Small and sleepy village? Check. A gruesome and unusual murder of someone who was slightly hated, and/or, hardly known? Check. A tiny police force with an overly intelligent detective, younger/sometimes-goofy sidekick, and, possibly, a snarky medical examiner? Check. Plenty of infidelity, betrayal, and family secrets that have been hidden for years are uncovered? Check. A dog, a bookstore, a cat, or a winery involved? Check.
Although these are all elements of the popular mystery books subgenre called "cozy mysteries," they could also refer to the crime drama television series from the United Kingdom, Midsomer Murders, which is basically one, long cozy mystery that has been running since 1997.
Caroline Graham is the author and creator of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) who lives and works in the picturesque English county of Midsomer. Her first book, The Killings at Badger's Drift, was turned into the pilot that premiered in March of 1997, attracting 13.5 million viewers. The quiet village of Badger's Drift is in an uproar after a spinster whose only hobby was making homemade cookies is murdered. It attracts the attention of Barnaby, who begins to discover Badger's Drift has plenty of horrible scandals to hide.
Of course, an unusual number of murders occurs in the county of Midsomer (unlucky for the residents, but lucky for our entertainment), and the episodes are always known for their high body count. Tom (and later on, his cousin John) has plenty of detective sargents to assist him over the years: DS Gavin Troy, DS Dan Scott, DS Ben Jones, DS Charlie Nelson, and, currently, DS Jamie Winter.
Like me, have you seen (or binged-watched, which is not easy since the episodes are an hour and a half long) all of the episodes of Midsomer Murders that have been made so far? There are plenty of books in the catalog that are in a similar vein to Midsomer episodes: plenty of murder, mayhem, and... coziness.
Author Anthony Horowitz adapted quite a few of Caroline Graham's novels into episodes, including The Killings at Badger's Drift. In Horowitz's Magpie Murders, editor Susan Ryeland is reluctantly about to begin editing Alan Conway's latest novel. Conway is famous for his troubling behavior, and, if Susan wants to keep her job, she must keep reading his monotonous manuscripts. The latest concerns a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Typical Conway subject. However, as Susan reads, she feels as if there's something else in the pages of the manuscript... something that involves a genuine murder. In this creative and intriguing twist on British crime, Horowitz lets the reader become the detective. This is the first in the Susan Ryeland series.
The Thursday Murder Club meets in the Jigsaw Room of a retirement village to discuss unsolved crimes. But, when a local developer is discovered dead with a photo next to his body, they find themselves in the middle of their first real case.
In Murder in G Major, Gethsemane Brown's options for a career in music are limited, so she accepts the position of turning a group of uninterested schoolboys into an award-winning orchestra. The perk is the lovely cliffside cottage she rents, but the catch is the cottage is haunted. The murdered owner, falsely accused of killing his wife, comes forward one night and begs her to clear his name so he can rest in peace. But, Gethsemane's investigation provokes someone who is determined to keep the secret she is trying to uncover. This is the first in the Gethsemane Brown mystery series.
It's a Wicked Autumn for Max Tudor, who is a vicar (and a former MI5 agent) in the small English village of Nether Monkslip when the unpopular president of the local Women's Institute turns up dead at a harvest fair. The death looks like an accident, but Max suspects something sinister. The first book in the Max Tudor series.
When Mma Precious Ramotswe sets up her own detective agency - The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, she finds cases are hard to come by. But eventually cheating husbands, insane doctors, and a possible witch doctor-related disappearance come knocking on her tiny van door. The first book in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.
Murder Is Binding for city native Tricia Miles, who meets friendly competition when she opens her mystery bookstore in the small village of Stoneham - that is, until she finds her competitor, Doris, dead from a carving knife, and the tide quickly turns. Doris had recently purchased a rare cookbook - which is now missing - and many locals think the thief is Tricia. The first in the Bookshop Murders mystery series.
Aunty Lee runs a popular Singapore café and graciously supports her stepson, but his wife is problematic and untrustworthy, along with his new assistant Laura. When Laura doesn't show up to work, Aunty suspects she may be the unidentified woman found on the beach. When she is proven correct, she immediately jumps into the investigation with Salim Mawar, the lead detective on the case, and her reluctant assistant Nina. The first in the Aunty Lee mystery series.
A suspicious death occurs in a rural village south of Montreal. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team must investigate Jane Neal, whose death is said to be a tragic hunting accident and nothing more. But Gamache knows something is up in this tiny village, and the secrets it hides are more sinister than he could imagine. Still Life is the first in the very popular Gamache series.
Two corpses appear amid stolen goods and ancient bones at a Navajo burial site in A Thief of Time. Policemen Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee dive into the past to unearth the horrifying truth behind the murders. The first book in the Leaphorn and Chee mystery series.
If you want to get started on the TV series, check out the DVDs in the catalog. The 21st season, which began in 2020, has had only two new episodes that have premiered in the UK. Due to the COVID-19 virus, production of the show been put on hold for now. Here's to hoping we'll see Barnaby and his team solving a cozy and wild mystery in 2021.