Jennifer J. Chow, Agatha and Lefty Award-nominated author, wants to bring readers joy and hope with her mystery cozy series. She’s written two cozy mystery series and a third one will be launching in February 2024.
Chow grew up reading Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew as well as having a “mini-book club” with her mother as they enjoyed Agatha Christie’s works. Cozies were wonderful puzzles that were lighthearted and perfect for a great multi-generational read with grandparents, parents, and children who could enjoy them together without worrying about gore, overt violence, or foul language. Growing up reading mysteries, she did not see many main characters who looked like her. She's excited that cozies are now starting to better reflect the genre’s diverse readership.
In her work, Chow brings in different kinds of relationships and perspectives. She also brings together different familial relationships, whether it’s two sisters, two cousins who grew up on different continents, or a mother-daughter relationship.
Food features largely in Chow’s work. Two of her series, including her forthcoming book, are food cozies, while her first series may not focus on food, it’s still part of the narrative. When her second series, the LA Night Market came out, she told Murder & Mayhem, “it’s a nice common ground for people to focus on… We share meals; we break bread with friends or families, and get to know new people through meals…it's hospitality, offering, at least for me personally, from my background, my family, my culture. It's that gift of love.”
Ill-Fate Fortune: A Magical Fortune Cookie Novel (2/20/24)
In the first in her newest series, food is magic. Not just metaphorically but literally. Felicity Jin’s family has infused magic into their baked goods; her mom owns a bakery in Pixie, California where she weaves joy into her pineapple puns and egg tarts. For most of her life, Felicity or “Lissa” feels left out, after showing no evidence of magic or ability to bake. But one day, Lissa discovers she can make handmade fortune cookies that make people happy when they eat them. Not only that, but she also realizes that she can give personalized fortunes to people…that come true. When a customer turns up dead in their alley with his daunting fortune in his hand, Lissa has to clear her name.
Chow got the idea from her life-long love of fortune cookies. She remembers going on a special field trip to a fortune cookie factory in Chinatown in elementary school. She was so excited to watch them make the cookies and slip in the fortunes. “I kinda identified with the fortune cookie. It's kind of my life as a mix of identities, because I'm Chinese American. So it kind of resonated with me that way. It was interesting to research the origin of fortune cookies…that there's Japanese roots,” Chow said.
When asked about food being magical, Chow explained, “the love of making the food and also this idea of creating food, it's magical in itself because you're taking all these ingredients and Poof! You’ve made it into something else… I also want to explore the world. The reader is finding out the magic along with Felicity.”
Plus Chow loves focusing on the mother-daughter relationship as well as the fact that Lissa is third generation. “It’s not quite a typical immigrant story or second generation,” Chow pointed out, “What does that look like for her and her family?” Plus Chow wanted to pay homage to Miss Marple with her small community in St. Mary Mead.
Death by Bubble Tea: LA Night Market Series
Death by Bubble Tea
The first in the two book series (so far) features Yale Yee who has been asked by her father to give her cousin Celine a tour of Los Angeles. She hasn’t seen Celine for twenty years and it's clear that they are very different. Celine is social media and status-obsessed while Yale doesn’t even own a cellphone. Yale’s dad thinks that the best way to get the two cousins to reconnect is to run a food stall representing the family restaurant at the new Night Market. Yale decides to run the stall even if she hasn’t cooked in a while, and Celine brings up marketing ideas that do bring people to the stall. But when one of their customers shows up dead with their bubble tea concoction in her hand, the cousins now have to clear their name.
Chow wanted to tell this story because she wanted to use the fun environment of the night market which are found in Asia, Canada and the US: “It’s a nighttime festival and this would be a great place to hide clues and have suspects with a twist I haven’t seen before…I like bubble tea and it’s fascinating to put that in more food and snacks that I don’t necessarily see in cozy mystery.”
In addition, Chow wanted to feature two cousins, although very different, have to work together to solve the murder. Celine is from Hong Kong in a glamorous social strata while Yale and her father live in the US where he worked to build his restaurant from the ground up. Chow said, it was a way to “explore those different things like what is Asian identity? And how does it differs if you're in America versus someplace else, and then how the different backgrounds can happen.”
Book Two Hot Pot Murder was just nominated for a Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel in 2024. Check out this 2022 interview with Jennifer J. Chow about LA Night Market Series.
Mimi Lee Gets Clue: A Sassy Cat Mystery
Mimi Lee Gets A Clue
When Mimi Lee opened up her new Los Angeles pet grooming shop, she hadn’t expected to get a new cat named Marshmallow who talks to her. As if that wasn’t hard enough, Mimi finds herself accused of murder after she’s seen arguing with a local breeder who was hurting the dogs he was breeding. With Marshmallow’s help and an attractive junior lawyer named Josh to help her out, Mimi seeks out clues to find the real murderer. There’s three books in this series so far.
When coming up with the series, Chow recalls her love of the comic Garfield. She had been thinking about developing Marshmallow as a character. It would be fun to dive into owner connections and what happened if we could communicate with our pets. Chow said in a previous interview with Murder & Mayhem, “Marshmallow can say things to Mimi, and obviously Josh can’t hear it and so there’s that comedic element when Josh misinterprets [something]. Then Marshmallow also gets some snarky comments of his own on their human relationships.”
We can’t wait for everyone to read Chow’s newest series!