"In for a penny, in for a pound."
I've read a variety of mystery novels over the years, but never a cozy mystery. Which is strange because I generally prefer lighter, brighter stories to grim and gritty, and I'm not big on gore. And I love puns, and a lot of cozy mysteries have punny titles. I decided to try my first cozy mystery and chose English Tea Murder by Leslie Meier at random. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting from the genre (no punny title, for one thing) but to cut to the big reveal, I liked it.
Having never read a cozy mystery, especially one by Leslie Meier, here's what surprised me (trying to avoid spoilers). There is, of course, a murder at the beginning of the novel, but it's so subtly pulled off, no one, including the amateur sleuth protagonist, suspects it's murder for quite a while. The first half of the novel is almost entirely a low-key story of Americans visiting London, complaining about the food, the hotel, and tours. Also a lot of bickering. I started to forget it was a mystery. The second half becomes more like what I would expect from a mystery novel. But at the very end it takes what I thought was a pretty dark turn. Darker than what I expected from a cozy mystery.
Because the murder mystery aspect of the story is so low-key at the beginning, it took me a while to get into it, reading it in patches here and there. The characters complaining about every English didn't help. I've been to London, I've lived in England, and I didn't find it nearly as complain-worthy as the Americans in this story. If you had a bad experience in England, Leslie Meiers, I'm sorry. But as I got closer to the halfway point, I found myself invested in the characters, their idiosyncrasies, their relationships, and the secrets they were hiding. When the first death became more clearly a murder mystery, I was hooked and didn't want to stop reading, even if it only became an edge-of-your-seat mystery at the very end.
All in all, I liked that it was as much slice-of-life as it was murder mystery. Even if it took me a while to get into it, in retrospect, I liked the easy-going pacing. Yes, I liked the coziness of it. But while I liked it, I'm not sure I'd read other books in this series. I'm definitely going to read more cozy mysteries, though.