The best cozy mysteries for music and math nerds

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the author of The Larkin Day Mysteries, a cozy-comedy-nerdy-mathy-theater-geeky mystery series set in Eastern Iowa. I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for over a decade, and you may have seen my work in Vox, Morning Brew, Dwell, Lifehacker, Popular Science, and/or The Billfold. I live in a small Midwestern town with the Great Love of My Life and we spend our time practicing the piano, playing chess, and cultivating our garden. I spent a few years working in both amateur and professional theater, including a semester teaching Shakespeare at the University of Hyderabad. By the time I was ready to become a full-time freelancer and part-time novelist, I had plenty of experiences to draw from.

I wrote...

Ode to Murder

By Nicole Dieker,

Book cover of Ode to Murder

What is my book about?

Larkin Day just moved back home—at 35 years old. With no money, no job prospects, and nowhere to live except her mother's guest bedroom, Larkin is pretty sure this is the worst thing that's ever happened to her. Then her mother signs her up for community choir. Then the accompanist asks her out—and stands her up. Then he turns up dead.

A fast-paced, cleverly-plotted mystery that includes both Beethoven and baking, Ode to Murder is for cozy fans who have been hoping to find a Millennial-aged amateur detective who practices old-fashioned sleuthing in a world of smartphones and social media.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Westing Game

Nicole Dieker Why did I love this book?

I know half of you clicked on my list just to see if The Westing Game was on it. If we’re looking for cozy-nerdy-mathy classics, it’s hard to outdo Ellen Raskin’s masterpiece.

I know she wrote it for youngish adults, but let’s be honest—I re-read this book at least once a year, finding new layers of meaning in sentences I memorized in sixth grade. If you like music, lyrics, puzzles, and personal finance, The Westing Game is a great place to start no matter how old you are.

One of these days I’ll come up with a chess game that matches the moves we see on the board.

By Ellen Raskin,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Westing Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

A Newbery Medal Winner

"A supersharp mystery...confoundingly clever, and very funny." —Booklist, starred review


A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, on things for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!

Winner of the Newbery Medal
Winner of the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award
An ALA Notable Book


"Great fun for those who enjoy illusion, word play, or sleight…

Book cover of The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Nicole Dieker Why did I love this book?

This book is essentially The Westing Game meets Black Mirror—and although The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle contains more blood than you might expect in a typical cozy, there’s enough math, mystery, and time-travel mechanics to keep even the most squeamish nerds reading.

Like most stories that mess around with time, you’re probably going to want to read this one twice—because the pieces that don’t fit during your first read will make a lot more sense during the second. There’s also a chess game, although the way the pieces move after the game (or is it before?) is more important.

By Stuart Turton,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Pop your favorite Agatha Christie whodunnit into a blender with a scoop of Downton Abbey, a dash of Quantum Leap, and a liberal sprinkling of Groundhog Day and you'll get this unique murder mystery." ―Harper's Bazaar

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive mystery that follows one man's race to find a killer, with an astonishing time-turning twist that means nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Aiden Bishop knows the rules. Evelyn Hardcastle will die every day until he can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again,…

Book cover of Still Life

Nicole Dieker Why did I love this book?

Imagine a tiny village in Quebec, hidden from both maps and memories, visible only to those who cannot fit in anywhere else.

Imagine the artists, poets, doctors, philosophers, musicians, artisans, and murderers who might gather there—and then imagine the man from Montréal who is tasked, again and again, with uncovering their crimes. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, fallen from grace for reasons of his own, traveling one more time to a secret village of geniuses—or, perhaps, a village of secret geniuses.

Either way, he’ll have to outsmart at least one of them before they kill again.

By Louise Penny,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Still Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Still Life, bestselling author Louise Penny introduces Monsieur L'Inspecteur Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec, a modern Poirot who anchors this beloved traditional mystery series.

Winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain…

Book cover of Cocaine Blues

Nicole Dieker Why did I love this book?

