It’s my mom’s fault I have such odd tastes in books. She blames me because I introduced her to Laurell K. Hamilton, but it really started all those years ago when she took to the movie matinees, and I fell in love with old Godzilla movies. Back before streaming and on-demand, we had to watch whatever was currently available on tv or in the movies. My brother and I made up a game where we picked the oddest thing we could find and then the “winner” was whoever lasted the longest. A funny thing happened though… we discovered movies like The Valley of Gwangi, The Birds (a classic by anyone’s standards), and plenty of other stories combining multiple genres with sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. This love translated into the books I read. Vampires and shape shifters used to be uncommon but now my tastes have spread to even more unique and unusual combinations.
MARTIANS IN MAGGODY by Joan Hess is the first book I remember reading that involved a crossover between cozy mysteries and the supernatural. Joan Hess plays off the fascination with tabloid stories of Bigfoot, aliens, and other oddities as first a neighboring area has cattle mutilations and then the crop circle appears in Chief Arly Hanks’ jurisdiction. It only gets weirder as the UFO enthusiasts and tabloid reporters descend on the small town of Maggody. Mark Sumner takes a similar approach to tabloid reporters but tells the story from the reporter’s perspective. His three-book News from the Edge series features tabloid reporter Savannah “Savvy” McKinnon following up on tips that lead her to investigate Big Jelly, a lake monster, a vampire named Count Yorga, and a small town in Illinois where strange things (such as appliances menacing a housewife and a volcano in an apple orchard) seem to occur at an unexpected rate. THE MONSTER OF MINNESOTA, VAMPIRES OF VERMONT, and INSANITY, ILLINOIS offer hilarious takes on the nation’s fascination with tabloid stories as Mark Sumner explores what if the stories had some truth to them.
In a recent approach, Annelise Ryan’s A DEATH IN DOOR COUNTRY features a bookstore owner and cryptozoologist who hunts cryptids. A DEATH IN DOOR COUNTRY is the first book in The Monster Hunter series but offers a fascinating and updated approach to how cryptozoologists would research unexplained animal sightings or bites. I love that Annelise Ryan combines the cozy mystery series with cryptoids to craft a quirky and unique storyline that keeps the reader on their toes. And if you want more stories involving cryptoids and cryptozoologists (and obviously I do!), Seanan McGuire also has a fascinating series, InCryptid, about cryptozoologists that is more along the lines of urban fantasy. I’ve loved every one of McGuire’s series, from DISCOUNT ARMAGEDDON through SPELUNKING THROUGH HELL.
Leslie Langtry’s Merry Wrath Mystery series is about as quirky and unique as you can get, but MUNCHIES AND MURDER stands out above the rest as it even starts with an accusation that Merry’s cat is brainwashing the neighbor. From there, the hilarity ensues as conspiracy theorists, alien enthusiasts, and even Bigfoot and Elvis seekers descend on the small town of Who’s There, Iowa. As Merry points out, Who’s There has always had its fair share of crackpots, but they’ve never been as well organized as in MUNCHIES AND MURDER! For readers wanting more Bigfoot, Jim Butcher’s WORKING FOR BIGFOOT features short stories about his urban fantasy version of the creature that make an appearance in his Harry Dresden series. In a different approach, Ricardo Sanchez’s BIGFOOT BLUES combines searching for Bigfoot with an annual Elvis tribute as well as a private investigator who lives an Elvis lifestyle. You must read it to fully appreciate it- and trust me, this relatively unknown gem is well worth reading!
ALIEN ALLURE by Hope Callaghan is a cozy mystery set amongst a spy and intelligence convention that grew to include alien enthusiasts from all over. The blending of spy technology with the talk of aliens provides an interesting twist that takes a darker turn when a child is abducted. I love the quirks, such as the foul-smelling potion to attract aliens. Nancy Coco’s recent release, A MATTER OF HIVE AND DEATH, also features an alien festival with various costumes (including alien cat costumes!). While most of the cozy mystery is focused on the vandalization of beehives and death, the alien festival adds a nice bit of quirkiness to an otherwise very serious storyline.
A few other recent quirky tales worth mentioning - REMARKABLY BRIGHT CREATURES by Shelby Van Pelt features an aging woman’s relationship with a giant Pacific squid and, even better, gives us tidbits of Marcellus the squid’s personal perspective on things. TUTUS, FRIES & DEAD GUYS by Jennifer Fischetto is a unique cozy mystery take on the old Bloody Mary legend, with the ghost being trapped in mirrors and taking full advantage of the ability to scare others. Megan Bannen’s THE UNDERTAKING OF HART AND MERCY is more of a romance than the other stories I’ve mentioned but it has a western/fantasy style setting, old gods and mythology, and creatures that are similar to zombies so it’s worth checking out for folks like me who like their stories weird!
Currently, I’m reading PACK OF LIES by Charlie Adhara and it’s so good. It has a Monster Hunter zoologist, and it has werewolves – yay! I have a whole list of other quirky and unique stories, but I’d love to hear what some of your favorites are.
Debbie Wiley is a senior reviewer at Fresh Fiction. You can find more of her articles and reviews here.
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