while. - John

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My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385544238
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday - November 20th, 2018

It starts with a phone call. Korede's sister just killed her boyfriend. She claims it was in self-defense, but she starts to wonder if that's the case because this isn't the first boyfriend Ayoola has killed. When Ayoola sets her eyes on a doctor at Korede's hospital, she starts to question how responsible she is for her sister. I'm obsessed with this one, it's sinister, compelling, chilling, and a LOT of fun! If you want a witty, dark satire, this is the book for you. Also HIGHLY recommended by McKenna! - John

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A Ladder to the Sky: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984823014
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Hogarth - November 13th, 2018

This one's definitely going on my top 10 list for 2018. From the minute I picked it up I didn't want to do anything but read. Maurice Swift has always wanted to be a writer, and he'll stop at nothing to achieve that goal. The problem is he has trouble finding ideas for his novels. His solutions to that problem will  A Ladder To The Sky is a story of ambition, literature, and the idea of who owns a story. If Tom Ripley and Maurice Swift met up, Tom Ripley would likely be watching his back (and his manuscripts!) - John

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The High Tide Club: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250126061
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Press - May 8th, 2018

Brooke has been hired to help Josephine, an eccentric millionaire, to protect the island she calls home, and to track down her long lost friends for a reunion. While Brooke looks into the past she discovers an old disappearance that was never solved. The High Tide Club is a beautiful story of old secrets, making amends, and quiet strength. Andrews masterfully blends her earlier mysteries with her more recent commercial fiction. It's the best of both worlds. - John

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Death by Dumpling: A Noodle Shop Mystery Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250129154
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Paperbacks - March 27th, 2018

Probably my favorite "first in series" cozy I've read in a while! As with most cozies, Lana Lee is recovering from a breakup, and finds herself back at her family's Chinese restaurant. When the owner of their shopping center is found dead, suspicion falls of Lana since she delivered the meal that killed him. Instead of a small town, Chien creates a great sense of community in the Plaza of shops, where gossip spreads quickly and everyone has their secrets. - John

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Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (An Auntie Poldi Adventure #1) Cover Image
By Mario Giordano, John Brownjohn (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781328863577
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - March 6th, 2018

Auntie Poldie and the Sicilian Lions is the first in a promising new series. Auntie Poldi has come to Sicily to drink herself to death with a sea view. Her hobbies include taking photos of attractive policemen, and inserting herself into police investigations. I love her! - John

The Air You Breathe: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735210998
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - August 21st, 2018

"Echoes of Elena Ferrante resound in this sumptuous saga."--O, The Oprah Magazine

"Enveloping...Peebles understands the shifting currents of female friendship, and she writes so vividly about samba that you close the book certain its heroine's voices must exist beyond the page." -People

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The Last Time I Lied: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781524743079
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Dutton - July 3rd, 2018

Final Girls was a compulsive read, I inhaled it in one sitting. The Last Time I Lied is just as compulsive, but it's more of a slow burn. Sager builds delicious tension as Emma starts getting too close to the truth of what happened 15 years ago. The slower pace also makes for one hell of a pay-off. Just writing this review makes me want to back and read it again for the first time! - John

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The Italian Party: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250147837
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Press - March 20th, 2018

A newlywed couple moves to Sienna, but can their marriage survive the secrets they're both keeping? Lynch's intimate style makes this a real winner. Perfect for fans of Chris Pavone's The Expats. Christina Lynch is also half of the pair behind the Magnus Flyte books - John 

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Meet Your Baker: A Bakeshop Mystery Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250054234
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Paperbacks - December 30th, 2014

Jules has returned to her hometown of Ashland, Oregon to help her mom run Torte, the town's beloved bakeshop. Before she can get back in the groove of life on land (her previous job was as a pastry chef on a cruise ship) one of Torte's customers is found murdered in the shop. What I loved most about this is how much of an amateur Jules is. She doesn't already have stellar investigation skills. Perfect for Joanne Fluke or Diane Mott Davidson fans! - John