If you’re reading this list, you probably already know who Phryne Fisher is—but you might not have taken the time to read the novels that inspired the cult classic television series and its crowdfunded feature film.

Kerry Greenwood’s books, believe it or not, are even nerdier than the TV show. If you don’t have a working knowledge of publishing houses, orchestra halls, and circus tents—not to mention anatomy, theology, mathematics, and the fundamentals of good home cooking—you’ll want to read these books with a search engine by your side.

You’ll also want to get yourself a box of Clever Chocolates, so you can reward yourself the same way Phryne rewards her adopted daughters Jane and Ruth every time they correctly solve a puzzle. 

By Kerry Greenwood,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Cocaine Blues as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bored socialite Phryne Fisher leaves the tedium of the London season for adventure in Australia!

Tea-dances in West End hotels, weekends in the country with guns and dogs... Phryne Fisher - she of the grey-green eyes and diamante garters - is rapidly tiring of the boredom of chit-chatting with retired colonels and foxtrotting with weak-chinned wonders. Instead, Phryne decides it might be amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective - on the other side of the world!

As soon as she books into the Windsor Hotel in Melbourne, Phryne is embroiled in mystery: poisoned wives, drug smuggling…

Book cover of The Con Job

Nicole Dieker Why did I love this book?

You weren’t expecting me to recommend a Leverage tie-in novel, were you?

From my perspective, a book based on a television series is just as valid as a television series based on a book—and if you don’t share the same view, you might need to adjust one of your mirrors. I love The Con Job because takes the nerdy, cozy world of Leverage and places it in San Diego Comic-Con, giving the characters a real-world experience that many of us will have experienced ourselves.

There’s not a lot of music in this one, which may disappoint those of us who watched Leverage for the Rimsky-Korsakov, but there’s plenty of math and physics and a few inside jokes. It’s a comfort read, in more ways than one—which is probably why I keep reading it.

By Matt Forbeck,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Con Job as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The rich and powerful take what they want. We steal it back for you.

When a disreputable dealer starts swindling aged and ailing comic-book creators out of their wealth-and their high-valued comics and artwork-the daughter of one victim comes to ex-insurance investigator Nathan Ford and his team of counter-crooks for help.

Their scheme: run a con at the Comic-Con International, where the crook intends to sell the goods. But there's more going on than simple theft. An arson plot is in motion that will not only destroy countless rare collectibles, but may end up costing lives.

With time short, the…

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Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

By John Kenneth White,

Book cover of Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

John Kenneth White Author Of Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

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Why am I passionate about this?

Reading was a childhood passion of mine. My mother was a librarian and got me interested in reading early in life. When John F. Kennedy was running for president and after his assassination, I became intensely interested in politics. In addition to reading history and political biographies, I consumed newspapers and television news. It is this background that I have drawn upon over the decades that has added value to my research.

John's book list on who we are, how we’ve changed, and what gives us hope

What is my book about?

It didn’t begin with Donald Trump. When the Republican Party lost five straight presidential elections during the 1930s and 1940s, three things happened: (1) Republicans came to believe that presidential elections are rigged; (2) Conspiracy theories arose and were believed; and (3) The presidency was elevated to cult-like status.

Long before Trump, each of these phenomena grew in importance. The John Birch Society and McCarthyism became powerful forces; Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first “personal president” to rise above the party; and the development of what Harry Truman called “the big lie,” where outrageous falsehoods came to be believed. Trump…

Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

By John Kenneth White,

What is this book about?

It didn't begin with Donald Trump. The unraveling of the Grand Old Party has been decades in the making. Since the time of FDR, the Republican Party has been home to conspiracy thinking, including a belief that lost elections were rigged. And when Republicans later won the White House, the party elevated their presidents to heroic status-a predisposition that eventually posed a threat to democracy. Building on his esteemed 2016 book, What Happened to the Republican Party?, John Kenneth White proposes to explain why this happened-not just the election of Trump but the authoritarian shift in the party as a…

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