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English Village Cozy Mysteries

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english villageStately manors and humble villages each see their share of murder in these distinctly British stories.

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Catherine Aird. Amendment of Life.

Detective Chief Inspector C.D. Sloan of the Calleshire CID is used to the occasional oddity in his relatively quiet part of the English countryside. But lately things have taken a strange turn. First, in the center of a yew maze that is the showpiece of the Tudor-era house, Aumerle Court, a body is spotted by Miss Daphne Pedlinge, the elderly chatelaine of the Court. By the time the groundskeeper actually makes it to the center, he, too, spies the body, and it is indeed dead. Meanwhile, a few miles away, a slaughtered rabbit is left on the Bishop’s doorstep in nearby Calleford, an omen as portentous as the body in the maze. Now Inspector Sloan, with the somewhat trying personage of Constable Crosby in tow, must uncover what precisely is going on as they launch an investigation with more twists and turns than the maze itself.

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Susan Wittig Albert. The Tale of Hill Top Farm.

In the first of the Cottage Tales mysteries, author Susan Wittig Albert creates her own tale featuring Beatrix Potter, animal lover and Good Samaritan – with a knack for solving mysteries. And with her entourage of animal friends, Beatrix sets out to win over the human hearts of Sawrey. In 1905 England, it was most unusual – if not outright scandalous – for an unmarried woman to buy and run a farm. But that’s exactly what Beatrix Potter sets out to do when she purchases Hill Top Farm in the Lake District hamlet of Near Sawrey. Beatrix, trying to recover from her sorrow at the death of her fiance, believes that the countryside will have a healing effect, while providing a quiet place for her to work on her sketches and stories for children. But when one of the villagers dies unexpectedly, with allegations of foul play, Sawrey turns out to be anything but quiet. Some villagers meet Beatrix with genuine warmth. Others keep her at arm’s length. After all, she is a Londoner – a female Londoner – used to city living. But soon enough Beatrix makes herself useful. She reads aloud to the schoolchildren – and when the parish registry goes missing, she won’t rest until it’s found.

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Margery Allingham.  Tiger in the Smoke.

A jailbreaker and kife artist is at large in London and it falls to Albert Campion to hunt him down.

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Nancy Atherton.  Aunt Dimity’s Death.

Lori Shepherd learns that she will inherit a sizeable estate from her recently deceased Aunt Dimity, but there is a catch–Lori must first discover the secret hidden in the letters in Dimity’s cottage.

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Robert Barnard. The Mistress of Alderley.

Well-known actress Caroline Fawley has given up a successful stage and television career for love and life in the country. International business titan Marius Fleetwood can’t marry her. He already has a wife, though he claims they are “just friends.” But Marius has done something very special for Caroline: he has “bought” her Alderley, an elegant country home. If he should die, he’s arranged to leave her enough money to maintain the extensive house and gardens. Of course, some inquisitive villagers would be happier if Caroline and Marius were respectably wed. People in small towns know all, and they will talk, especially about a glamorous actress. Caroline’s adolescent children, Stella and Alexander, seem to accept Marius’s weekend visits without distress. And older daughter Olivia, an opera singer on the rise, is too involved in her own career and romantic intrigues to express much interest in her mother’s personal life. Caroline is happy and the world is good. Until one day when Caroline’s life begins to fall apart. First, a mysterious young man backpacking his way through the countryside arrives at the door. He says his name is Peter Bagshaw, but Caroline sees instantly that he must be related to Marius; perhaps he’s even his son. What else has Marius hidden from Caroline? Who is this man, Marius Fleetwood? Is everything about him a lie? When a murder occurs, detectives Mike Oddie and Charlie Peace must probe the lives of numerous suspects who had good reason to kill.

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Stephanie Barron. Jane & the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor.

