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.

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Lavender House: A Novel By Lev AC Rosen Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250834225
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Forge Books - October 18th, 2022

Andy Mills has gone from being fired from the police force for being gay to investigating a murder at Lavender House, a mansion where its gay residents can live openly behind its walls.

Used to quick interactions in seedy bars, Andy has never seen what gay life can be in the light. But someone in the house has killed Irene, the head of the famous Lamontaine soap company. Can Andy uncover the truth and sort through all of the family secrets? 

Lavender House takes all of the family drama and suspense of Knives Out and puts a noir and gay twist on it. Rosen has put in his queer spin on the PI novel in a way that reminded me of Joseph Hansen's groundbreaking Dave Brandstetter novels. - John

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Truly Devious: A Mystery By Maureen Johnson Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062338068
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - December 4th, 2018

The Truly Devious Trilogy by Maureen Johnson

I could not read this trilogy fast enough. There's so much to love here. An elite school tucked away in the mountains of Vermont, an interesting cast of characters, and tons of secret passages! You can tell Johnson was having a blast paying homage to classic Golden Age mysteries.

I highly recommend getting all three before you start, because the trilogy reads like one long mystery. - John

Truly Devious 3-Book Box Set: Truly Devious, Vanishing Stair, and Hand on the Wall By Maureen Johnson Cover Image
ISBN: 9780063023154
Availability: Able to Backorder
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - October 20th, 2020

Bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious trilogy is a hilarious and inspiring whodunit that weaves together the story of a cold case from 1936 and the story of teen sleuth Stevie Bell in the present. The Truly Devious box set includes all three paperbacks in the series and is perfect for gift-giving and binge reading.

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Six Feet Deep Dish (Deep Dish Mysteries #1) By Mindy Quigley Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250792433
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Paperbacks - August 23rd, 2022

The grand opening of Delilah's new gourmet pizza parlor isn't going well. Not only has her fiancé and business partner dumped her, but her aunt is found holding a gun next to a dead body!

Pizza is one of my favorite things in the whole world, so I couldn't wait to get to this one. I love the cozy trope of a grand opening going horribly wrong. What's a grand opening without a dead body? - John

This was my August Pick for the Cozy of the Month subscription box. Want more info about the subscription? Visit the website!

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All Dressed Up: A Novel By Jilly Gagnon Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593497326
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Bantam - September 6th, 2022

Becca and her husband Blake have hit a rough spot in their marriage. Blake thinks a 1920s themed murder mystery weekend is just the thing to help get them back on track. After the first night, a cast member doesn't show up for work. Did she just quit, or is there another mystery to solve?

The book includes character dossiers as well as rules for the game Becca and her fellow guests are playing. As the reader you're playing along with Becca as she tries to figure out what is part of the game and what is real. It all makes for an intriguing read that kept me guessing. - John 

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The Monsters We Defy By Leslye Penelope Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316377911
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Redhook - August 9th, 2022

A fantastic heist novel set in 1920s Washington, DC, but with ghosts and magic It's also about community, dreams, and the price we pay for getting what we want. - John

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Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) By Leigh Bardugo Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250751362
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Flatiron Books - October 20th, 2020

Lethe House monitors the secret societies at Yale, so why is Alex being told to drop a case when a woman with ties to multiple societies is murdered? This is SO GOOD! - John 

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A Dreadful Splendor: A Novel By B.R. Myers Cover Image
ISBN: 9780063209831
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - August 23rd, 2022

Genevieve, a take medium, is hoping to avoid the death penalty by convincing a young lord that his bride-to-be died by her own hand. It she can do that, the lord's lawyer will get the charges against her dropped. The young lord has other plans. He wants Genevieve to use her skills to force his bride-to-be's killer to confess. A perfect blend of English manor mystery and Gothic romance. It's one of the most fun things I've read all year! - John

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The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches By Sangu Mandanna Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593439357
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - August 23rd, 2022

Mika has always been told that witches should stay away from each other. Aside from a few meetings a year she's completely isolated from other witches, unable to live openly as herself. When a strange invitation to tutor three young witches arises, she jumps at the chance. If you loved The House in the Cerulean Sea and want another book that feels like a hug, it's this one! - John

The Secret of Bow Lane (A Below Stairs Mystery #6) By Jennifer Ashley Cover Image
ISBN: 9780440001799
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - August 2nd, 2022

In Victorian-era London, amateur sleuth and cook Kat Holloway must solve a murder to claim an inheritance she didn’t know she had in a riveting new historical mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Death at the Crystal Palace