I’ve only reviewed two cozy mystery novels at Books & Tea, so I easily consider myself a newbie to this genre; however, I’m already beginning to understand what elements I need to ensure I adore a cozy mystery novel.
The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weiss met two of the four requirements.
Released: March 2016
Publisher: Midnight Ink
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Synopsis: When Maddie Kosloski’s career flatlines, she retreats to her wine-country hometown for solace and cheap rent. Railroaded into managing the local paranormal museum, she’s certain the rumors of its haunting are greatly exaggerated. But a new ghost may be on the loose. A fresh corpse in the museum embroils Maddie in murders past and present.
With her high school bully as one of the officers in charge, Maddie doubts justice will be served. When one of her best friends is arrested, she’s certain it won’t be.
Maddie grapples with ghost hunters, obsessed taxidermists, and the sexy motorcyclist next door as outside forces threaten. And as she juggles spectral shenanigans with the hunt for a killer, she discovers there truly is no place like home.
The readers are told that San Benedetto, a fictional town in California, is a small town, but it didn’t feel that way, and I think the larger-than-life characters distracted me from that. On one hand, there was sprawling farm lands (even if they were vineyards for the wineries), a bar (even if it was a microbrewery), a giant hay Christmas cow that was set on fire every year, a motorcycle club, a stuffy Ladies Aide Society keen on gossip and shutting down the perfectly proper paranormal museum for good, and colorful, local history. But, it seemed that all of the residents of San Benedetto were really destined to live in Los Angeles; almost all of the characters the reader is introduced to are lawyers or financial advisers or international ambassadors or heirs to winery thrones, who wore Jimmy Choo shoes.
What can you expect when one friend has finally returned home after years of working abroad, one friend is harboring a dark secret, and one friend is accused of murder? These gals may have been besties in high school, but it’s easy to understand how they may be missing the dynamic that made them inseparable a decade earlier. I’ve grown accustomed to reading cozy mystery novels where strong, female friendships are front and center though, and I felt like that was lacking in the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum. There was this sense of disconnect between the trio– like their life experiences changed them so wholly, and I felt like they were trying to force the friendship.
That being said, I still really enjoyed the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum, I’m still going to continue on with this series, and I’m still going to definitely recommend this book. Here is why:
There is of course the more pressing matter that lands Maddie’s friend, Adele, in jail. After a dead body is found in Adele’s cafe that is scheduled to open in a a few weeks, all eyes are on Adele. It doesn’t help her case that Adele has a rocky personal history with the victim either. Throughout the novel, the reader is introduced to a handful of suspects, each with a convincing motive, but did they have the means? Weiss kept me guessing all the way to the end!
Then, there is the secondary mystery, which is paranormal in nature. When Maddie learns that one of the items in the museum may be haunted by a murderess, Maddie begins an investigation to understand why and how. She uses evidence from the murderess’s journal, a paranormal investigation, and old documents from the county court to piece together this compelling puzzle.
I don’t think I’ve ever taken to the main character in a cozy mystery novel in quite the way I have with Maddie, and I think it’s because I was able to watch her grow throughout the novel. Her job used to require her to globe-trot, but after disagreeing with the actions and ethics of her organization, Maddie finds herself unemployed and seeking a new career back in the United States. Unfortunately, the only responses she seems to be getting from potential employers is the “We’ve-decided-upon-another-candidate-at-this-time” variety (who hasn’t been there before?), which is totally fine with Maddie because she’s not so sure she really wanted those jobs anyway. Not that she particularly enjoys living in her aunt’s guest house paying rock bottom rent either.
But this is where the Paranormal Museum plays an influential role. At first, Maddie is the new and reluctant owner of the museum, but overtime, she begins to appreciate the opportunity for freedom and creativity she finds there. Soon, she begins to brainstorm ideas to turn the museum into a tourist attraction worthy enough of the winery tours and the flaming, hay Christmas Cow. And you know what? The ideas are really clever, and I’m really excited to see what Maddie and the Paranormal Museum have in store for me later in the series.
I told you that cats were a requirement to guarantee unwavering love for a cozy mystery novel, and Kirsten Weiss delivers. Our feline friend in the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum is called GD Cat– that’s short for Ghost Detecting Cat. I’m sure you can guess what he does. He’s a wonderful, slinky companion for a perfectly proper paranormal museum.
I’ve never read a cozy mystery series starter until now, and I’m finding that I have a kind of attachment to the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum series. I want to see how this series progresses. I want to see what Maddie Kosloski has in store for the Paranormal Museum. I want to see what other spooks haunt the building. I want to see the Grand Opening of Adele’s tea room. I want to get to know Harper a little more. And I want to see the friendship between Maddie, Harper, and Adele grow as strong as it was back in high school. Kerstin Weiss! I need book two already!
What is one of your favorite genres, and what elements do you love to see in that genre?