Juneau Black

Books: Mystery, Fantasy

Shady Hollow Mysteries: Shady Hollow (2015), Cold Clay (2017), Mirror Lake (2020), Evergreen Chase (2021), Twilight Falls (2023), Phantom Pond (2023)

Shady Hollow Mysteries 

Shady Hollow (2015)

Shady HollowThis is cozy mystery, set in a fantasy world with intelligent animals.

The characters' resemblances to real creatures, alive or cruelly murdered, is incidental indeed. For those who feel compelled to resolve this issue before continuing with the story, you may wish to think of the characters merely as humans with particularly animalistic traits…

Despite that fantastic element, it is a mystery first, and an utterly delightful one. It also isn't a kid's series–although you could easily read it with a kid–because it's full of humor for adults.

He (Howard Chitters, mouse accountant) and his fine wife, Mrs. Amelia Chitters—the light of his humble life—had five small litters already, and he could tell you the exact number of children, too, if you gave him a moment to remember.

And lots of references to books and characters.

Traditionally, woodland creatures are not big readers, but things changed when Lenore opened the bookshop. "Nevermore," she said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, "will the town have to do without quality entertainment."

Utterly delightful references.

So far, she had written down a few key things:

  • Capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Gather data, then see what theory fits.
  • Eliminate impossible. Whatever is left (however improbable) MUST BE TRUTH.
  • Reichenbach Falls = bad spot for getaway vacation

The whole thing makes me think of Bugs Bunny cartoons: easily enjoyable by kids, but even funnier for adults.

Juneau Black is the pen name of authors Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel.

And underneath is all, a lovely cozy mystery with the kinds of details you'd expect, just presented unexpectedly.

As a beaver wife with ever-growing teeth and a lot of suppressed rage to deal with, Edith had knocked out quite a few masterpieces on that sheep's account. She'd won the ice-sculpture contest at the Hollow's Winter Carnival this past year,

This was precisely the cozy mystery I had been needing to read.

Characters: Ambrosius Heidegger, Anastasia & Esmeralda von Beaverpelt, BW Stone, Theodore Meade, Orville Braun, Edith von Beaverpelt, Gladys Honeysuckle, Howard Chitters, Joe, Lefty, Lenore Lee, Otto Sumpf, Reginald von Beaverpelt, Ruby Ewing, Sun Li, Vera Vixen

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Cover design and illustrations by Perry De La Vega

February 2024 | Rating: 9/10

Cold Clay (2017)

Cold ClayThings have been returning to normal in Shadow Hollow–until a skeleton is discovered in Cold Clay Orchards during harvest.

Vera Vixen manages to be there to catch all the details.

“Whatever it is, Vera, remember that I’m the one they called. You can observe from a distance, but don’t interfere. Understand?”

“Of course!” Vera nodded her head vigorously. She knew better than to step on Orville’s toes while he was working. She hated when other folks did it to her.

But as interested as she is in the skeleton, she is ordered by her boss to do a series of articles on the newest business in town–an etiquette school opened by a mink.

“?‘Grey’s School of Etiquette,’?” Vera read out loud. “?‘Now enrolling.’?” Fastened to the glass was a smaller sheet explaining that etiquette was an “essential art” and that students could sign up for classes in table manners, modes of address, formal dance, and more.

But when the bones are determined to be that of a female moose, the owner of the local cafe–and Vera’s friend–is in the picture as his wife had disappeared a decade earlier.

“She kept talking about places she wanted to go, things she wanted to do. None of them were around here, and none of them included me or our son.”

Like the first book, this story is delightful.

Characters: Ambrosius Heidegger, Anastasia von Beaverpelt, Barry Greenfield, BW Stone, Chief Theodore Meade, Deputy Orville Braun, Edithvon Beaverpelt, Esmeralda von Beaverpelt, Gladys Honeysuckle, Howard Chitters, Joe Elkin Jr., Joe Elkin, Julia Elkin, Lefty, Lenore Lee, OctaviaGrey, Sun Li, Vera Vixen,

Cover design & illustrations by Perry De La Vega

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

March 2024 | Rating: 8.5/10

Mirror Lake (2020)

Mirror LakeOrville Braun has decided to run for sheriff, and Vera’s boss, BW Stone, wants Vera to give the paper the inside scoop.

But Vera has ethics and decides to consult the local lawyer for advice.

“Ah, but now you have the important phrase on the advice of counsel. That helps a lot. I’ll write up a letter, too, for you to shove in Stone’s face when he gets overeager.” “And what if he gets so mad that he fires me?” “He’d be a fool to do that,” Mr. Fallow said promptly. “Everyone knows you’re one of his best reporters. But just in case, I’ll add a paragraph explaining that it would be actionable if you were to lose your job as a result of your ethical stance. No one wants to be on the receiving end of actionable.”

We don’t spend quite as much time this book in Joe’s Mug, but we still get plenty of Lenore.

“The rug?” Lenore asked. “It’s a rat thing. They claim floorcloths are a very practical method to prevent damaging and dirtying floors during large events. The color shouldn’t matter, but for funerals and wakes and whatnot, they’re always black, or dark-colored if you can’t get black on short notice. I tell you, rats can claim they’re not superstitious, but no rat will have a pink floorcloth at a funeral!”