To Jane Austen’s surprise, her visit to the snowy Hertfordshire estate of young and beautiful Isobel Payne, Countess of Scargrave, will be far from dull. She has scarcely arrived when the Earl – a gentleman of mature years – is felled by a mysterious ailment too agonizing and violent to credit to a fondness for claret and pudding. Scargrave’s death seems a cruel blow of fate for Isobel, married but three months. Yet the bereaved widow soon finds that it’s only the beginning of her misfortune … as she receives a sinister missive accusing her and the Earl’s nephew of adultery – and murder. Desperately afraid that the letter will expose her and Viscount Fitzroy Payne, for whom she bears a secret tendresse, to the worst sort of scandal, Isobel begs her friend Jane for help. Which is how Jane finds herself embroiled in an investigation that hinges on the motives of Scargrave Manor’s guests. Still, Jane is troubled by memories of the Earl’s tragic demise. And when the menacing letter writer is found bloodily dispatched, in circumstances that overwhelmingly incriminate Isobel and Lord Payne, Jane knows that there is no time to waste in discovering the truth. A missing locket, a monogrammed handkerchief, an ancestral ghost, and the deadly fruit of a tropical tree are among the markers of a trail that will lead all the way to the House of Lords and Newgate Prison – and may well place Jane’s own person in the gravest jeopardy.

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M.C. Beaton. Agatha Raisin & the Quiche of Death.

Putting all her eggs in one basket, Agatha Raisin gives up her successful PR firm, sells her London flat, and samples a taste of early retirement in the quiet village of Carsely. Bored, lonely and used to getting her way, she enters a local baking contest: Surely a blue ribbon for the best quiche will make her the toast of the town. But her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Browne not only snubs her entry—but falls over dead! After her quiche’s secret ingredient turns out to be poison, she must reveal the unsavory truth…  Agatha has never baked a thing in her life! In fact, she bought her entry ready-made from an upper crust London quicherie. Grating on the nerves of several Carsely residents, she is soon receiving sinister notes. Has her cheating and meddling landed her in hot water, or are the threats related to the suspicious death? It may mean the difference between egg on her face and a coroner’s tag on her toe…

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Rhys Bowen. Evans Above.

Constable Evan Evans expected idyllic Llanfair to be a calm oasis far away from the violent crime of the big city. That was, until a string of murders erupts in the town, putting every “charming eccentric” under suspicion…

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Simon Brett. A Body on the Beach.

Carole Seddon is recently retired from the Home Office and living in the overdeveloped residential hamlet of Fethering. Residing in the cottage she purchased with her ex-husband, she maintains a quiet and sensible life with the companionship of Gulliver, her Labrador retriever. She doesn’t have the time or the tolerance to deal with her new bohemian neighbor, Jude, whose outgoing personality contrasts with that of the prim and proper Carole. But her new neighbor doesn’t seem so bad when Carole discovers another addition to the neighborhood – a dead body. She finds it on the beach while taking Gulliver for his daily constitutional, and notices that the corpse has two wounds on its neck. But later, the police are unable to find the body, and dismiss Carole as a somewhat befuddled middle-aged woman. She almost starts to believe it herself … until a stranger threatens her to keep quiet or else. Unable to contain her anxiety, Carole does the unthinkable and confides what happened to Jude – who suggests that if the police cannot be bothered to catch a killer, then they should do it themselves …

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John Dickson Carr. The Man Who Could Not Shudder.

When a gun, seemingly without being touched, falls off the wall and shoots Logan, Dr. Gideon Fell investigates the crime.

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Sarah Caudwell. The Sirens Sang of Murder.

Barrister Michael Cantrip agrees to administer a multimillion-pound trust, but when his fellow advisors meet their demise at an alarming rate, he must rely on Professor Hilary Tamar to save him from a similar fate.

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Agatha Christie. Murder at the Vicarage.

The tranquility of St Mary Mead has been shattered when the local magistrate, Colonel Lucious Protheroe, is found with a bullet through the head. He was a thoroughly despicable character and it seems that nearly everyone in town had a reason to want the Colonel dead. Nobody heard the shot, and there are no clues. Inspector Slack is at a total loss. That’s when local busybody Miss Jane Marple decides to help. It’s a race against the clock as Miss Marple sets out on the twisted trail of the mysterious killer with no help at all from the local police.

