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8 Books to curl up with on a Winter Night

There are few things more enjoyable than curling up on a cold winter night with a good book. Here are Eight titles to get you through the cold winter nights.

1. Still Life by Louise Penny
- Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec solves a crime of passion in a quiet village with his keen powers of observation. Louise Penny has written a wonderful "cozy murder mystery." The mystery is intriguing and well laid out. It is the characters, though, that you will fall in love with. They make the story! In this book that is the first in a series, Penny does a great job "hooking" the reader so that you want to read more about Three Pines.

Not an over the top slasher gory zombie-geddan affair. No vampires, werewolves or other monster of the moment.  Rather this is a a smart witty likable who-done-it. This is a perfect book to plop down on the couch with a cup of tea, under a light blanket, while the dog snoozes by the fireplace.

2. Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason - a popular author from Iceland pens an unusual whodunit featuring Inspector Erlendur Sveinnson, a veteran detective with the Reykjavik police.

Jar City follows a not-always-linear storyline that starts with a murder in a poor neighborhood of Reykjavik and moves backward and forward to bring in rape, genetics, and murder. The principal investigator, detective inspector Erlendur (almost always referred to by his given name), doggedly pursues the case as a good crime novel detective should. What makes this novel stand out is it's exotic (to American readers) setting in Iceland. In a manner that is both fortunate and unfortunate, Indridason makes the city fairly mundane. This is fortunate because he's writing first for a domestic audience, but also because it allows the general reader to move the city somewhat into the background.

The writing is awesome!! Beautiful use of the English language. Interesting plot and characters; no handsome guys with curvy gorgeous women; no manufactured sex to hook the reader. Just a fantastic story of people it's easy to relate to.

3. Mad Mouse by Chris Grabenstein - second in the series featuring the likeable New Jersey policeman and Army Veteran John Ceepak who lives by the code "I will not lie, cheat or steal nor tolerate those who do.”

If you like a good, quick paced, murder mystery peppered with humor, "Mad Mouse" is the mystery for you. Set in a normally quiet seaside town on the Jersey Shore, policemen Ceepak and Boyle track a sniper taking pot shots at people right before the big Labor Day weekend. Grabenstein uses descriptions sparingly, giving just enough backstory to allow the reader the opportunity of filling in some character details and ambience on their own... much the way horror writer Stephen King provides just enough detail for you to scare yourself silly. Even with two murders in one summer, I want to live in Sea Haven. Great story line and surprise ending.

4. Too Darn Hot by Sandra Scoppettone—1943 Manhattan is recreated in full color from the food they ate, and the clothes they wore, to the way they spoke in this fast-paced mystery starring toughtalking, loveable private eye Faye Quick.The audience will feel as if they are transported back to 1943 NYC due to the realistic tidbits that are cleverly woven into the fine historical mystery to include idioms and slang, and references and items (artifacts?) from the WWII era. The protagonist is a tough independent Jersey girl crossing the Hudson to prove she is also a quick thinker as she connects the dots to try and does solve cases. TOO DARN HOT is a gripping private detective tale with a pulp fiction feel to its 1940s ambience.

5. The Hard Way by Carol Lea Benjamin —this time private investigator Rachel Alexander goes undercover as a homeless woman along with her pit bull Dashiell in hopes of finding a ruthless killer. This is a soft mystery book, not a lot of action, but the pace does move along from clue to clue. The books are just long enough to while away a Sunday night with a cup of cocoa. Any avid mystery reader can pick out the ending way before the last chapter; it just takes Rachel a little longer. There are moral issues involved and lots of commentary on the way of the world, so maybe this is Benjamin's soapbox.

6. The Old Wine Shades by Martha Grimes— Scotland Yard detective Richard Jury hears a compelling story from a stranger in a pub and sets out to solve the mystery. The book opens with a rather fantastic tale. Does one believe it or not? Then a woman is found murdered. Is the tale told to cover up the murder? Or, is the murder part of the tale? Parts of the tale are true. Parts are not. When we think we're finally certain of what happened & who is the criminal & we think he's finally been caught red-handed, he isn't.
It's an inconclusive, unsatisfying ending.It's a tricky story - not one you'll see in any other mystery novel. It's well worth the price of a good glass of Cabernet - maybe a glass from The Old Wine Shades!

7. The Highly Effective Detective by Richard Yancey— Meet Theodore “Teddy” Ruzak, the most unlikely private investigator in Tennessee as he somehow manages to solve his first case! The protagonist is a security guard who always dreamed of becoming a private eye. An inheritance makes it possible for him to go into business as one ... except that he has not the slightest idea of how to run a business or how to detect anything. He manages to get a client ... a guy who wants him to find the person who heartlessly ran over some goslings ... and that leads Teddy into some real detective work involving a murder. He manages to solve the case in spite of himself, with a lot of bumbling along the way. Teddy, who is remarkably knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects, is given to long, rambling digressions that make for very funny and often insightful paragraphs. Teddy's free-association style of thinking is, truth be told, probably pretty close to the way we actually process and synthesize information.

8. Out Cold by William G. Tapply
— the trail leads to New Hampshire for Boston attorney Brady Coyne when he finds the body of a pregnant teenager in the snow-covered yard of his Beacon Hill home.  Attorney Brady Coyne's virtual spouse, Evie, is out of town so Brady and dog, Henry, are on their own. It's a snowy day when Henry brings Brady's attention to a person buried under the snow in their backyard. The young woman, discovered to have miscarried, dies and no one can identify her. Brady feels responsible and is determined to find out who she is and what happened. Others die and someone wants Brady to be one of the dead.

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