I’ve always liked cozies, and several years ago I realized that, outside of Donna Andrews, I wasn’t really reading them as much as I used to; and I wasn’t really sure why that was. As with diverse writers, I decided to turn it into a reading project; I had already done the Diversity Project, and the Reread Project, so why not the Cozy Project? I also decided it would be fun to keep reading Donna Andrews, but rather than trying the writers I had been reading before to try to find new ones, too–much as I love my regular authors, I’ve been wanting to expand my horizons. So I started reading Leslie Budewitz and Julie Henry and Barbara Ross and Ellen Byron and any number of other marvelous cozy writers–and believe you me, there are a lot of them, and getting into the Cozy Project also coincided with the Diversity Project, with marvelous writers like Kellye Garrett (loved her Detective by Day series) and Mia P. Manansala and Raquel V. Reyes and any number of other marvelous cozy authors.

Cozies are the subgenre in crime fiction that probably gets the least amount of respect (romantic suspense being another) from reviewers and other crime writers, but they are beloved by their readers and there are a lot of them. One of the things I am really looking forward to by attending Malice Domestic this year is to find more new-to-me cozy writers. I think it’s because they are “gentle” crime novels; no gore, no blood, no sex, no violence, no swearing. This sets them apart from the rest of the genre–almost at arm’s length, if you will, but I often find these books to be engaging, involving, and entertaining; a lovely respite from the toils and troubles of every day life.

And sometimes you need that escape. I’ve always found solace in books, and that will probably never change until I am in the grave (well, urn, since I want to be cremated).

“He put his foot in those greens.”

Reef stopped and looked at me. Hand hovering midway between bowl and open mouth. A forkful of collards dangling. Juice dripping. His eyes went from nine to Koby’s flip-flop-clad feet to the dark, limp greens in front of him. “You mean like they do with grapes?” Scraping his teeth across the surface of his tongue. he stuck it out and scrunched up his face. “Ugh! Is that how you make ’em?”

A bright, sun-filled afternoon, we were out back of our soon-to-be bookstore and cafe. We’d put out three umbrellaed wooden tables with our logo in the bricked alleyway and scattered brightly colored potted plants around.

“No.” Koby pursed his lips and shook his head at me. “That’s not how I make them. She just learned that term,” he said, and chuckled. “It’s just a saying, Reef. You know. You say it about the person who cooked something that’s really good.”

“So you didn’t actually stick your feet in ’em?” Not moving his head although talking to Koby, Reef rolled his eyes my way.

Body and Soul Food is the first in the Books and Biscuits series by Abby Collette (aka Abby Vandiver), and it’s a winner. Fraternal twins Koby and Keaton were given up for adoption as babies. Keaton hit the jackpot, being adopted by a loving couple (her adoptive father has died; her mom is a psychologist) while Koby went through years of foster homes and foster care before hitting the jackpot in his last group home with Mama Zola. Koby went looking for his family once he was old enough and found Keaton, and now they’ve decided to go into business together in the small town of Timber Lake, just outside of Seattle; a combination bookstore (degree in library science holder Keaton’s side of the shop) and cafe (Koby is a great cook so this is his domain). Reef and Koby were in the same foster homes, so they are sort of friends/brothers close…and single Keaton is more than a little interested in Reef.

But then Reef dies on a commuter train on his way back to Timber Lake from Seattle; Koby and Keaton were planning to meet him on the train and instead find his dead body. Who would want to kill Reef, and why? Koby and Keaton are tops of the suspect list and it doesn’t seem like the investigating officer, Detective Chow, believes them or their story…so around the hustle and bustle of opening the shop the twins are also playing detective, and finding out who Reef really was; the more things they learn about Reef only tend to make the tragedy worse; usually, the deeper into the investigation gets the more unlikable the victim becomes, but that isn’t the case here. Koby and Keaton also use the investigation to help them deal with their grief over losing Reef–Koby lost a brother; Keaton a potential love interest–and finding out that almost everyone who knew him had nothing bad to say about him, and in fact nothing but good things, makes the loss even more painful for the pair.

There’s also a great supporting cast, and I really enjoyed my visit to Timber Lake; and am really looking forward to reading the next book in the series as well as more of Abby’s work under whatever name she chooses to brand her books with. I do recommend this very highly; it’s quite fun, it’s well written and the story flows really well, and of course, Koby and Keaton are really likable.

More, please!

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