I refer to these as lighthearted not because there isn’t any violence or death, but because of the tone of the prose. Most lighthearted mysteries are also narrated by amateur detectives. Not all of them, as you’ll see, but many are. I love a good lighthearted mystery for winter break, because they’re so easy to get through. They’re not as terrifying as serious mysteries, nor do they have the thriller elements that many serious mysteries do.
The Sweetness At The Bottom of the Pie | Alan Bradley
I read this book on my last trip to DC, after I got it at a library book sale. It follows 11-year-old Flavia deLuce, an amateur chemist/detective in an aristocratic English family during the 1950s. The real mystery starts when she discovers an old stamp, a connection to her father’s school days, and a murder plot. Flavia’s narrative voice sounds older than she is, but in context it really works.
Stephanie Plum series | Janet Evanovich
Janet Evanovich has been writing Stephanie Plum novels for about 19 years. My mom and I picked one up for a road trip as an audiobook, and we’ve been hooked since the first. The series starts when 30-something lingerie buyer Stephanie Plum finds herself divorced, laid off, and in need of some quick cash. Her mother suggested a filing gig with her cousin Vinny, but when she goes to ask it’s already filled. Of course, since Vinny’s a bail bondsman, there are always bail jumpers to catch, and Stephanie does need the money. She’s also perpetually caught between two equally difficult men: cop Morelli and fellow bounty hunter Ranger. Stephanie’s narrative voice is light, and the novels are always infused with comedy, be it Stephanie’s new friend Lula or her elderly (and slightly demented) grandmother. You can start anywhere, but I’m on the twentieth.
Dug To Death | Adrian Praetzellis
This was actually assigned for my archeology class sophomore year. Why? Because it’s a teaching novel. Praetzellis uses the novel’s mystery to teach readers about archeology procedures. The setting? Obviously an archeological dig. The characters? Archeologists, geologists, and the like. At the back of the book you’ll even find a glossary of archeological terms. You don’t have to be into archeology to enjoy it, but it certainly helps. Because the plot isn’t the only focus of the book, it makes for a fairly lighthearted read.
Nero Wolfe | Rex Stout
This series is one that’s not narrated by an amateur detective. They’re narrated by Archie Goodwin, a private detective and assistant to the great Nero Wolfe. Beginning with Fer-De-Lance, New York’s greatest detective has been written about since the 1930s. Of course, after the original author Rex Stout died others have taken up his mantle. I’ve loved Nero Wolfe mysteries since the early 2000s tv show, which I own on DVD but I’m sure you could find online if you want to watch it.
Hannah Swensen Mysteries | Joanne Fluke
I’ve only read one of these (Candy Cane Murder) but my mom has read at least half a dozen. She loves them and has been reading them for about 12 years. They’re set in Minnesota in a small town where there is an alarmingly high murder rate. Hannah, the main character, owns a bakery called the Cookie Jar, and gets into a lot of hijinks. Plus, every book contains at least one recipe!