“Year-Round Trouble: 14 Cozy Holiday Mysteries”
Editor: Susan Y. Tanner
Publisher: Kalioka Press
A reminder: a cozy is a mystery with little or no onstage violence, little blood, profanity or sex. The problem may be murder, but may be theft or even a misunderstanding. Most cozies have small-town settings, and the detective, the problem-solver, usually an amateur, almost always female, is assisted by a quirky friend or friends.
Susan Tanner, working for Kalioka Press, has recruited 14 cozy writers—13 are female—to set these original stories at holidays around the calendar. The first is a Mardi Gras story, the last set on New Year’s Eve. There is a Christmas story, Easter, Thanksgiving, 4th of July. You get it. Conceivably, a person could read these from holiday to holiday, as appropriate, but most cozy-ites will just settle in and read it through, I am sure.
Some 25 years ago, the prolific Carolyn Haines, a contributor to this volume, created a cat character named Familiar—a witch’s animal assistant was often called a Familiar. He was a cat spiderman who escaped from a research lab, and was gifted with powers of observation, deduction and intellect.
Now, in “Year-Round Trouble,” each story is introduced and partly narrated by a handsome black cat named Trouble, the son of Familiar. Trouble is the able assistant to the sleuth here, even if the “biped” doesn’t realize it. (The only bloodshed in these stories is when Trouble scratches a villain.)
Trouble lives with the biped Tammy Lynn who owns a bookstore, The Book Basket, in Wetumpka, Alabama. Trouble is a feline genius. He can understand all human speech. He can read. He cannot write because of his deplorable lack of opposable thumbs. He’s unable to speak, exactly, but meows meaningfully and from time to time behaves like Lassie, leading humans to say something like “That cat is acting like he wants us to follow him.”
Trouble’s hero being Sherlock Holmes, he has developed an irritating British accent. In “Trouble Goes A-Haunting” he teams up with a gigantic Maine Coon Cat named Diesel. Trouble tells us “This big furball seems like a right good bloke.”
Diesel is almost as smart as Trouble. He can read a little and is a cat empath, like Counselor Troi in “Star Trek.” He “can zero in on what is bothering a human.”
All this is given. Accept the premises or stay away.
Tammy Lynn, we are told, is travelling around, visiting friends, on vacation, so Trouble is present at 14 locations spread around the country from Liberty, Indiana to San Francisco.
In each location, a difficulty arises and a different local problem-solver, usually the heroine of her own cozy series, is joined by Trouble and they sleuth together.
My favorite story was probably “The Trouble with Mobsters,” the least cozy, set at Thanksgiving in rural Georgia. In this piece, pistols are actually fired in anger, although no one is hit. There is a car chase, and even a crash, but no one is hurt.
There are Russian mobsters named Andropov and Rostov who drive an Escalade. Recently I have read books in which New Orleans pimps, Atlanta pimps and here Russian gangsters drive Escalades. They are roomy and reliable, yes, and it’s patriotic of the mobsters to buy American, sure, but I wonder what the Cadillac Division of General Motors thinks about this.
Is all advertising good advertising?
This a large, generous book, 463 pages. If you are a cozy reader, “Year-Round Trouble” will be a treat. If, not, not.
Don Noble is host of the Alabama Public Television literary interview show “Bookmark with Don Noble.” His most recent book is Belles’ Letters 2, a collection of short fiction by Alabama women.