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If you're the kind of person who loves a good, long mystery series with an English village setting and an older-than-average female sleuth, Lesley Cookman's Libby Sarjeant series might be precisely your cup of tea.
The series follows the sleuthing adventures of Libby Sarjeant, a former artist and actress who's enjoying life in the English countryside until suddenly, she starts encountering Jessica Fletcher-like numbers of bodies as she goes about her normal activities. Her meddling/investigative work is often helped along by her psychic friend Fran and her cat Sidney – and later, her good friend Ben.
If we had to describe the genre these books fall in using common book terms, we'd call them “cosy mysteries” – but like Agatha Raisin author MC Beaton, Cookman isn't a huge fan of the phrase. It's also fair to say the Libby Sarjeant series would NOT meet traditional publishing criteria for many cozy imprints in the US.
It's true the books feature a village setting, less gruesome mysteries, a strong sense of community, and an amateur sleuth – but like many British “cozies”, Cookman's Libby Sarjeant series doesn't offer the almost moralistic aversion to all things adult, unpleasant, or profane that's so common in American cozies.
You won't find lengthy, disturbing passages from a serial killer's perspective, but the books do occasionally touch on heavier topics like the exploitation of illegal immigrants, Satanism (with Morris dancers!), and anti-gay hate crimes. Based on our reading of the first in series, you can also expect some light cursing – the occasional “bloody hell”, “bastard”, “damn”, and perhaps a “shit” or two – but nothing excessive or extreme.
All of Lesley Cookman's Libby Sarjeant Mysteries in Order
The Kentish village of Steeple Martin is fictional, but it's not hard to imagine the mysteries playing out in any of the many lovely villages and market towns of Kent. While places like Canterbury and Whitstable tend to get a lot of the tourist attention, the county has more than its fair share of quaint communities and good scenery – like Chilham, seen above.
Sometimes known as the “Garden of England”, the county has numerous orchards and hop gardens and the landscape is dotted with oast houses where hops have been dried as part of the brewing process for many years (though some, as you'll find in book one, have been converted to other uses like theatres and private residences).
It's worth noting that the county of Kent was also home to Richard Osman's popular Thursday Murder Club books, though the Libby Sarjeant series pre-dates those by quite a few years.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 1 | Murder in Steeple Martin
In the picturesque English countryside, former actress-turned-artist, Libby Sarjeant, is busy preparing for a show at the new Oast House Theatre in Steeple Martin. But when a cast member meets an untimely end, everyone is puzzled.
The play, penned by her friend Peter, draws from true events in his family's past, events that still seem to linger ominously over Steeple Martin. From the quaint Pink Geranium eatery to the historic Manor Farm, Libby delves deep into the village's concealed truths.
With her best friend Fran and her feline companion, Sidney, by her side, can Libby find out what happened and ensure the show goes on?
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 2 | Murder at the Laurels
Amateur detective Libby Sarjeant's psychic investigator friend, Fran Castle, is convinced there's foul play behind her aunt's death in a nursing home. The sudden appearance of long-estranged relatives, who seem either indifferent or deliberately unhelpful, heightens their suspicions, especially with the mysterious absence of the will.
While Libby might not see herself as the next Miss Marple, it doesn't take much to convince her to help investigate – and the case gets complicated, fast. With a rising body count and the police stepping in, can the duo stay on track and unravel the mystery?
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 3 | Murder in Midwinter
When Libby and Fran become close with Bella Morleigh, the inheritor of a rundown theatre, they're thrown into a whirlwind of mystery. The discovery of an unidentified body in the theatre compels them to assist in the investigation.
While Libby is preoccupied with arranging her friends' Civil Partnership celebration, she's also mastering the art of online research. But the plot thickens with the finding of another body. It's Fran's psychic insight that links the deaths, leading them down a path filled with unexpected revelations.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 4 | Murder by the Sea
When a dead body is found on a secluded island in Nethergate Bay, the police enlist the expertise of psychic investigator, Fran Castle. Not one to let Fran face the mystery alone, Libby joins in on the fun. The duo soon finds themselves navigating the murky waters of illegal immigrant exploitation.
Ben, Libby's significant other, constantly frets about her investigative tendencies landing her in hot water. His fears aren't unfounded, especially as the pair stumbles upon traces of a wartime fascist spy. Engaging with a potential murderer is perilous, and Libby and Fran may already be in too deep.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 5 | Murder in Bloom
Libby Sarjeant's is a magnet for mysteries. While working as a gardener at Creekmarsh Place for TV star Lewis Osbourne-Walker, her son Adam stumbles upon a body. Despite the police's inclination to dismiss any ties to the current owner, Libby's instincts push her to probe further.
