I love cozy mysteries. Cozies tend to have not a lot of violence, an amateur sleuth as the protagonist, a theme (coffee, book binding, donuts, the Amish, ghosts, etc.), and often a punny title (like A Batter of Life and Death by Ellie Alexander). On a whim at Jan’s Used Books in Beaverton, I purchased Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay. I really enjoyed this book! The first in the Library Lover’s Mystery series, Books Can Be Deceiving takes place in Briar Creek, a town on the shore of Connecticut. I try to tell people that not all cozies involve knitting, but this one does and you shouldn’t let that deter you from reading it!
First and foremost, is Briar Creek a real place and can I move there?!
It sounds adorable and small, with a wonderful public library, restaurants where the staff knows everyone in town, and a yoga-loving old guy/community leader who is found practicing poses everywhere. There are lovely houses on the shores, and islands just a short boat ride away to explore. And the people sound like folks I want to hang out with. So if it’s real, I want to move to Briar Creek. Anyone want to come with?
Speaking of people, the cast of characters is fantastic. The characters can make or break any book, but since cozies tend to have ensemble casts that maintain throughout the series, liking those characters is key. Lindsey is our protagonist and unlikely sleuth in this murder mystery. She is the library director and her best friend Beth is the children’s librarian. Lindsey is recovering from a cheating ex-fiance and is understandably bitter. Beth is dating a famous children’s author who comes off as a pretentious jerk to everyone else around. When they break up (yay!), it’s public and loud. So when said pretentious jerk is found dead the next day, Beth is unfortunately the prime suspect.
Lindsey isn’t the only one who wants to prove that Beth isn’t guilty.
The two women are part of “crafternoon Thursdays” at the library, a book club where they knit or do another craft while discussing their current book pick. Everyone in the club knows Beth would never hurt her douchey ex, and they offer Lindsey rides and info on Briar Creek’s past that help her uncover who else wanted Beth’s ex dead. The way they rag on each other about arriving late to crafternoon, and Lindsey using her “scholarly voice” when she gets frustrated with the craft at hand, is relatable and sounds like conversations I have with friends. The varying ages of the club members was also a nice change of pace. They have different backgrounds but care deeply about each other.
As with most cozies (at least the ones I read) there may be romance afoot! Lindsey might be bitter, but when a handsome sea captain named Sully helps her in her mission to capture the real killer, she can’t help but notice just how particularly handsome he is. And her description of his windswept hair and tanned skin and muscles made me think that all of my single friends should start hanging out at marinas.
I liked this book because McKinlay cares about all of her characters and gives us glimpses into many of their pasts.
Even though cozy mysteries often have bumbling law enforcement officers, they can sometimes come off as excessive. In Books Can Be Deceiving we have a bumbling officer who is in way over his head when murder hits Briar Creek, but we also meet his super efficient and just partner, and she is awesome and should totally have his job. And there’s actually a detective who is painted as a very kind and understanding individual. It was a welcome change!
This book was super entertaining and I read it in about two days because I was enjoying myself so much. I was happy to discover that there are a BUNCH more books in this series already, because I immediately wanted to read more!
Some of Lindsey’s life made me envious, like her being a library director and living in an awesome big house for super cheap, but I hate riding bikes, and since Lindsey sold her car and commutes by bike only, I’ll keep to my ways and she can keep to hers. Not even a great book can make me want to bike.
If you want to try a cozy mystery, and you love books, or sailing, or clam chowder, or knitting, or bikes, try this one!
I give it two knitting needles up.
Grab your copy using this link, and we’ll make pennies!