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Deborah Crombie. Now May You Weep.

Though her reputation for delving into the heart of murder is matched only by that of her former partner and current lover, Duncan Kincaid, newly appointed Detective Inspector Gemma James has never thought to question her friend Hazel Cavendish about her past. So it is quite a shock when Gemma learns that their holiday retreat to a hotel in the Scottish Highlands is, in fact, a homecoming for native daughter Hazel – and an event that has provoked strong reactions from the small community. Something is definitely amiss – and that something is quite possibly Donald Brodie, the charming if intense Scotsman who is a guest as well. The truth comes out before long: Hazel and Brodie were once lovers, despite a vicious, long-standing feud between their families, rival local distillers of fine whiskey. Their affair was fierce and passionate, and its fire might not have burned out completely. Certainly Brodie, now the domineering head of the family business, believes his “Juliet” still belongs to him alone – and he’s prepared to destroy Hazel’s English marriage to make it so. A brutal murder puts Hazel’s very life in peril when she’s arrested for the crime. Hazel is the logical suspect, but Gemma knows nothing is simple in this place of secrets and long-seething hatreds. As even more damning evidence piles up against the friend Gemma never truly knew, the investigation into Hazel and Brodie’s history begins to take darker, more sinister and tumultuous turns. Gemma knows she will need assistance to unravel this bloody knot – and so she calls the one man she trusts more than any other, Duncan Kincaid, to join her far from home … and in harm’s way.

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Jeanne Dams.  Body in the Transept.

Dorothy Martin, widowed American removed to the England she so loves, the Christmas service is painful enough, it is her first holiday without her husband. And to top it off she stumbles over the body of Canon Billings at the services but this starts her own investigating.

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Carola Dunn. Death at Wentwater Court.

It’s the early 1920s in England – the country is still recovering from the Great War and undergoing rapid social changes that many are not quite ready to accept. During this heady and tumultuous time, the Honourable Daisy Dalrymple, the daughter of a Viscount, makes a decision shocking to her class: rather than be supported by her relations, she will earn her own living as a writer. Landing an assignment for Town & Country magazine for a series of articles on country manor houses she travels to Wentwater Court in early January 1923 to begin research on her first piece. But all is not well there when she arrives. Lord Wentwater’s young wife has become the center of a storm of jealousy, animosity, and, possibly, some not-unwanted amorous attention, which has disrupted the peace of the bucolic country household. Still, this is as nothing compared to the trouble that ensues when one of the holiday guests drowns in a tragic early-morning skating accident. Especially when Daisy discovers that his death was no accident…

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Marjorie Eccles. Broken Music.

The year is 1919 and Great Britain is still struggling to its feet after being hit by the atrocities of the First World War. Former police sergeant Herbert Reardon returns home, determined to finally find out what happened the night that his daughter, Marianne, was found drowned in the lake. When a maid is found murdered in exactly the same spot, Reardon is convinced that the two cases are linked.

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E.X. Ferrars. Pretty Pink Shroud.

It was pretty fancy stuff to send to a secondhand clothes shop.  But everything Lady Guest donated was always too good always in tiptop condition, and, sometimes, practically brand new.  Here was a lovely red cardigan with a matching skirt, a splendid pants suit, and most surprising of all, the gorgeous pink dress that had been Lady Guest’s masquerade at last night’s fancy-dress ball.  Now, however, the beautiful dress was transformed–pierced as it was with an unmistakable bullet hole and marked by a bloodstain.  What did it mean?  Was it a clue to something dreadful masquerading as a bad joke? Or a warning, pretending to be a gift to charity? The answers were hard to find but, in the end teh search for them led to only one conclusion: Lady Guest’s pretty pink dress had been part of yet another masquerade where it went as  a pretty pink shroud. 

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Antonia Fraser. Oxford Blood.

