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Where to Start with the Versatile Author Olivia Matthews and Her Cozy Series

Sleuthing across genres.

Olivia Matthew's cozy mystery series

Author Olivia Matthews wants to take ordinary characters and put them in extraordinary circumstances to find the hero inside with her mysteries and romances. She’s written over twenty books in suspense romance, contemporary romance, and cozy murder mysteries. 

Matthews started writing romance suspense under her name Patricia Sargeant (Matthews is her pseudonym for her cozies) and came to mysteries in a roundabout way. She explained, “When I imagined my career as a published author, I saw myself writing romantic suspense, and sci-fi fantasy. My husband refers to the romantic suspense as my murder, death, kill books.” But when romance suspense became less popular, she was encouraged to write contemporary romance. “I said to my husband, ‘I don't know if I could plot a story without a dead body,’” she explained.

But when she realized that the difference between romantic suspense and contemporary romance was that the former involved an external villain, while the latter dealt with inner demons. “I always wanted to make my way back to murder death kill,” she continued, “Maybe I'll kind of move sideways back to my goal by writing mysteries.”

The opportunity presented itself when Matthews worked at Ohio Dominican University when she met one of the Sisters who worked there. “She could see beyond the surface and connect things that you do not think at first blush would be connected. And I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, she would be such a great amateur sleuth.”

And thus Matthews began her writing cozy mystery series, with three series under her belt (so far).

mayhem and mass: a sister lou mystery

Mayhem & Mass: A Sister Lou Mystery

By Olivia Matthews

Her first cozy series focuses on Sister Louise “Lou” who has to solve the murder of friend and controversial theology professor Maurice Jordan. She had invited him as a guest to speak at the St. Hermione of Ephesus Feast Day but someone had other plans. After failing to show up for his speech, Sister Lou finds her friend dead, clearly murdered. With her nephew Chris LaSalle and a reporter, they have to figure out who wanted the scholar dead.

In addition to being inspired by a Sister at Ohio Dominican, Matthews wanted Sister Lou to help dispel common misconceptions of women religious, “The perception of women religious is that they're very myopic, and just concerned with the religious orders. That is absolutely not true.”

Matthews added, “Women religious are very involved in many of them are very involved in social justice, health care, a living wage, quality of life and education.”

She wanted to make Sister Lou a relatable character with a sense of humor and empathy. There are three books in the Sister Lou series.

murder by page one by olivia matthews

Murder by Page One: A Peach Coast Library Mystery

By Olivia Matthews

This two-book series stars Brooklyn-born Marvey Harris who has moved to small town Peach Coast, Georgia to work at their local library. She befriends the local bookstore owner Jo Gomez but when one of the authors dies in the storeroom of the shop, Marvey decides she has to clear her friend’s name.

With the Peach Coast series, Matthews explained that she wanted to write a fish out of water story because “it allows you to see a different way to learn about a different culture or region with kind of a more humorous take on it, rather than a scholastic.”

She chose to have a native New Yorker go to a small southern town since she grew up in Brooklyn rather than the other way around.

photo of Olivia Matthews
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  • photo of Olivia Matthews

    Photo Credit: Michael A. Matthews

But she also wants the books to highlight the undermining of the library system.

“Libraries are not just about borrowing books,” Matthews said, “As an example, when a community is suffering through a natural disaster, the majority of the time civic leaders put resources at the library to serve the communities.”

But she’s seeing more and more people dismiss libraries, saying that they could just go to Amazon or a bookstore. 

“One of the things that I wanted to explain through the series was the importance of community support. The community support for the library is, in part, what the community bases the library budget [on].” 

Against the Currant by Olivia Matthews

Against the Currant: A Spice Isle Bakery Mystery

By Olivia Matthews

Matthew’ newest series brings her back home to Brooklyn. Lyndsay Murray is finally living her dream of opening a bakery with her family in Little Caribbean, Brooklyn. While people seem excited about the bakery bringing in Grenadian baked goods and flavors, not everyone is happy with the new business. Things get rocky when Claudio Fabrizi, an ornery owner of another bakery in the neighborhood, is found dead and the police think Murray is behind it, thanks to an argument Murray and Fabrizi had the previous day. She’ll have to save her reputation and save her business. Book Two Hard Dough Homicide just came out in May 2023.

With this series, Matthews wanted to write a mystery series based on a fictitious Caribbean island. When her agent recommended having the series take place in the US instead and for Matthews to lean into her background and heritage, she decided, “I’m from Grenada. How about we have a Grenadian family in the little Caribbean neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, which is  a real neighborhood and they open a bakery.”

Her agent loved it. 

One of the best parts about this series for Matthews is that people take something “tangible” back with them. “One of the greatest compliments I have ever received is one of the reviews for Hard Dough Homicide. The reader said that before reading this series, they didn't know anything about Caribbean culture. And now after reading the first two books in the trilogy, they want to know more, that is a huge compliment.” 

Returning to the theme of heroes, Matthews explained that with her works, “I'm hoping to inspire other people to realize you are stronger than you may think you are. If this were you, I bet you also will be able to rise to the occasion."

Under her name Patricia Sargeant, she’ll be releasing a new romantic suspense series called Down to the Wire: Touré Security Group later in the fall.