by Esme Addison
One of my favorite elements of a cozy mystery is the ability to easily infuse a story with culture, heritage and history. How many cozy mystery readers have discovered an interest in learning about another ethnicity or nationality because their favorite cozy mystery series features a character they love with ties to another country? Not only does it create a fresh and creative take on a genre known to be formulaic in the best possible ways, but it’s a fun and accessible way for a writer to share a culture (oftentimes their own) with the reader.
Common ways of doing this is by adding bits of language, food and conversations or plots that feature themes of history, heritage and culture. And even if diversity wasn’t trending in the publishing industry right now (lets hope this trend is here to stay), learning about other cultures is still interesting. Otherwise, why do we travel if not to experience other people, foods, history, culture, heritage and language?
Below are four of my favorite cozies that share a non-American culture with the reader plus one (my own!).
Penne Dreadful by Catherine Bruns
Catherine Brun’s Penne Dreadful, the first story in the Italian Chef Mystery series, as you may imagine explores Italian heritage through food. The author, who is half-Italian created a series about a big proud Italian family that loves each other fiercely and is always getting together for delicious homecooked meals. Italian recipes included!
Penne Dreadful: Local chef Tessa Esposito is struggling to get back on her feet following her husband’s fatal accident. And when the police knock on Tessa’s door, things just get worse. They’ve discovered Dylan’s death wasn’t an accident after all, and they need Tessa to start filling in the blanks. Who would want her beloved husband dead, and why?
With the investigation running cold, Tessa decides it’s time to save her sanity by reconnecting with her first love-cooking. And maybe the best way back into the kitchen is to infiltrate Dylan’s favorite local pizza parlor, which also happens to be the last place he was seen before he died. But the anchovies aren’t the only thing that stink inside the small family business, and with suspects around every corner, Tessa finds that her husband’s many secrets might land her in hot water.
The second book in the series, It Cannoli Be Murder publishes on July 28, 2020.
Death In A Budapest Butterfly by Julia Buckley
This fanciful cozy features Hungarian culture, food – and my favorite – folklore and fairytales! Julia Buckley’s series A Hungarian Teahouse Mystery will surprise you with light paranormal elements steeped in an otherwise very normal world.
Death In A Budapest Butterfly: Hana Keller and her family run Maggie’s Tea House, an establishment heavily influenced by the family’s Hungarian heritage and specializing in a European-style traditional tea service. But one of the shop’s largest draws is Hana’s eccentric grandmother, Juliana, renowned for her ability to read the future in the leaves at the bottom of customers’ cups. Lately, however, her readings have become alarmingly ominous and seemingly related to old Hungarian legends…
When a guest is poisoned at a tea event, Juliana’s dire predictions appear to have come true. Things are brought to a boil when Hana’s beloved Anna Weatherley butterfly teacup becomes the center of the murder investigation as it carried the poisoned tea. The cup is claimed as evidence by a handsome police detective, and the pretty Tea House is suddenly endangered. Hana and her family must catch the killer to save their business and bring the beautiful Budapest Butterfly back home where it belongs.
The second book in the series, Death Of A Wandering Wolf publishes on June 30, 2020.
One Feta On The Ground by Tina Kashian
Tina Kashian’s A Kebab Kitchen Mystery series explores Armenian culture and heritage through food (there are recipes, ya’ll!). This is a fun mystery series set on the Jersey shore, so get ready for all of those beach vibes (and nostalgia, if you’ve vacationed there.) And this is a true #ownvoices in a double sense. Not only is the author Armenian, but she grew up working in her parent’s restaurant as well.
One Feta On The Ground: As summer comes to an end in her Jersey Shore town, Lucy Berberian continues to manage her family’s Mediterranean restaurant. The Kebab Kitchen also has a food tent at this year’s beach festival. But now a local businessman is under the boardwalk—dead by the sea …
With a sand castle contest and live music, Ocean Crest bids a bittersweet farewell to tourist season. Summer will return next year … but Archie Kincaid won’t. The full-of-himself store owner has been fatally shot, soon after a screaming match with Lucy’s best friend. Katie’s far from the only suspect, though, since Archie had some bitter rivals—as well as some relationships no one knew about. It’s up to Lucy to look into some seedy characters and solve the case before the wrong person gets skewered…
On The Lamb, the fourth book in the series publishes on March 1, 2020.
The Pint Of No Return by Ellie Alexander
Ellie Alexander’s Sloan Krause mysteries combine one of my favorite themes – craft beer – with German heritage. I love all of the technical details provided on how to make beer and what goes on behind the scenes in the craft beer industry. You can tell Alexander has done her research. If you are a beer drinker, I defy you to read this story without a pint in hand! But this series is not just about craft beer, it’s set in a replica German village in which German culture and heritage is a huge tourism draw.
So expect lots of German-themed festivals and costumes and the like. The German-theme is not heavy handed but deftly weaved through the story in a fun way that will have you planning your next trip to Germany for Oktoberfest!
The Pint Of No Return: No other festival compares to Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, Washington. The whole town is buzzing with excitement over this year’s activities and eagerly awaiting Nitro’s latest offering Cherrywizen, made with locally sourced cherries. But local brewmaster Sloan Krause is tapped out. Between trying to manage the pub, her pending divorce with Mac, and her mounting feelings for Garrett, she’s fermenting in internal turmoil.
To complicate matters, dreamy movie star Mitchell Morgan and his production crew have arrived in the village to film during the authentic Bavarian brewfest. Mitchell has his eye on Sloan and a taste for Nitro’s Cherrywizen. Sloan escapes his advances for good when she finds Mitchell slumped over the bar. Is this a case of one pint too many, or has Mitchell been murdered by microbrew?
Beyond A Reasonable Stout, the third book in the series publishes on Oct. 1, 2019.
A Spell For Trouble by Esme Addison
The Enchanted Bay Mystery Series (by me!) incorporates several fun and popular themes, like mermaids and witches, herbal remedies and a beach setting, but one of the underlying themes is Polish culture and heritage. It’s actually the entire reason I created the story, to share what I have learned (in a fun way) from my mother and father-in law.
The first story in the series, A Spell For Trouble shares Polish culture in small ways: language, food and mythology.
A Spell For Trouble: Aleksandra Daniels hasn’t set foot in the quiet seaside town of Bellamy Bay, North Carolina in over twenty years. Ever since her mother’s tragic death, her father has mysteriously forbidden her from visiting her aunt and cousins. But on a whim, Alex accepts an invitation to visit her estranged relatives and to help them in their family business: an herbal apothecary known for its remarkably potent teas, salves, and folk remedies.
Bellamy Bay doesn’t look like trouble, but this is a town that harbors dark secrets. Alex discovers that her own family is at the center of salacious town gossip, and that they are rumored to be magical healers descended from mermaids. She brushes this off as nonsense until a local is poisoned and her aunt Lidia is arrested for the crime. Alex is certain Lidia is being framed, and she resolves to find out why.
Alex’s investigation unearths stories that some have gone to desperate lengths to conceal: forbidden affairs, family rivalries, and the truth about Alex’s own ancestry. And when the case turns deadly, Alex learns that not only are these secrets worth hiding, but they may even be worth killing for.
This is of course not an exhaustive list of the best cozies that share and explore diverse cultures, just a few of my personal favorites. But I’d love to hear which ones you love and why. Let’s discuss in the comments!