14 Cozy Whodonnits to Read (and watch!)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Reading is always wonderful this time of year, but there's something infinitely cozy about curling up in autumn with a good mystery--especially ones that feel a little lighter. My favorites always focus more on the unfurling mystery and characters who make me care for them, rather than say, the darker, grimmer side of the genre. Here's some of my favorite cozy mysteries. 

Perfect period mysteries 

Murder on the Orient Express, The Body in the LibraryThe A.B.C. Murders
The undisputed Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie is one of the most prolific writers in her genre. With over 60 detective novels and 14 short story collections, she's covered almost every type of crime imaginable. Her books were the first real mysteries I fell in love with and are the perfect cozy read. The above titles feature her two most famous sleuths: Hercule Poirot (a small, impressively-mustachioed Belgian detective) and Miss Marple (a twinkling-eyed elderly lady from a small village).  

Hercule features in both Murder on the Orient Express and The A.B.C. Murders. The first explores a murder aboard a snowed-in train with 14 passengers; the second involves a national search for a killer who strikes down his victims in alphabetical order. 

Miss Marple comes to the rescue of a respectable, retired couple when they discover the body of a young woman in their library one day. Rumors fly in the local village--was it an affair? Was it a crime of passion? No one knows who the girl is and before long, another body is discovered. 

Everyday mysteries with a touch of philosophy

The Isabel Dalhousie series

These books feel so gentle and comforting to me--like pale, dappled sunlight through a window on a cool day. Set in gorgeous Edinburgh and richly descriptive, the series follows the life of Isabel Dalhousie, a philosopher and editor of an ethics journal. Incredibly inquisitive and thoughtful, Isabel ponders everyday moral quandaries as well as small mysteries she encounters. If you're looking for a true mystery with a neatly tied-up ending, these might not be for you. But they can be a welcome change from books about violent or disturbing crimes. 

Unofficial sleuths

Lord Peter Wimsey: Whose Body?, Death on Demand: White Elephant DeadFather Brown mysteries

Imagine Agatha Christie meets P.G. Wodehouse and you have Lord Peter Wimsey. A foppish aristocratic gentleman with a keen interest in crime, he boasts an impressible crime library. His solemn valet, Bunter, moonlights as his Watson. 

I have a soft spot in my heart for White Elephant Dead, my first venture into the Death on Demand books. Set on a small island, the series chronicles the adventures of amateur sleuth Annie Darling who owns a mystery bookshop. Come for the premise, stay for the countless mystery title references, delicious food descriptions, and the aptly-named resident bookshop cat, Agatha.

Of course, I couldn't write about mysteries and not mention Father Brown. A small, rotund priest with a penchant for solving mysteries, he triumphs through both his understanding of human nature and theological background. The TV show starring Mark Williams (Mr. Weasley!) is also wonderful. 

TV series

Murder She Wrote
I adore Angela Lansbury in...well, anything. She shines here as J.B. Fletcher, an accidental mystery writer and sleuth in a picturesque Maine. The show ran for 12 years; while it's firmly characterized by the '80s (the hair, the glasses, the clothes!), it's a classic for a reason. 

Father Brown
While very different, at times, in artistic interpretation from the short stories, I love Mark William's wry portrayal Father Brown. The gang of supporting characters (prim parish secretary, roguish chauffeur, and wealthy neighboring Countess) are likewise perfectly brilliant. 

No explanation needed. Present day interpretation of Sherlock Holmes in modern London. Benedict Cumberbatch. Andrew Scott. Martin Freeman. As you were. 

Agatha Christie's Poirot
The best--and only--Poirot on screen, in my opinion. Each episode is not only faithful to the original plot line, but also extremely well done. 

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
Based on Kerry Greenwood's book series. Set during the 1920s in Australia, it's pure flapper fun watching Phryne Fisher--a woman of great independence and plenty of money--solve mysteries. 

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