(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)
ph_0111228327-Hart_Carolyn.jpg Carolyn Hart. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

The novels in both of Carolyn Hart’s series fall in the cozy genre. Hart uses the methods of Golden Age mystery writers such as Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Margery Allingham to provide quickly sketched but interesting characters and a variety of viable suspects. Plots are fairly straightforward, and there is an element of romance, especially in the earlier Death on Demand novels that include the courtship and marriage of two amateur sleuths.

The Death on Demand mysteries are unusual for their self-referentiality. Set in Annie Laurance Darling’s mystery bookstore, they constantly evoke parallels with the books sold there. Many of them begin and end with the interesting device of a contest, in which five paintings represent five murder mysteries and the first to guess the references of the paintings wins the prize. This framing device contributes to the “cozy” atmosphere of these novels in that the reader guesses along with the characters in the novel, and the identities are revealed only after the “real” murderer is discovered.

The Henrie O novels tend to be a little more serious but still reader-friendly and direct. They present an older woman, Henrietta O’Dwyer “Henrie O” Collins, as the astute detective, as Christie’s Miss Marple novels did, and they assign to her a competence and confidence reassuring to older readers. Hart has said her intent in writing the Henrie O novels is to create a positive image of older women that encourages people to value them and treat them with respect.

Hart received an Anthony Award in 1990 for Honeymoon with Murder (1988); Agatha Awards in 1988 for Something Wicked (1988), in 1993 for Dead Man’s Island (1993), and in 2003 for Letter from Home; and Macavity Awards in 1990 for A Little Class on Murder (1989) and in 1993 for “Henrie O’s Holiday.” She also was given a lifetime achievement award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book.