It's time to curl up with a cozy mystery! Or, since we're talking audiobooks, it may be time to (cracking knuckles) get some chores done while we listen to one of the most pleasurable genres around. These are my top eight cozy mystery authors, whose series I always enjoy and always prefer to experience in audio. I like to feel cozied up with the character, as we—yes, we!—solve the crime together, and the best way to do that is to listen to the character.
The Blanche White series was groundbreaking when it came out in the ’90s, and I’ve recently rediscovered it—thanks to the audiobooks. Barbara Neely’s heroine, Blanche, a middle-aged African American housekeeper, is smart and observant, so naturally she’s perfect for a life as an amateur sleuth—even if that’s not what she set out to be. She literally goes on the lam for the first half of Blanche on the Lam and ends up pretending to be a housekeeper for another family in order to hide out. And wow, is it the wrong family to choose! Blanche is a keen observer who I love following along with, especially with Lisa Reneé Pitts's narration, which really places the character in your mind, letting you feel and see the world as she does.
It never occurred to me that an 11-year-old girl with a passion for poisons and a desire to be a chemist would make an excellent sleuth, but I’m sure glad it occurred to Alan Bradley, because she is! If you’re looking for a delightful and inventive series—and you enjoy reading British cozy mystery authors—look no further, and dig right into The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. While most people don’t think to run up to a dead body to investigate, Flavia de Luce does. Yes, she’s partly horrified, but the mystery always compels her, superseding any fear or disgust. Plus, Jayne Entwistle’s lovely voice in your ears is a perfect balance of sweet for this macabre-seeking character.
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts! Really, not only am I not afraid of ghosts, I love them—especially when they’re helping solve a mystery. There’s a lot to love about Alexia Gordon’s determined ghost and the down-to-earth mortal who team up to solve their first mystery in Murder in G Major. Charming and funny, Gethsemane Brown is an American musician who has moved to a small Irish town to teach music. As it turns out, the cottage she’s staying in is haunted by the ghost of a man, Eamon McCarthy, who was falsely accused of murder and needs Gethsemane to clear his name. But it’s a cozy one, so you know poking around is only going to lead to trouble! I love watching the friendship of Eamon and Gethsemane develop throughout the series, and their public arguing is always hilarious when she’s the only person who can see him. Another bonus of the audiobook is hearing the various accents of the different characters living in the town.
Miss Capability Kitty Weeks covers fashion and gossip for the New York Sentinel at the beginning of World War I. She isn’t happy with being relegated to the Ladies' Page, though. She’s always pushing to live her life on her own terms—a pretty difficult feat for a woman in the early 1900s—and, of course, finds herself snooping around to solve a murder that occurred during an event she attended. A Front Page Affair is a treat for any mystery-loving listener who’s tired of all the dead girls in crime novels, as well for fans of historical fiction. Inspired by 1910s action-film heroines, Radha Vatsal gets the era’s details, from its fashion to society’s view of women, just right. Justine Eyre's narration moves effortlessly between characters to bring their personalities to life, making it easy to keep track of the conversations and story. It felt like I was listening to a great TV period drama mini-series.
For a fun ride with an interesting premise, travel to 1930s England, with Rhys Bowen as your guide. Kick off with Her Royal Spyness and follow the adventures of Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie (call her Georgie), who just so happens to be King George V’s cousin. But don’t let that fool you into thinking she’s wealthy—quite the opposite—and she’s already starting off with a problem: a dead person in her tub! There are plenty of fun mysteries to solve in this 12-books-and-counting series, and the late, great Katherine Kellgren (winner of several Audie Awards and an inductee in the Audible Narrator Hall of Fame) narrates 11 of them! You’re in for a real treat if you’ve yet to discover this series.
If you’re looking for a really long-running series and love zany characters and situations, Donna Andrews has just the quirky cozy series for you! It starts, in the delightful Murder with Peacocks, with Meg Langslow having way too much on her plate—she’s maid of honor for three upcoming weddings: a friend’s, her brother’s, and her mother’s. When a former mother-in-law arrives, and dies, it’s time to add solving a murder to the to-do list! I love that the series—always with a different animal to join the antics—is voiced by beloved narrator Bernadette Dunne through all 24 books. It’s nice to have a little consistency in this very inconsistent world we live in. Plus, the series is perfect if you’re also looking for humorous mystery authors to add to your #TBLT list.
Here’s another long-running series (also with the consistency of the same narrator, yay!) that is perfect for fans of furballs—writer Rita Mae Brown even shares coauthor credit with her own feline, Sneaky Pie. In Wish You Were Here, you’ll be pleased to meet Mary Minor Harry Haristeen and her collaborators in crime-solving. When people suddenly start turning up dead in her small Virginia town, Mary, who runs the local post office, realizes that all the recently deceased received cards with tombstones on them. Of course, she has to investigate, and Mrs. Murphy and Tucker, her cat and dog, are going to help her. They work together on the investigation—because sometimes humans just don’t get it!
Except the Dying was the first of Maureen Jennings’ famous Murdoch Mystery series. Taking place in Toronto in 1895, this classic Canadian murder mystery launched what would become the well-known and much-loved Murdoch Mystery series. This tale follows the murder of a prostitute in the streets of Toronto. The story quickly evolves into an intriguing murder mystery when the victim is found to actually be a prominent Toronto housewife. With Murdoch’s expertise and the help of Constable George Crabtree, the exciting tales of Murdoch begin. Often thought of affectionately as Canada’s Sherlock Holmes, Except the Dying was Murdoch’s debut title. The gripping audiobook is narrated by David Marantz, who expertly captures the suspense of the plot. An excellent balance of Canadiana and quintessential murder mystery, the Murdoch series is a must listen for any Canadian mystery lover.
Last, but certainly the farthest from least, is the queen of crime herself, Agatha Christie. If you’ve yet to read Dame Agatha, take a seat, put on your headphones, and discover why she’s credited with creating the modern murder mystery—starting with Murder at the Vicarage. Focused on the puzzle of murder, not the gore, her Miss Marple series gives cozy mystery fans plenty to love with enduring stories about the elderly spinster with a sharp mind for solving murders. And if, like me, you’re a lifelong fan of Christie’s, you’ll know that listening to the audiobooks again and again is the ultimate in coziness. Now I want to drop everything and enjoy a Miss Marple marathon—I'll probably end up with a new favourite, again!