What Did You Expect from a Cozy Mystery?

On a Facebook page for cozy mysteries, a reader commented that she unsubscribed from other cozy lists because she was tired of fluffy dogs or knitting grandmas solving murder while the victim is forgotten in the quest to find the killer.

“Oh, look! Another dead body.” Yawn. “Guess we should find out whodunnit.”

I was confused. The comments were posted on a page specifically for cozies. Then, when others politely pointed out that it was her choice to leave and that she may be missing the point of the genre, she accused them of being nasty.

The whole incident smacked of trolling. I had visions of the original poster wringing her hands with glee while the thread blew up and burst into green flames.

But it made me think about the popularity of mysteries and why I like to read cozies.

Cozies are light mysteries. They are puzzle books with characters that will keep you coming back to see how they’re doing. While you will find an exception for every rule, there are a few traditional hallmarks:

  • The main character is an amateur sleuth pulled into an investigation when someone she knows is falsely accused of the murder.
  • She (yep, it’s usually a woman) often has a friend or family member in law enforcement (otherwise she couldn’t find out what was in that autopsy) and friends to work out clues and motives.
  • Secondary characters are eccentric and entertaining, keeping the story engine humming by drawing the reader into the protagonist’s world.
  • The place where she lives is a character in its own right, often a small, fictional town where everyone knows everyone else and the secondary characters are eccentric and entertaining.
  • The story is a tightly plotted puzzle that will, hopefully, keep the reader guessing until the final chapter.

Oh, yes. There is no profanity, no gruesome violence (the murder usually is quick and happens offstage), and no explicit sex. Romance, yes. Hot and sweaty details? Nuh-uh.

Chances are that most of us will never come across a dead body anywhere (and I sincerely hope that is true of us all). Cozies are pure escapism for readers who want to be moored in a world where, when bad things happen, the solution will be revealed through the smarts and hard work by the kinds of characters we hope to be ourselves.

My advice to the Facebook commenter? If you want grit and reality in your reading, don’t subscribe to cozy lists.

And I say that in the kindest way.

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