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 2019 Top 10 Cozy Mysteries:

1. A Cup of Holiday Fear by Ellie Alexander
2. Coached to Death by Victoria Laurie
3. Murder Once Removed by S.C. Perkins
4. And Then There Were Crumbs by Eve Calder
5. Death in a Budapest Butterfly by Julia Buckley
6. The Calamity Cafe by Gayle Leeson
7. Wonton Terror by Vivien Chien
8. The Loch Ness Papers by Paige Shelton
9. Against the Claw by Shari Randall
10. Apple Cider Slaying by Julie Anne Lindsey

Non-Cozy Top 3:

The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Swipe Right For Murder by Derek Milman

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

Staff Pick Badge
White Trash Warlock Cover Image
ISBN: 9781094067964
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Blackstone Publishing - October 13th, 2020

Adam Binder has The Sight. He can see the supernatural around us. He uses his power to track down cursed artifacts while searching for his father. Adam's gift has always been the cause of tension with his family but now his brother Bobby needs his help. Can Adam forgive his brother for committing him and help Bobby's wife?

This is one of the freshest, most original debut Urban Fantasy books I've read in years. If you've been missing the genre like I have, you need to pick this one up. I can't wait to chat with David about it! - John

Staff Pick Badge
Haunted Homicide (A Haunted Mansion Mystery #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984806772
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - September 29th, 2020

Avery Morgan is starting a new job at the Portage Path Women's Club. Her new boss Muriel is pretty terrible from the moment Avery walks into the mansion that houses the club, and it's no shock to anyone when Muriel is murdered. 

But a body isn't the most shocking thing Avery will find in the basement of the mansion. She also discovers a ghost from the days when the basement houses a speakeasy. Can the two of them solve the murder together? The relationship between Avery and Clemmie (the ghost) made me smile. I absolutely loved this one! 

Lucy Ness is a pseudonym for Kylie Logan and Casey Daniels. This series is perfect for Juliet Blackwell fans! - John 

Staff Pick Badge
Akata Witch Cover Image
ISBN: 9780142420911
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Speak - July 11th, 2017

Sunny was born in NYC, but her family recently moved her back to their home of Nigeria. Sunny's also an albino and has trouble making friends. Her whole world changes when she meets Orlu and Chichi. In addition to new friends she learns that she has magical powers. Because of those powers she and her friends are tasked with stopping The Black Hat, a killer who has been terrorizing their neighborhood. 

Hailed "The Nigerian Harry Potter," Akata Witch stands firmly on its own. Okorafor has created a world where knowledge is rewarded (literally, it has its own currency), where our differences make us stronger, and where wonders are hidden in plain sight. I absolutely loved this book. - John (Recommended for ages 12 and up)

Time Magazine also included Akata Witch on its list of the 100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time.

Staff Pick Badge
Gobble, Gobble Murder (A Lucy Stone Mystery) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781496726254
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Kensington - September 29th, 2020

The Lucy Stone series is my new obsession. I've devoured 7 of them in the last few weeks. Lucy Stone is a mom living in Tinker's Cove, Maine. Between dropping off the kids at school, serving on the library board, and (eventually) writing for the local paper she finds herself solving mysteries. A lot of cozies feature single women who have returned to their small town, but I love that Lucy is a mom and has deep ties to her community. You see her worrying about family finances, and since the series starts in the late 90s you also get to see her adapt to technology.

These books are a little more serious than you would expect them to be based on the covers, but they're still on the cozy side. I would compare them to the Callahan Garrity books that Mary Kay Andrews wrote as Kathy Hogan Trocheck.

Digging into a log running series can be daunting, but the books in the series stand on their own so you can jump in anywhere. You can pick a favorite holiday and start there. If you want to read the series in order I recommend starting with book 3, Trick or Treat Murder (which is included in Halloween Murder). There are a few plot things in the first two books that might turn off some cozy readers, and I'm happy to chat with you about those, but you really can jump in with book three. - John

Halloween Murder (A Lucy Stone Mystery) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781496721587
Availability: Special Order
Published: Kensington - August 27th, 2019

In these two beloved mysteries now collected in one volume for the very first time, Lucy Stone finds that on Halloween in Tinker’s Cove, Maine, the treats aren’t just sweet and delicious. Sometimes they’re also deadly.
Trick or Treat Murder

Christmas Cookie Murder (A Lucy Stone Mystery #6) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781496721570
Availability: Able to Backorder
Published: Kensington - October 29th, 2019

For Lucy Stone, the best thing about Christmas in Tinker’s Cove has always been the annual Cookie Exchange. But the usual generosity and goodwill is missing from this year’s event which turns out to be a complete disaster.

Staff Pick Badge
Invisible Girl: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982137335
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Atria Books - October 13th, 2020

Lisa Jewell is a master at taking a large cast and several plot points and weaving them together in a way that keeps you guessing. - John 

Fortune Favors the Dead: A Novel (A Pentecost and Parker Mystery #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385546553
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday - October 27th, 2020

“[Fortune Favors the Dead has] razor-sharp style, tons of flair, a snappy sense of humor, and all the most satisfying elements of a really good noir novel, plus plenty of original twists of its own.”—Tana French

Staff Pick Badge
The House in the Cerulean Sea Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250217288
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Tor Books - March 17th, 2020

While The House in the Cerulean Sea feels like a quiet little book it speaks so loudly of understanding, love, and found family. You'll want to hug it to your chest and carry it with you. And you will carry it with you, because each tender moment in this book will leave its mark on your heart. - John

Staff Pick Badge
From the Desk of Zoe Washington Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062875853
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - January 14th, 2020

I ADORED this middle grade read. Zoe Washington wants to be the next Food Network Kids Bake Challenge! Star. On her 12th she gets a letter from her birth father, a man she’s never met. He’s in jail for murder, but he might be innocent! Can she clear his name, intern at a bakery, and get on TV?

This book has so much heart. I wish I could turn on the TV and watch Zoe compete. Marks addresses issues like racial profiling and wrongful incarceration in ways that are easy for kids to understand.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough! It’s got a killer soundtrack! Just make sure you pick up some cupcakes before you start reading or your mouth will be watering the whole time. - John (Recommended for ages 8 and up)