During the filming at Oxford University of a documentary called “Golden Lads and Girls,” an undergraduate is murdered, attempts are made on the life of twenty-year-old Lord Saffron, and Jemima Shore must get to the bottom of an unlovely family past.

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Jonathan Gash. Tartan Sell.

After waiting for the delivery of a bureau which never arrives, Lovejoy discovers that the driver has been murdered and the bureau, which had come from Shona McGunn in Scotland, has disappeared and he sets out for Scotland, changing his name to Ian McGunn.

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Caroline Graham. Faithful unto Death.

When Simone Hollingsworth fails to turn up at bell ringing practice, her fellow Fawcett Green villagers are neither surprised nor concerned. Unfailingly pleasant, extremely beautiful, and really rather dull, Simone has made her mark only as someone who has volunteered for too many activities in the community and stuck with none. It is only the Hollingsworths’ neighbors, the vigilant Brockleys, who suspect the worst. They have noticed Simone’s husband, Alan, behaving very strangely: slamming doors, burying boxes in the sun-baked garden, and keeping the curtains drawn to all. But even the Brockleys cannot suspect the true reason behind Simone’s disappearance.

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S.T. Haymon. Death of a Hero.

In the final case by acclaimed mystery writer S. T. Haymon, who recently passed away, Detective Inspector Ben Jurnet struggles to solve a murder while attempting to sort out his own life after the tragic death of his beautiful Miriam. Jurnet finds facing his daily routine without Miriam an extremely daunting task. Even dating Pnina Benvista, Miriam’s protegee and successor to her knitwear company, does not seem to dull the pain of his loss. But Jurnet’s professional life refuses to wait for him – and the local police call in the detective inspector to help decide what to do about the gathering of ten thousand men who have “peacefully” assembled in the public park. They have been gathered together by Charlie Appleyard on the five hundredth anniversary of the hanging of Loy Tanner, a local hero who fought for the dispossessed peasantry. Charlie, the spiritual heir to Tanner, promises that this time there will be no violence committed against the community – these men have come quietly to protest the fact that they cannot find honest work. They refuse to leave until they are given jobs. Two days after the “sit-in” begins, however, Charlie is found dead in the local red-light district. And as Jurnet attempts to discover just who Charlie was, he must also journey within himself and decide who he is to become – without Miriam.

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Hazel Holt. Mrs. Malory & No Cure For Death.

Amateur sleuth Sheila Malory must sort through a host of motives and suspects when she sets out to investigate the murder of arrogant local physician John Morrison, found stabbed to death in his Taviscombe office.

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G.M. Malliet. Wicked Autumn.

Max Tudor has adapted well to his post as vicar of St. Edwold’s in the idyllic village of Nether Monkslip. The quiet village seems the perfect home for Max, who has fled a harrowing past as an MI5 agent. Now he has found a measure of peace among urban escapees and yoga practitioners, artists and crafters and New Agers. But this new-found serenity is quickly shattered when the highly vocal and unpopular president of the Women’s Institute turns up dead at the Harvest Fayre. The death looks like an accident, but Max’s training as a former agent kicks in, and before long he suspects foul play. Max has ministered to the community long enough to be familiar with the tangled alliances and animosities among the residents, but this tragedy surprises and confounds him. It is impossible to believe anyone in his lovely village capable of the crime, and yet given the victim, he must acknowledge that almost everyone had probably fantasized about killing Wanda Batton-Smythe. As the investigation unfolds, Max becomes more intricately involved. Memories he’d rather not revisit are stirred, evoking the demons from the past which led him to Nether Monkslip. In WICKED AUTUMN, G.M. Malliet serves up an irresistible English village—deliciously skewered—a flawed but likeable protagonist, and a brilliantly modern version of the traditional drawing room mystery.

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Ngaio Marsh. Vintage Murder.

Inspector Roderick Alleyn finds his vacation cut short when a famous producer ends up killed by a wine bottle, leading Alleyn to investigate the actors of a theater company, as well as the dead man’s wife.

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Val McDermid.  A Place of Execution.

