Friday Firsts: Cozy Christmas Mysteries by Barbara Early

death-of-a-toy-soldier.jpgIt’s been a while since I wrote a Friday Firsts post. And yes, I realize it’s Saturday. But with the holiday this week, my days are mixed up! I intended to post this on Friday, and since today feels like Friday, here you go – a Friday Firsts! This month, I read my first cozy Christmas mystery, Death of a Toy Soldier by Barbara Early. I liked it so much that I immediately read the sequel, Murder on the Toy Town Express. Before I get into the books, let me answer the question you’re probably asking yourself…what is a cozy Christmas mystery?

Well, cozy mysteries are a popular genre in which the main character is usually a woman and often a small business owner of some kind. In the case of Ms. Early’s books, the main character, Liz, helps her father run an antique toy store. These kinds of stories are usually set in a small town or village, where everyone knows everyone and a stranger in town means big gossip and often trouble. The main female character essentially becomes an amateur detective, usually getting caught up in some kind of murder mystery by accident. Often, she gets involved to clear the name of a loved one or friend. She is intelligent and kind. Everyone in town knows her, likes her, and is more than willing to open up and spill the beans to her. There are some stock characters you can expect to see in these books as well – the nosy neighbor/ neighborhood gossip, the police chief/ officer who needs help solving the case, and usually an ex-boyfriend pops up at some point. Of course, there is always a lovable sidekick to help the heroine solve her case and give her laughs along the way, who is often a sister-in-law or long-time BFF. So, take all of these elements of a cozy mystery and set the story around Christmastime, and voila! You’ve got a cozy Christmas mystery.

I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara Early at a book signing at my local Barnes and Noble recently. She is a local author, and one of the things that drew me to her Vintage Toy Shop mystery series is that the books are set in a nearby town in New York. It’s always nice when your hometown gets a little literary love!

I dove into my autographed copy of Death of a Toy Soldier and quickly found that I couldn’t put it down. I was drawn right into the story. Liz and her father, Hank, are very well written characters. Liz shares the apartment over the vintage toy shop with her father, the retired chief of police who hasn’t quite grasped that he’s fully retired. When someone is found dead in the shop downstairs, Liz and Hank put themselves on the case, determined to find out who the victim and the killer are and what it had to do with their toy shop. They also hope to clear their own names in the process! What ensues is a small-town adventure filled with humor, a little love interest for Liz, a good mystery, a surprise whodunit, and a lot of puns! I really enjoyed reading this book and couldn’t wait to pick up the sequel to read about Liz and Hank’s next mysterious adventure.

Cozy mysteries were a hit with me, but I enjoy Hallmark movies, so no surprise, there, right? I always appreciate a good mystery, and Ms. Early’s books were full of surprises and very enjoyable to read. It was nice to escape the holiday craziness for a little while and curl up in front of the fire with a cozy mystery. Although this is my first set of cozies, I do think I’ll be reading more in the future…hopefully more by Barbara Early and continuing Liz’s story!


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