With her psychic ally Fran preoccupied elsewhere, Libby takes on the investigation solo. When a related murder surfaces in London, the police intensify their search. Stubborn, Libby dives deeper into the enigma, even if it means stirring the pot.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 6 | Murder in the Green
The world of Morris Dancing takes a dark turn when a performer is found dead on May Day, plunging amateur detective Libby Sarjeant and psychic Fran into yet another mystery. Libby's curiosity about Morris traditions, combined with her unwavering passion for sleuthing, takes her from her familiar Kent surroundings to Cornwall. There, she stumbles upon the unexpected intersection of Morris Dancing and Satanism.
As she returns to Kent with Fran by her side, they methodically piece together the clues, eventually unmasking the murderer nobody saw coming.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 7 | Murder Imperfect
When Libby hears about hateful letters that have been sent to a friend of a friend, she's disgusted but optimistic that this display of anti-gay prejudice will not escalate further.
Although she's deeply upset, Libby hesitates to step in. Her plate is full directing a pantomime while also managing household chaos. Her partner, Ben, has recently moved in, and her son, Adam, is back home nursing a broken leg.
But the situation intensifies from threats to actual murder. This prompts Libby and her psychic cohort Fran to dive into another case, only to find that the stakes are higher than they imagined – and both of them could be in danger.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 8 | Murder to Music
Libby and Fran are called to investigate a house said to be haunted by a melodious spirit. For once, Libby can indulge her curiosity without stepping on the toes of the local police.
Unfortunately, the discovery of half-century-old graves in the property's gardens soon draws unwanted police attention. Moreover, someone is keen on ensuring they don't pry too deep. As they strive to uncover the enigma behind the Debussy-playing phantom, they find themselves navigating threats that endanger their lives.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 9 | Murder at the Manor
A writers' retreat reunion quickly turns into a nightmare when a body is discovered on the premises. Libby and her partner Ben, who were hosting the event, find themselves at the center of the chaos.
Though Scotland Yard is on the case, the murder's proximity makes it impossible for Libby to resist a bit of poking around. Her investigation, supported by psychic Fran Castle, leads them to historic Dorset where they unearth a tangled web of envy among writers. Despite Libby's sharp instincts and determination, the truth remains elusive and the tragedies begin to pile up.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 10 | Murder by Magic
Libby and her psychic friend Fran Wolfe are approached to investigate the abrupt and mystifying death of a church regular. While the authorities seem to have sidelined the case, the local community is abuzz with suspicions pointing towards their new female vicar.
Yet, if it is indeed a case of murder, the method remains elusive. With no logical explanations in sight, they're left to ponder an unthinkable question: could magic be the culprit?
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 11 | Murder in the Monastery
An ornate Anglo-Saxon reliquary mysteriously appears on a website, allegedly housing a relic of St Eldreda. Intrigued, the nuns of St Eldreda's Abbey beckon Libby Sarjeant for a deeper probe.
Captivated by the tale, Libby's acquaintance Peter secures permission to stage ‘Murder In The Monastery', a drama inspired by St Eldreda's saga, set amidst the ruins of the ancient monastery. However, Peter's theatrical vision hits a snag when a genuine corpse surfaces, and to Libby and Fran's dismay, it isn't an isolated incident.
Together, they embark on a journey to connect the dots between the reliquary, St Eldreda, and the growing tally of victims.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 12 | Murder in the Dark
A mysterious woman's body surfaces in a secluded garden in Kent. With the estate's owners away, the pool of likely suspects is small – just the caretaker, Johnny, and landscape gardeners Adam Sarjeant, along with his boss, Mog.
Afraid her son could become the prime suspect, Libby and Fran, are determined to track down the real killer. Chief Detective Inspector Ian Connell, however, appears less than cooperative, adding to their challenges.
The pressing question remains: If Adam didn't do it, who did?
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 13 | Murder in a Different Place
Libby and her crew travel to the Isle of Wight to attend the funeral of a dear friend, a rare occasion where they encounter a death that isn't shrouded in mystery.
Unfortunately, some of the family members at the funeral DO have an unexplained death in the family. With her closest friend Harry seemingly entangled in the web, Libby is determined to uncover the truth. Despite facing increasing reluctance from the cousins, she persists.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 14 | Murder Out of Tune
When a local ukulele group member's body is discovered in Steeple Martin's churchyard, Libby's initial sentiment is one of relief that it's not someone she knows. Amidst preparations for a festive concert and pantomime at the Oast Theatre, she has more than enough on her plate.