On a freezing day in December 1963, Alison Carter vanishes from her rural village, an insular community that distrusts the outside world. For the young George Bennett, a newly promoted inspector, it is the beginning of his most difficult and harrowing case – a suspected murder with no body, an investigation with more dead ends and closed faces than he’d have found in the anonymity of the inner city, and an outcome that reverberates through the years. Decades later Bennett finally tells his story to journalist Catherine Heathcote, but just when the book is poised for publication, he unaccountably tries to pull the plug. He has new information that he refuses to divulge, new information that threatens the very foundations of his existence. Catherine is forced to reinvestigate the past, with results that turn the world upside down.

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Jill McGown.  Unlucky for Some.

Michael Waterman is a self-made millionaire. His casinos and nightclubs ensure a constant flow of cash, and Waterman knows what he needs to do to keep it that way. So far, it seems, he has stayed on the right side of the law. Certainly, no one seriously suspects him of murdering bingo player Wilma Fenton, who was struck down while walking home with a purse crammed full of winnings. Her murder looks like an ordinary mugging, except for one oddity: the killer has left Wilma’s money neatly fanned out across her body. The motive behind the bafflingly violent act dogs Lloyd and Hill – now married and the harried parents of a two-year-old daughter. The stakes are raised with a second murder, modeled on the first…and then a third. A cold-blooded killer is challenging not only the police but the one witness to the first slaying: England’s premier expert on serial crime, well-known journalist and TV personality Tony Baker. An isolated crime has now become a twisted game of madness and logic – in which failure to outwit the murderer will mean even more senseless deaths. 

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Patricia Moyes. Many Deadly Returns.

In the 1920s Henry Tibbitts attends the birthday party of a woman who mentions her premonitions, and he faces a crime which involves an unknown poison.

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David Roberts. Quality of Mercy.

When the Nazis seize Austria in March 1938, Verity Browne – the New Gazette’s correspondent in Vienna – is one of the first to be deported as a well-known anti-Fascist. Before her enforced departure she is able to arrange for a young Jew, Georg Dreiser, to escape to England, but here where he least expects it, comes danger and sudden death. Lord Edward Corinth also has an encounter with the grim reaper, in the grounds of Lord Louis Mountbatten’s country house, Broadlands. There to meet his friend the Maharaja of Batiala, Edward’s nephew, Frank, stumbles on a corpse. The police are satisfied that the man, identified as Peter Gray, a painter of some repute, died of natural causes but his niece, Vera, has reason to believe that is not the case. So between them, Edward and Verity set about the investigation of two murders and it seems that at last Verity’s eyes might be opened to what has long been obvious to all their friends – that Edward is the man she loves.

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Dorothy Sayers. The Nine Tailors.

Tale of suspense in which the famous Lord Peter Wimsey is called upon to solve the murder of an unknown man in East Anglia. 

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John Sherwood.  The Mantrap Garden.

Although the coroner found Mary Lindsay innocent of the murder of her elderly mother, someone is playing cruel tricks to get her to confess, and horticulturalist-sleuth Celia Grant must track down the real killer.

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Susannah Stacey. Late Lady.

Fourteen years after her mysterious disappearance, archaeologist Kingsely Marsh turns up dead, and Superintendent Bone must sift through the suspects, who include Kingsley’s husband and his new wife.

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Charles Todd. Wings of Fire.

Inspector Ian Rutledge is quickly sent to investigate the sudden deaths of three members of the same eminent Cornwall family, but the World War I veteran soon realizes that nothing about this case is routine. Including the identity of one of the dead, a reclusive spinster unmasked as O. A. Manning, whose war poetry helped Rutledge retain his grasp on sanity in the trenches of France. Guided by the voice of Hamish, the Scot he unwillingly executed on the battlefield, Rutledge is driven to uncover the haunting truths of murder and madness rooted in a family crypt…
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2 thoughts on “English Village Cozy Mysteries

  1. Lots of great reads. Thanks for listing them.
    Ann

  2. A great help in finding cosy mysteries. Than you.

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