Once again, I’ve reviewed my recent reads. These three were a delight. That is not to say that I didn’t start a few books I couldn’t finish or read one or two I was disappointed in along the way — those, I don’t write reviews for. There was a time when I would never consider leaving a book unfinished. My mantra at this stage of the game, though, is “So many books, so little time,” which gives me permission to set books aside and move on. Here are three I had to finish.

“Before She Was Helen” by Carol B. Cooney

I’m not sure how I’ve missed author Caroline B. Cooney. She’s written 90 books, and I only just stumbled across this one, “Before She Was Helen,” when it came my way via one of the many emails I get recommending murder mysteries.

Helen is a 70-something-year-old resident in a Sun City development in South Carolina, who spends her time playing cards at the clubhouse and teaching Latin part-time at a local high school. She keeps up with her family via texts and the occasional phone call. Her involvement in a murder in the community is only one of the well-developed plotlines in a book filled with twists and turns.

Add Cooney’s way with words, and you have a grand read. Consider this description of the relationship we have with our cell phones. “Like everyone these days, she used the phone as a pacifier. One stroked one’s phone, opening the comforting apps of word games and weather, headline news, and Instagram. It was quite similar to sucking one’s thumb.” You’ll find many such clever descriptions that nail the world we live in, making you squirm or smile or both.

“The Sign of the Book” by John Dunning

This is book four in the five-book Cliff Janeway series. The combination of murder mystery and book lore is what keeps me coming back. Janeway is an ex-cop who’s a bookseller and rare book expert. Who knew there could be so much murder and mayhem in a bookseller’s world?

The murder, of course, has to do with old, collectible books, and following the trail leads Janeway to a book fair in California and through small towns in Colorado. Along the way, he meets eccentric characters, some likable, some despicable. Dunning writes witty dialogue for his hero who has a code he lives by. He may not always follow the letter of the law, but he will seek justice.

The Bookman novels are the perfect read when you want a murder mystery that strikes the balance between heavy and light, one from which you’ll learn a few things about books and the world of book collectors. I suggest you start with book one, “Booked to Die.”

“In the Bleak Midwinter” by Julia Spencer Fleming

I love it when I discover a new mystery series. When I read the description of one of the later books in this one, I was prompted to order book one from the library, and I’m so glad I did. Episcopal priest Clare Ferguson and Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne have just met in the small town of Millers Kill, N.Y. Clare is new to town and getting to know her congregation and is stunned to find a newborn baby on the steps of the church. If that’s not enough, a murder follows.

As do all amateur sleuths, she alternately gets in the way of the investigation and moves it along. The friendship that builds between Clare and Russ is emotionally satisfying as are the twists and turns that lead to the identity of the killer. I’ve already put the next book on hold and was pleasantly surprised when a friend told me she had the rest of the books. I can’t wait to see how the story develops.

May you enjoy some lazy, hazy days of reading!

Award-winning author Kathy Manos Penn is a Georgia resident. Find her cozy mysteries locally at Books Unlimited in Franklin and on Amazon. Contact her at inkpenn119@gmail.com, and follow her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor/.