An Orkney Cozy

skara brae 4
Excavation of a Neolithic house at Skara Brae, Orkney. Courtesy Wknight94 via Wikimedia Commons

Jeanne M. Dams has created a near-perfect crime-solving duo in Dorothy Martin and Alan Nesbit, who travel the British Isles and sometimes beyond solving village mysteries. In the latest in this long-running series, Shadows of Death, Martin, Nesbit, and their beloved dog, Watson, travel to Orkney to visit an archeological dig. Humans have been on the islands for a long time, and the couple is fascinated. However, when they attend a meeting of the organization responsible for the dig, fissures appear. The money man for the group is an obnoxious American hell-bent on finding Viking gold (despite the fact that the site is much older than that) and a farmer whose land borders the archeological site has his own ax to grind. When the American donor is found dead at the site, it looks like a death by misadventure, but it doesn't take long for suspicion to fall on the eccentric head of the local museum, who is behaving in an even more peculiar manner than usual. It's up to Dorothy and Alan to assist the overstretched constabulary in finding the truly guilty party.

What makes these books special is not just their affinity for the places Martin and Nesbit visit, but their vibrant characterizations and emotional resonance. By now, the two main characters have developed deep back stories that let even first-time readers feel as if they have known them a long time. Watson the dog is sometimes helpful in solving the cases, but Dams allows him to be wet and muddy indoors as well. If you like English cozies, but soon tire of so many murders occurring in one place, this is the series for you.

The Body in the Transept by Jeanne M. Dams. The first in the Dorothy Martin series, in which Dorothy meets Alan, a constable, while snooping around a murder during the holiday season.

The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett. The introductory book in the Fethering cozy series by the prolific mystery author finds retiree Carole Seddon and her free-spirited neighbor Jude joining forces for the first time.

Something Borrowed, Someone Dead by M.C. Beaton. The lastest in the popular Agatha Raisin series, in which somewhat vain and secretly insecure Agatha takes charge of investigating the murder of a merry widow who had a penchant for borrowing things and keeping them in a case.