“You’re a font of information,” Vera told her friend.

“I took a class at university all about rituals of death among various species.”

Again, although on some levels this feels like a kid’s book, there are so much for adults.

Elmo’s Bar was a clapboard structure perched on the narrow bank. Unlit lanterns hung from the eaves, and fishing nets festooned the outer walls. A sign with blue letters proclaimed:

Elmo’s Bar
you can’t go lower than here

It’s a delight.

Characters: wAmbrosius Heidegger, Arabella Boatwright, Barry Greenfield, Bradley Marvel, BW Stone, Dorothy Springfield, Edward Springfield, Geoffrey and BenEastwood, Gladys Honeysuckle, Howard Chitters, Joe Elkin, Lefty, Lenore Lee, Orville Braun, Philomena Ambler, Sun Li, Theodore Meade, Vera Vixen, Walter Fallow

Cover design & illustrations by Perry De La Vega

Publisher: Vintage

Rating: 8.5/10

Evergreen Chase (2021)

Evergreen ChaseIt’s almost Solstice, but someone has stolen Shady Hollow’s solstice tree–the tallest in the forest! The one that Callum Burrows has been been tending for years.

It’s been my privilege to tend this year’s tree. It was selected thirty-six years ago, and it’s become the finest, tallest, and most beautiful specimen in Evergreen Chase. I watered it when it was a sapling, trimmed back growth around it, covered it with a blanket during the summer hailstorm twenty years back, and picked off beetles one by one during the infestation last decade.

Who would do such a thing?

“Look like teeth marks,” Meade said. “Could be muskrat or beaver.”

The beavers standing nearby huffed with offended pride. “We would never!” one declared.

“And, anyway, we’ve got tools for that!” another added, lifting a long saw the team had brought along.

A third beaver said, “Yeah, we’re not barbarians.”

“We only gnaw on dentist-approved wood products,”

But who would want to ruin the town’s holiday spirit?

Characters: Vera Vixen, Lenore Lee, Orville Braun, Howard Chitters, Theodore Meade, Parson Dusty, Lefty, Joe Elkin, Callum Burrows

Cover design and illustration by Perry De La Vega

Publisher: Vintage

Rating: 8.5/10

Twilight Falls (2023)

Twilight FallsIt’s spring in Shady Hollow, and romance is everywhere. Vera even convinces Orville to take her on a picnic to the famous Twilight Falls.

Wooden rails had been erected close to the banks to prevent anyone from straying too close. And for good reason: the flow was swift here, the water deceptively quiet as it rushed toward the precipice and then over into nothingness. Parents kept sharp eyes on their young ones, often grabbing their offspring by the backs of their shirts—or just their tails—to prevent a curious creature from getting into danger.

But while they are there, tragedy strikes when the town handyman is seen struggling with someone atop the falls–and then disappearing over the falls–just after arguing with his son, Jonah, and Jonah’s sweetheart, Stasia von Beverpelt.

You probably know that otters and beavers don’t have the best history. Back in the old days, when it mattered if a river was dammed up or free-flowing, things were tense. Otters hate obstructions, even though they can just get out of the water whenever they please. It’s not like they’re fish!

This is another delightful story. I may figured out the mystery early on, but the story is so delightful and lovely it didn’t matter in the slightest.

I mean, the beaver lawyer was from the firm Castor & Castor!

Also, this was the second story I read recently that had a ribbon wrapping as part of a wedding ceremony.

Characters: Vera Vixen, Lenore Lee, Orville Braun, Howard Chitters, Parson Dusty, Lefty, Joe Elkin, Callum Burrows Joe Elkin Jr, BW Stone, Anastasia von Beaverpelt, Esmeralda von Beaverpelt, Edith von Beaverpelt, Sun Li, Gladys Honeysuckle, Barry Greenfield, Arabella Boatwright, Shelby Atwater, Jonah Atwater, Isla Chitters, Muriel Lodge, Philomena Ambler, Imogen Marrick

Cover design and illustration by Perry De La Vega

Publisher: Vintage

Rating: 8/10

Phantom Pond (2023)

Phantom PondIt’s Mischief Night, and everyone is ready for games and treats and tricks–and everyone knows not to go into the woods, or creeping Juniper, the witch who lives there, will get you.

First, I really love this series.

She jumped in surprise but then realized it was only a spider dangling from a silken thread. The spider must have come inside during the day, looking for a warmer place to set up shop.

“Oh, excuse me, I didn’t see you there,” Vera said to the spider.


“And we do have to visit Heidegger’s tree before we’re done.”

The raven nodded. “He does Mischief Night right. Granted, he tends to tell you the full history of each decoration, with citations, but it’s always spectacular.”

Damn. I’m Heidegger.

Characters: Vera Vixen, Lenore Lee, Orville Braun, Lefty, Joe Elkin, Ambrosius Heidegger, Gladys Honeysuckle

Cover design and illustration by Perry De La Vega

Publisher: Vintage

Rating: 8.5/10