I struggle with how to begin to explain Shady Hollow by Juneau Black, the pen name of authors Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel. Except to say… it’s everything a cozy mystery should be… and then some!
I may have mentioned before that I follow a stunning YouTuber called The Cottage Fairy. Good Lord, if you want to melt into an ambiance, this gal will take you there. I can’t remember which video talked about the Shady Hollow series of books but I *knew* I had to have them! I ordered all three that same day!
I’ve just finished book one and… all I can say is that murder has never been more charming.
Stick with me here.
See, Shady Hollow is a forest community filled with … as one might expect … forest animals.
Except they’re like people.
You know, with jobs and clothes and things.
A raven runs the bookstore, called (what else?) Nevermore. Bears comprise the constabulary. A thriving mill is run by (again, what else?) beavers. The town gossip is a hummingbird — can’t you just picture it? And, Vixen the fox is a crack reporter… and our protagonist. Oh, almost forgot… the victim? A curmudgeonly toad named Otto. Knife in the back.
One might assume this is a children’s book… or at least an older child or even a pre-teen story. While it *may* appeal to some older kids… it’s really for adults with a love of mystery and vibrant imagination.
If you just *can’t imagine* how to read something like this, we have an author’s note at the beginning with a suggestion: Pretend they’re people. With animalistic traits.
OMgoodness, I LOVE that so much! It adds a depth that is so fun to consider as you’re reading.
Although for me, I had no problem with them being animals and in fact, enjoyed that aspect of the story very much.
Who else but a panda would come into the community with a rich history in the far-away east and set up a vegetarian restaurant?
Big ol’ Joe the moose running the best coffee shop around? Makes sense. Great coffee, lots of forest folk hanging around, with gossip spoken, heard, and overheard.
And on and on the story goes… meeting new characters… learning histories of folks we thought we knew… making judgments… being schooled by life.
Such is life in Shady Hollow.
I love mysteries and even true crime if it’s not too grisly. Scratch that. On Saturday nights, my husband and I are watching Midsomer Murders. We’re on series six out of… twenty, I think. Excellent stuff! They can be VERY grisly and sometimes horrifying (literally and emotionally) and we LOVE them. Visually, they’re stunning, too. Highly recommend. But I digress.
Point is… Sometimes, I would love it if I were NOT taken to the edge of my seat or grossed out.
Sometimes, it’s nice to be taken on a character-driven ride with friends who just happen to be solving murders. Or are murderers, themselves. Because (of course!) not all creatures are who they appear to be at first glance. Among forest animals or city dwellers, know what I mean?