Ah, Oregon. The perfect setting for a cozy winter ski trip in the mountains or a tranquil summer getaway to the coast. Home of the delicious marionberry, the mighty Oregon Ducks, dazzling mountain ranges set amongst sprawling lakes and rocky beaches, and . . . murder mysteries? Yep, that’s right.
Let’s be honest: as quaint as our beloved Oregon may seem, it’s the quintessential backdrop for a tantalizing mystery. As storms brew in the sky eight months out of the year, so too do the erroneous desires of the fickle-hearted. It should come as no surprise that the Pacific Northwest is often the setting for thrillers and cozy mysteries. Recognizing the morose underbelly rustling sleepily beneath the state’s beautiful flesh, these Oregon authors are taking those creepy campfire stories to the next level with their Pacific Northwest cozy mysteries.
First on our list of Oregon mystery writers is Ellie Alexander. Think twenty-first century Oregon-Agatha Christie. With titles like Chilled to the Cone and Without a Brew, at first glance it’s difficult to tell whether Alexander is about to spin a black comedic web or just seriously appreciates a good dad joke. Rest assured, however, that the two seem to be mutually exclusive here. The author of the Bakeshop Mystery series and the Sloan Crause Mystery series, Alexander’s collections of punny novels about tropic detective-sleuth adventures don’t shy away from the gruesome and macabre as their kitschy names would suggest.
Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native, having called both Oregon and Washington home at different points in her life. Using her time in the PNW as inspiration, she sets the scene for some seriously Oregon-centric themes. Take, for instance, the chaos that ensues for bakeshop owner Juliet Capshaw during Ashland’s renowned Shakespeare Festival in Nothing Bundt Trouble. As tourist season promises to bring some sweet compensation to the small-town bakeshop, it also unearths dreaded town secrets that threaten to dismantle Ashland’s peaceful charm.
Watch out for Alexander’s latest punny web, Mocha, She Wrote, now available for order as part of the Bakeshop Mystery series.
Kate’s Rose City Mysteries and Pacific Northwest Mysteries are sure to entice fans of the cozy mystery. Like Ellie Alexander, Dyer-Seeley is a Pacific Northwest native and fellow enthusiast of cozy mysteries. Her contributions to Pacific Northwest mysteries come with a bit of humor to offset the Oregon gloom and doom. With titles like Scene of the Climb, Slayed on the Slopes, and Silenced in the Sur, Dyer-Seeley embraces the detective-sleuth narrative with a generous dash of both horror and humor that puts a twist on the familiar Christie archetype.
Dyer’s newest release, Natural Thorn Killer, is based in Portland and tells the story of Britta Johnson’s aunt’s floral shop. When the shop’s peace is upended by the murder of a sordid real estate developer and floral shop arch-nemesis, Britta and her fellow business owners go on the hunt for the killer that lurks within the succulents and shrubbery.
Looking to sink your teeth into a good crime story while not plunging too deep into the dumps? Look no further than Nancy Coco, also known by the pseudonym Nancy J. Parra. Coco offers a way for readers to have their cake and eat it too. Based in Oregon, Coco is the acclaimed author of Candy-Coated Mysteries, the Oregon Honeycomb Mystery series, and four additional mystery series including Gluten for Punishment. Sensing a strong baking theme among these three mystery powerhouses? With the Pacific Northwest being home to all things warm and cozy, it’s no mystery why crime fiction would adopt Oregon’s most delicious treats and twist them into the backdrop for some seriously sinister misadventures.
Some of Coco’s most popular titles include Have Yourself a Fudgy Little Christmas and Fudge Bites. These Christmas and Halloween-themed mysteries are appropriate for both emerging YA and adult audiences who enjoy a good murder and a pinch of holiday-themed puns. According to Kirkus Reviews, Fudge Bites is “a puzzling series of crimes . . . [with] plenty of suspects and mouthwatering recipes.”
Coco’s newest release, which officially launched on March 30, 2021, is A Matter of Hive and Death: a punny adventure equipped with a honey shop called Let It Bee. Conscious beekeeping and ecological awareness? Check. An obscurely fitting UFO festival? Check. A heinous murder with blunt force trauma to the head? Check. What more could a cozy mystery reader ask for?
It’s Time to Dig In
Oregon is the perfect place for a mystery. With rugged and varied terrain, tranquil forests, lakes, oceans, desserts, stormy weather, and certainly no shortage of peace-advocating “hipsters,” it’s the ideal setting to brew a crime. The next time you’re thinking of reading Murder on the Orient Express for the thirteenth time, try adding a little Pacific Northwest murder mystery charm to your reading itinerary.