However, her interest is piqued when her cousin becomes enamoured with a man drawing police attention. Unable to resist the pull, Libby dives into her own inquiries about the death, inevitably finding herself in a tight spot…
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Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 15 | Murder in the Blood
While seeking a much-needed escape on the Turkish coast, Libby and her companions unexpectedly find themselves mixed up in a mystery once again. Their quiet vacation takes a dark turn when they stumble upon a body during a boat excursion.
Initially, they reason that the incident couldn't possibly involve them, given they're merely tourists in a foreign land. However, the revelation that the victim is British – as are the potential culprits – draws them inexorably into the enigma.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 16 | Murder Dancing
Max Tobin arrives in Steeple Martin with his all-male dance troupe to showcase their new ballet, Pendle, at the Oast Theatre. However, since the troupe's London rehearsals were marred by disturbing occurrences, Max asks Libby and Fran to help look into things. Despite their best efforts, incidents escalate and it's not long before they have a body on their hands.
While the authorities grapple with the homicide, Libby and Fran look into the underlying animosity against the ballet. They wrestle with the question: were these events spurred by supernatural forces, or was there a more human motive at work?
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 17 | Murder on the Run
Libby and Fran are novices when it comes to running. However, when Libby's son Adam and Fran's stepdaughter Sophie become members of the Nethergate Harriers, they're drawn into this unfamiliar world.
When a participate in the Nethergate 5K race disappears, their curiosity kicks into overdrive. It's not long before a body turns up, and it all gets much more complicated.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 18 | Murder by the Barrel
Cold beer, warm sun, and lively tunes. A perfect day, right?
Not quite. The tranquil town of Steeple Martin is buzzing with anticipation for its inaugural beer festival, but the excitement turns to horror when an unexpected death rattles the community. Libby Sarjeant, with her knack for puzzles, is on the case – whether the police like it or not.
Was it a mere accident, or is there a darker plot brewing beneath?
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 19 | Murder & the Glovemaker's Son
The Oast Theatre in Steeple Martin is abuzz with a the upcoming appearance of a popular touring production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. However, the excitement soon turns to mystery when an important document goes missing…along with its owner.
With the discovery of a body, Libby and Fran dive headfirst into an investigation of the mysterious circumstances around the death and disappearance. Can they salvage the show's reputation, or has it been irreversibly tarnished by the sinister events?
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 20 | Murder Repeated
A decade ago, Kent was gripped by the disappearance of a young, talented singer. After leaving a party, she vanished without a trace and the no suspects were ever charged.
Fast forward ten years, and Libby Sarjeant finds herself investigating a dilapidated hotel in Steeple Martin. Within its decaying walls, the remains of a young boy are uncovered. Could this grim discovery have any connection to the haunting disappearance from a decade prior?
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 21 | Murder on the Edge
After Colin Hardcastle sets up a property sale meeting, he's bewildered when owner Nick Nash fails to appear. Sharing his concern with friends in Steeple Martin, Libby's interest is ignited, especially when Reverend Patti Pearson finds Nash's name eerily familiar.
Despite her reputation as a detective, Libby hesitates to probe into what seems like an accident. Yet, with Nash's body discovered and his dark past unveiled, she's pulled into the heart of the mystery. Now, Libby and her ally, Fran Wolfe, must unravel the truth before it's too late.
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 22 | Murder After Midnight
As a new year begins in the coastal town of Heronsbourne, Libby finds herself entangled in a fresh mystery. After an unauthorised New Year's party, a woman's body is found on the local golf course, and the deceased, Jackie Stapleton, becomes the talk of the town.
Though many claim to know Jackie, actual facts about her remain scarce. Libby's usual police contact, DCI Connell, is unusually reserved. Even with her friend Fran's assistance, identifying a motive proves challenging. Could the murder be tied to dubious dealings, a quarrel at the golf club, or is it something dark from Libby's own past?
Libby Sarjeant Mysteries, Book 23 | Murder by Mistake
In the quaint seaside town of Nethergate, a homeless man mysteriously vanishes. With the police unavailable, the task of finding him falls to amateur local sleuths Libby and Fran.
But as they delve deeper, another person goes missing. Libby can't shake the feeling that the two events are connected. As they struggle to find the truth, they realise some key facts were hiding in plain sight all along. Can they unravel the enigma before another person goes missing?
Will There Be More Libby Sarjeant Books?
Yes! Author Lesley Cookman continues to add to the series, with Murder in Autumn expected on September 7th, along with Murder by Christmas on December 8th.
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