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 2021 Top 10:

  1. The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman
  2. Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
  3. Before We Disappear by Shaun David Hutchison
  4. Tomb of the Queen by Joss Walker
  5. The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
  6. Rhode Island Red by Charlotte Carter (This series was my favorite discovery of the year)
  7. A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins
  8. Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
  9. Her Dark Lies by JT Ellison
  10. Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia

Favorite Cozies:
Murder at the Beacon Bakeshop by Darci Hannah
Poppy Harmon and the Pillow Talk Killer by Lee Hollis
Death in Castle Dark by Veronica Bond

Check out John's Recommendations Playlist on the MBTB YouTube channel.

The Hacienda Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593436691
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - May 3rd, 2022

Beatriz thinks her marriage to Rololfo will change her life, and she sees The Hacienda as her ticket to freedom. 

Instead, she finds servants with old resentments and secrets, and a house with an agenda of its own.  After a few terrifying nights, she reaches out to a local priest to help rid the house of the evil she feels, and find out what happened to Rodolfo's first wife.

Set just after the Mexican War of Independence, The Hacienda is Rebecca is Manderley was ANGRY. 

The Hacienda is a tense, spooky read perfect for fans of Simone St. James's earlier historical ghost stories. I could not put it down! - John 

The Murder of Mr. Wickham Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593313817
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - May 3rd, 2022

Emma is hosting a summer house party, and all of Jane Austen's characters are invited. Well, except Mr. Wickham. That doesn't stop him from the crashing the party and causing all kinds of trouble. Everyone is a suspect when he's found murdered, but the youngest members of the party (Juliet Tilney and Jonathan Darcy) decide they're going to work together to solve the crime.

This was an absolute delight. It was like getting to play of game of Clue with all of Austen's characters, and it reads like an Austen novel. I really can't recommend this one enough! - John 

Go Hex Yourself Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593337561
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - April 19th, 2022

Reggie Johnson thinks she's interviewing for a job with her favorite card game Spellcraft. She's actually interviewing to be the familiar for a thousand year old witch. She doesn't believe in magic, but that all changes quickly when her new boss is cursed. It' s up to Reggie to help her boss's arrogant nephew break the curse.

Go Hex Yourself is clever and laugh out loud funny. Clare does a great job welcome the reader into Reggie's world and making sure you'll want to visit it again soon. - John 

Friend of the Devil Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593331385
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - May 10th, 2022

Sam has been sent to Danforth Putnam, a boarding school, to track down a missing book. Danforth Putnam is home to the children of the wealthy, but also houses orphans. It has a long and sorted history, one that Sam is discovering as he bulldozes his way through campus.

Friend of the Devil is the perfect sweet spot between Jim Butcher and Richard Kadrey, and Lloyd hits the perfect blend of classic noir and a supernatural thriller.  - John 

When She Dreams Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593337783
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - May 3rd, 2022

Someone is trying to blackmail Maggie's boss, the reclusive advice columnist Aunt Cornelia. With the help of new PI Sam Sage, they head to Burning Cove, the playground for Hollywood's rich and famous. Once their, Maggie and Sam find themselves up against a group of con artists selling the promise of lucid dreams and psychic powers/

As always, Amanda Quick perfectly blends romance and mystery. She continues to expand the world of Burning Cove and makes me want to come back over and over again. For new readers, you can easily jump into the series here, but I guarantee you'll want to pick up the previous books to learn more about the side characters who assist Sam and Maggie in their case! - John 

Staff Pick Badge
Tomb of the Queen Cover Image
ISBN: 9781948967334
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Two Tales Press - June 8th, 2021

A librarian gets recruited by the CIA to help track down rare and magical books...

Jayne Thorne has just discovered that magic is real, and the CIA needs her help. After a crash course in Magic 101 she's sent to Ireland to investigate a rare manuscripti. The start of this series is everything I love about urban fantasy. A wise-cracking heroine who diffuses tense situations with a joke, plenty of adventure, and an interesting magical world that exists alongside our own. 

I can't wait for more adventures with Jayne! - John 

Staff Pick Badge
A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem (Ladies Most Scandalous #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781538736135
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Forever - November 10th, 2020

Newspaper columnist Lady Katherine Bascomb has ruined Detective Inspector Andrew Eversham's career after publishing a witness interview he missed. Can they work together to catch The Commandment Killer who has been terrorizing London? And what about the sparks between them?

Manda Collins perfectly blends romance and mystery together in these books. They're the perfect blend of Deanna Raybourn and Anne Perry with a little bit of Bridgerton thrown in.. - John 

Staff Pick Badge
The Vanishing (Fogg Lake #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984806444
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - November 10th, 2020

15 years ago, Cat and Olivia witnessed a murder, but no one believed them. Now they're living in Seattle and working as PIs (with the help of their psychic powers). When Olivia goes missing, Cat must work with a member of The Foundation, a shady organization that no one knows much about. Can she find her friend, and does this kidnapping have ties to that old murder?

This book was a blast! It's got conspiracy theories, secret labs, assassins,  and a whole town with a mysterious past and a high concentration of residents with psychic powers! It was just a fun escape, and I'm excited for the next two in the series. - John

Staff Pick Badge
Payback's a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593336069
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - October 5th, 2021

Emmy Harlow has returned to Thistle Grove to act as arbiter for a spellcasting tournament that will decide which magical family will run the town for the next 25 years. Can she help her town and get back at the guy who caused her to leave in the first place?

This book was SO MUCH FUN! I love the world Harper has created and I'm so excited that there's another book coming next year. - John

Poppy Harmon and the Backstabbing Bachelor (A Desert Flowers Mystery #4) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781496730404
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Kensington - April 26th, 2022

For fans of The Golden Girls and Remington Steel, Lee Hollis’ fourth Desert Flowers Mystery featuring Palm Springs retiree-turned-investigator Poppy Harmon!

Book of Night Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250812193
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Tor Books - May 3rd, 2022

"A delicious, dark, adrenaline rush of a book. I'm already dying to see Charlie Hall's next con." - New York Times bestselling author, Alix E. Harrow