I have swept through this series! So, instead of writing individual reviews for each book, they will be grouped together.
First, let’s talk a bit about “cozy mysteries,” a genre I have just discovered. They are usually (not always) written by women authors. They often have food, sometimes recipes, mentioned in the books (and sometimes in the titles.) They are usually fairly clean and homespun, take place in small towns, with a female protagonist who just happens to be around when murders happen. (Think Jessica Fletcher in the 80’s TV show, Murder, She Wrote.) That protagonist often ends up investigating the murder because (a) she is implicated, (b) one of her friends is implicated, (c) she’s asked by a friend to investigate, or (d) the local police is so inept that it is up to the townspeople to discover the truth.
Those are the similarities I have found in cozy mysteries. But, like any genre, there are the some better than others. I have learned that it all comes down to the quality of writing and relatable characters. In Karin Kaufman’s Juniper Grove series, I found some winners.
I prefer reading the books in order because of the ongoing story line with the main characters who appear in every book. Rachel Stowe is the heroine, the one whose voice and thoughts we hear. A never-married mystery writer in her early 40’s, Rachel has moved to the fictional Colorado town of Juniper Grove after seven years in the publishing rat race of Boston. Julia Foster and Holly Quinn are her two best friends. Julia, a feisty widow in her sixties, lives next door. Holly, in her mid thirties, who runs the local bakery with her husband, hears all the local gossip–valuable when trying to solve murders as people let their guard down while noshing on pastries. At the police station is the stoic Chief James Gilroy; his right hand man, Officer Underhill; and a couple of junior officers who come and go for different reasons. Gilroy is an evolving character about which a little is revealed at a time in each book.
Each story in the series places Rachel in a new setting, such as a neighborhood scavenger hunt, a Christmas gathering, or a murder mystery party (oh, the irony!) Once in a while, like in the case of Death Knell, an odd event draws her attention and, lo and behold, a dead body is involved. (Sarcasm intended.)
Of the seven cozy series I’ve tried (each book takes about three hours to complete,) Juniper Grove is my favorite. The writing and character development is both high quality and economic. And, while there are some aspects that could be considered corny, such as the creation of the ladies’ “mystery gang,” the Rachel Stowe character has become my literary friend.
At this point in my “cozy mystery journey,” I’m using the Juniper Grove series as my yardstick with which to measure all the others. (The Dewberry Farm series, by Karen MacInerney, runs a close second. I’ll review it soon.) It’s an entertaining “pandemic panacea” that makes you forget about this bizarre time of viruses, politics, and societal unrest.
Book #12, Grim Death, is expected to be published soon. Books 1-11 are available as part of the Kindle Unlimited subscription on Amazon. Otherwise they range from $0.99 to $2.99 each.
Karin Kaufman’s website is HERE.
9/10 overall for the series, with high hopes for future books