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Enchantment & Intrigue: Magical Cozy Mysteries to Enliven Your Bookshelf

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Anne Mai Yee Jansen

Contributor

Anne Mai Yee Jansen is a literature and ethnic studies professor and a lifelong story addict. She exists on a steady diet of books and hot chocolate, with a heaping side of travel whenever possible. Originally hailing from the sun and sandstone of southern California, she currently resides with her partner, offspring, and feline companion in the sleepy mountains of western North Carolina.

If you haven’t experienced magical cozy mysteries before, well, you should. Seriously, you’re missing out. After all, genre mash-ups are amazing, and the combo of fantasy and cozy mysteries is no exception!

There’s no limit to the forms magical cozy mysteries can take. Sure, the mystery element’s gonna be there. But as for the magical part…that’s the wild card. There are plenty of witchy cozy mysteries, but there are also cozy mysteries featuring mermaids, faeries, vampires, ghosts — you name it, I can almost guarantee someone’s written it.

Of course, “magical” doesn’t have to refer to the characters themselves. A cozy mystery might deliver its magic in the form of a library with portals to parallel worlds, charmed baking, or even — one of my personal faves — a talking cat. Sometimes, the story world delivers all the enchantment you could ever ask for. I mean, how can you put down a book where the protagonist is trapped inside their magical mansion?

However the magic appears, the point is that cozy mysteries with a fantasy twist are super fun. As the summertime stretches along and autumn lurks in the wings, pick up a magical cozy mystery. You won’t regret it!

Mimi Lee Gets a Clue by Jennifer J. Chow book cover

Mimi Lee Gets a Clue by Jennifer J. Chow

Remember how I mentioned talking cats above? Jennifer J. Chow’s Sassy Cat Mystery series is the reason. Currently weighing in at three books, this humorous series features the lovable pet groomer Mimi Lee and her extremely unlikely sidekick, Marshmallow. If you guessed that Marshmallow is the talking cat, you’re right. The dynamic between the two characters is really nicely done, and when they get down to the business of solving murders the antics that ensue are purrfectly delightful.

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies by Misha Popp book cover

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies by Misha Popp

There are two books in the Pies Before Guys series right now, and this reader is hoping for more! I love the whole trope of baking magic into food, and Misha Popp’s premise puts a wicked spin on it: Daisy Ellery isn’t magicking love into her pies, she’s imbuing them with the power to kill. Don’t worry, Daisy’s not a serial killer or anything — she bakes murderous vengeance into her pies and delivers them to the rotten men who’ve done wrong by the women in their lives. Despite all the death-by-pie happening in these books, it’s the murders that Daisy doesn’t induce that present the central mystery in each book. A nice twist on a popular trope, for sure.

A Spell for Trouble by Esme Addison book cover

A Spell for Trouble by Esme Addison

Esme Addison’s Enchanted Bay Mystery series has it all: quaint seaside town, protagonist returning home after a long time away, small-town gossip…oh yeah, and mermaids. Protagonist Alex has stayed away from Bellamy Bay for a long time, but when she returns she discovers that her family and their apothecary aren’t just rumored to be magical — they really are. As she comes to terms with her roots, Alex leans into the town’s unique culture and history. However, the murders in this two-book series require Alex’s attention, and there’s a lot at stake.

The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian book cover

The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian

The Accidental Alchemist is the first book in this (currently) seven-book series that keeps one foot in Portland, Oregon, and the other in Paris, France. Zoe Faust is what you might call a reluctant alchemist. She’s been burned in the past and is ready to give up her craft, but when she, er, acquires a gargoyle named Dorian it’s pretty hopeless to think she might have an ordinary existence. Then again, neither Zoe nor Dorian is ordinary, so it’s really for the best. Various murders, mysteries, and unusual happenings keep them busy in this highly original series featuring recipes alongside the mayhem (I mean, Dorian does enjoy cooking, after all).

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman book cover

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

One of the cleverest aspects of the Invisible Library series is that the premise allows Cogman to genre-hop in each new book. Irene is a Librarian, but that doesn’t mean what you might think it does. She works for The Library to acquire rare books across parallel worlds…and she does this alongside her unusual assistant Kai. There are eight books (so far) in the Invisible Library series, and each book has a distinct flavor tied to whatever reality Irene and Kai (and their quirky friends and enemies) enter into. There are dragons and fae and a whole lot of big questions that are satisfyingly developed across the books in this series.

Keeper of Enchanted Rooms by Charlie N. Holmberg book cover

Keeper of Enchanted Rooms by Charlie N. Holmberg

Keeper of Enchanted Rooms is the first in the two-book Whimbrel House series (with another on the way in early 2024), and it’s a fascinating read. Unlike many of the cozy mysteries on this list, Holmberg’s series is set in the past — in the mid-1800s, to be exact. The first book introduces Merritt Fernsby and his temperamental house (the titular Whimbrel House), which is acting up so much that house tamer Hulda Larkin has to step in and help him figure out what’s going on with the house so it can settle down a bit. As the first two books progress, Merritt’s understanding of his house and himself deepens and the magic in this cozy series comes out in more ways than one.

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna book cover

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

A rarity in the world of cozy mysteries, magical or otherwise, Sangu Mandanna’s book is a standalone. Admittedly, it’s a little more cozy than it is mystery, but it’s so good I had to include it on this list. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches follows modern-day witch Mika Moon as she transforms from a somewhat meek woman fading into the background of ordinary society into a confident teacher at an orphanage. With a cast of eccentric characters, including a cantankerous love interest, there’s already a lot to enjoy before the looming threat of exposure threatens to take away everything Mika has finally found.

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd book cover

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

Almost the inverse of Mandanna’s book, Shepherd’s book is a little more mystery than it is cozy — but it’s a fascinating read. The premise is that maps have magical powers. Nell Young has been eking out a living as a cartographer whose father caused her fall from grace. When the seemingly trivial map that resulted in both her public humiliation and their personal rift seems to be connected to her father’s death, Nell has limited time to unravel the powers and mysteries of cartography before she gets even more embroiled in the deadly power struggle she’s unwittingly found herself in.

More, Please!

I’m a firm believer that you can never have too much cozy or too much magic in your life. With that in mind, delve into these lists of fantasy mystery books and witchy mysteries. If you’re hoping to stay on top of all the brilliant new releases, then peruse the titles of new cozy mysteries released in 2023! Lastly, if it’s cozy you seek (regardless of sub-genre), you can pick a cozy book to dive into this summer.