What do hats, cupcakes, and a public library have in common? Cozy writer Jenn McKinlay, of course! McKinlay decided she wanted to be a writer after watching Kathleen Turner in the film Romancing the Stone.
In an interview with Vanessa Westermann, she said, “I’d always loved mysteries but didn’t think I was smart enough to plot one. When I failed at writing romance the first go-round, it seemed that I had nothing to lose, so I went for it!”
In McKinlay’s bio, she elaborated on why mystery writing suited her better: “I'm just better at killing people than I am at making them fall in love. Knowing this, my husband sleeps really well at night, really!”
In addition to those three series mentioned above, she’s also written other cozy series under the names Josie Bell and Lucy Lawrence.
Here’s where to get started with Jenn McKinlay and her cozy mysteries.
Cloche and Dagger
What do you do when your worst moment is captured on video and goes viral? You leave the country. That’s what Scarlett Parker decides to do after confronting her former fiancé over his cheating. Scarlett decides to take her British cousin Vivian “Viv” Tremont up on her offer to go to London and help out at Mims’s Whims, a hat shop that they both inherited. But when Scarlett touches down in London, she cannot find Viv. On top of that, one of Viv’s clients has been murdered wearing nothing but the hat Viv designed for her. Can Scarlett find Viv and figure out what is going on? It’s the first book in this seven-book (so far) Hat Shop Mystery series.
The origin story of this series is pretty amazing. In her Westermann interview, McKinlay said, “I came up with the idea during the royal wedding when Princess Beatrice showed up in “that hat” and I was upset that everyone was being so awful, and then I thought, if I were her, I’d want to strangle the person who designed that hat. Boom. A series was born.”
Sprinkle with Murder
What do you do when one of your best friends is marrying a terrible woman? You agree to cater their wedding anyway. That’s what Melanie “Mel” Cooper and Angie DeLaura decide to do after opening their long-awaited Fairy Tale Cupcakes bakery. After all, their BFF Tate is a silent partner in the bakery as well. As much as they try to work with his fiancé, she’s really a piece of work. She’s a fashion designer who tries to squeeze as much out of people as she can, even her fiancée’s best friends.
But when Mel finds the fiancé dead , rumors and serious accusations fly. Plus there’s a rival bakery/nemesis who's gladly fanning the flames. Can Mel and Angie find out who hated the fiancé enough to kill her? It’s the first of 15 books (the latest comes out in October 2023) in the Cupcake Bakery Mystery series.
Books Can Be Deceiving
When you start over, it can be hard to find your footing. However, Lindsey Norris has practically hit the jackpot after quitting her Yale University library job and leaving her fiancée. She’s found a job as the director of the public library in Briar Creek, CT and gets to work with her best friend, Beth Stanley, who works as the children’s librarian there. She is changing things up a bit, including adding a "Crafternoon" book club. Plus there’s a cute captain. This new start would be perfect, except Lindsey can’t stand her BFF’s boyfriend, an award-winning children’s book illustrator. Doubly so when they have a messy public breakup.
But when he is found dead in his home, everyone thinks that Beth has taken their breakup to the extreme. Lindsey now has to use her library sleuthing skills to save her best friend. It’s the first in the Library Lovers Mystery Series, with the 14th coming out in February 2024.
50% Off Murder
This series was penned under McKinlay's pseudonym Josie Belle. What’s more fun than shopping? Getting a good deal. That’s what Good Buy Girls are all about. But founding member Maggie Gerber is worried about the newest member of the club, Claire Fremont, who doesn’t seem like herself. Then Maggie has even more reason to be worried when Claire is accused of murder by Maggie’s ex-boyfriend—and new sheriff of St. Stanley, Virginia. Can Maggie and the other club members figure out who killed the dead man and pinned the receipt on Claire? It’s the first in the five-book Good Buy Girls mystery series.
Stuck on Murder
Written under the name Lucy Lawrence, the first of three books in the Decoupage Mystery series focuses on the decorating technique of decoupage, which the Encyclopedia Britannica defines as “the art of cutting and pasting cutouts to simulate painting on a wood, metal, or glass surface.” Brenna has left the big city and bad memories behind to live and teach decoupage in Morse Point. But when the mayor is found dead in a truck in the lake, Brenna’s landlord, Nate, is suspect number one after a property dispute. Now Brenna has to cut and glue all the pieces together to free Nate.
Featured photo: Robert Anasch / Unsplash