There is something about November that just turns me into a homebody. Whether it’s the gray downcast skies or that wet chill that gets into your bones, nothing makes me want to stay home more than a November weekend afternoon. I can picture myself sitting in a comfy chair next to a fire, reading a book and sipping cocoa, all warm and cozy. Sadly, the closest thing to a fireplace at my place is a heating vent. Still, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the rest of my idyllic scenario with the help of the ideal November weekend companion: cozies.
Cozy mysteries or cozies are a subgenre of the ever-so-popular mystery genre. Known for being lighter and softer than other mysteries, cozies contain little or no violence and/or adult themes (think of them as PG-13). They often follow a whodunit (who-done-it) format, in which readers try to solve the crime along with the main characters. These are usually, but not always, women and amateur sleuths living in small towns. Agatha Christie is probably the undisputed queen of cozy mysteries with beloved characters like the elderly Miss Marple and Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Other great ladies of mystery were Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham and Dorothy L. Sayers.
Cozies have changed over time. Newer mysteries go beyond the mystery giving us a front seat view of the characters’ personal lives, particularly their love lives. In Gillian Roberts’ Amanda Pepper Mysteries (series) we follow the life of schoolteacher Amanda Pepper and her complex relationship with homicide detective C.K. Mackenzie. Many other cozies choose focus on the hero or heroine’s occupation to offer more insight on who they are. We have books about dancers (Ella Barricks’ Ballroom Dance Mystery Series), lawyers, librarians, store owners (Lorna Barrett’s Booktown Mystery Series and Laura Child’s Tea Shop Mysteries), housekeepers, etc…. even rabbis and pastors have their cozy mysteries.
Perhaps the biggest behind the popularity of cozies is their ability to go beyond the mystery into other areas of interest for readers. As a baking enthusiast I absolutely love culinary mysteries where the heroine is often in the catering/restaurant and food plays a big role in the story. These books, like those in Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Schulz Series, Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen Mysteries and Wendy Lyn Watson’s Mysteries A La Mode, come with great recipes for dishes, cookies and desserts. Other hobbies such as bird watching, antiquing, gardening, knitting (Betty Hechtman’s Molly Pink & The Tarzana Hookers Series) and even gourd carving have also been featured in cozy mysteries, which often include patterns, ideas and tips for hobby enthusiasts.
Male writers are not common in this genre but some famous names Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe Series), Simon Brett, late talk show host Steve Allen and Donald Bain, the ghost writer behind the J.B. Fletcher novels (based on character Jessica Fletcher from legendary TV show Murder She Wrote).
As you may have noticed, series dominated this subgenre allowing us to follow the main characters through many mysteries and adventures. Some series like M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin Mysteries comprise over 20 books. The titles of cozy mysteries are known for being cheesy and full of puns. With titles like You Better Knot Die (Betty Hechtman), Slay It with Flowers (Kate Collins), Gourdfellas (Maggie Bruce) and Books Can Be Deceiving (Jenn McInlay), browsing those shelves (library, store or virtual) is guaranteed to be fun.
For more information visit cozy fansite Cozy Mystery List or talk to a librarian.