Friday, May 1, 2009

WHAT IS A COZY MYSTERY, REALLY?

Our reader Debra asked the following question about "cozies":

In order for a mystery to be considered a "cozy," does it have to have a craft-type element? (Blueberry recipes, how to knit a 200-thread-count sheet in five easy steps, etc?) Or, is it just a strong female protag who is not in the crime field investigating one or more murders? The latter is what I've read as the definition, but it seems most cozies have a craft element.

I don't think the "craft" element is essential, Debra. But I checked with some experts. Here's what the "Cozy Mystery List" website says:

"I think that people who read Cozy Mysteries probably have their own unique ideas about what they think Cozy Mysteries should be... I know what I like, and look for in a Cozy.... I find that most of the cozy mysteries that I read take place in a small, picturesque town or village, with characters who I could envision having as neighbors or friends. (Of course, once I find out who the killer is, I wouldn't particularly want that person living next to me!) They are usually not zany people, although an eccentric or two might lurk here and there. On the whole, they are usually normal, every day characters you might have known at one time in your life. Cozies don't usually involve a lot of gory details or explicit "adult situations," either."

I think she/he is right on the money. Whenever I think of a cozy I think of the Miss Marple series written by Agatha Christie. Themis-Athena, one of Amazon's Top 500 reviewers, gave this information in her review of a recent new edition of the Miss Marple series:

"'Miss Marple instituted herself so quickly into my life that I hardly noticed her arrival,'" Agatha Christie wrote in her posthumously-published autobiography 1977 about the elderly lady who, next to Belgian super-sleuth Hercule Poirot, quickly became one of her most beloved characters. Somewhat resembling Christie's own grandmother and her friends, although 'far more fussy and spinsterish' and 'not in any way a picture' of the author's granny, like her, she had a certain gift for prophecy and 'though a cheerful person, she always expected the worst of everyone and everything, and was, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right.'"

Does this help, Debra?

4 comments:

Alan Orloff said...

So I guess SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is not a cozy?

T. Anne said...

OK you've put me in the mood for a good cozy mystery.

DebraLSchubert said...

Yay! This is great news for me. I'm currently halfway through the first book in a series of what I've been referring to as a "humorous, suburban murder mystery series" (similar to the writing of Susan Isaacs). The truth of the matter is, I'm writing a cozy mystery! The story takes place in a small town with somewhat quirky characters (and all the victims are doctors' wives!). I don't know why that makes me happy (not that the victims are doctors' wives, but that I'm writing a cozy), but it does. Thank you so much, Kae, for clarifying this for me and others. I really appreciate it.;-)

Anonymous said...

Hello, Kae,

Since you're on the subject of mysteries, I thought I'd share this blog with you that I recently found. Although it doesn't deal with "cozy" mysteries, it does have some interesting information from an editor's point of view.

http://mysteriousmatters.typepad.com/mysterious_matters_myster/tips_for_writers/index.html


Thank you for the great posts!

Sincerely,

Caslin