I just finished reading a series of 20 (so far) cozy mystery novels that make up The Pitkirtly Mysteries by Cecilia Peartree. There are also a couple of short story collections in the same setting but I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet.
The Pitkirtly Mysteries are very character driven books. While the plots were interesting, it was the characters that kept me on my reading marathon through the series. The main protagonists are a quirky, eccentric, mainly introverted group who range from middle age to retirees. I wasn’t completely charmed by the characters with the first book “Crime in the Community,” but by the second book, “Reunited in Death” I started really liking them.
Things I liked about these cozies is that they work their charm without becoming sickeningly sweet:
- No recipes or elaborate foodieness. The characters all seem to exist on tea, coffee, donuts from the supermarket, packaged cookies (biscuits), local beer and occasionally fish and chips.
- No romance and no endless romantic dithering, self doubt or endless angst. It’s not that the characters are immune, it’s just that they are Scottish and tend to mostly shove romantic thoughts to the side and get on with trying to solve either the mystery at hand or just get through the day. So if you are looking for a middle aged woman romantically pining over her shirtless hunk of a neighbor who’s name is “Hawk”, look elsewhere.
- No super quaint setting. Pitkirtly is definitely NOT a picture perfect thatched roof village. It’s a former coal mining town that’s past it’s heyday that is unsuccessfully struggling to stay alive. Yet it is not static, businesses come and go on the High Street, new County Council schemes get built and then allowed to molder and occasionally new doughnut flavors appear at the supermarket. All to the good, the setting provides interest for the reader but does not get in the way.
- The characters age over the course of 20 novels. Some of the more elderly characters remain spry but become less sure of themselves. It’s a subtle depiction of real life and is well done.
Some of the above might sound like negatives, but the author blends all these together very deftly over the series. She avoids what I consider the pitfall of many modern cozies by not getting too cute, too sweet or overdoing the romance.
The characters, make this mystery series. As I started each novel I felt like I was hanging out with old friends. And yet the mysteries kept me engaged. I give them a solid 4 out of 5 stars because I enjoyed them so much.
I bought these on Kobo at US .99 cents per book (with some freebies), so for less than US $20 you can immerse yourself in this cozy world without breaking the budget. It also shows that it’s worth browsing through the self published ebooks wherever you buy. There are some real gems out there.
Besides Kobo, the Pitkirtly novels are also available on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Smashwords and others you can find some quick links on “Cecilia Peartree’s” blog (look at the blogroll for links.)