April 8, 2008

What is a cozy mystery?

My younger daughter Karen emailed me last night and wrote, "Okay, Mom I like the blog. But now you've got to tell me. What's a cozy??" That's a good question, isn't it! Especially since this blog is called Cozy Crime.

I'm not real good at stuff like this, but I'll take a stab at it. (No pun intended.) A cozy mystery (some people call them traditional mysteries, but I think the term cozy is...well, cozier) is a type of mystery novel that doesn't have a lot of violence, sex or bad language. They usually have a little violence (after all it's a mystery novel, and somebody usually ends up dead) but the violence isn't real bloody and the author doesn't go into much detail in describing it.

Cozies usually have detectives trying to solve a crime. (The ones I like do, anyway.) Almost always they have a happy ending and you finish the book feeling good about things. They aren't real dark or depressing, but that doesn't mean they're not serious. Although some of them are more lighthearted or even funny, they can be serious, too. The authors just don't feel the need to put in a bunch of stuff about sex or gory violence.

Some of the great writers of cozy mysteries were people like Agatha Christie, Mignon Eberhart and Dorothy L. Sayers. Some of the authors who write them today are Julia Spencer-Fleming, Rhys Bowen and Margaret Maron. (Obviously there are a lot more. Those are just a few that I like.)

Maybe some of you can do a better job of explaining it than I can. What's your definition of a cozy mystery?

11 comments:

Mary said...

For me, a cozy mystery is just a good story without a lot of blood and guts in it. I know some people like that stuff, and that's okay, but I have a sensitive stomach.

Clea Simon said...

One thing I'd always heard is that the crimes in cozies come out of human failings. You know, the usual jealousy, anger, lust, or greed. So the villains are human, too, which I've always liked. At least on paper, I want to understand why someone has done a horrible thing. The sociopathic serial killer has never done it for me.

Also, in a cozy, the crime is solved by a member of the community - not a professional. Which means we can all imagine ourselves in the sleuth's shoes!

Cozy Crime said...

I like those thoughts, clea. I do read some police mysteries, but I think i like them even better when it's just an ordinary person solving the crime. It makes it more interesting somehow. For me anyway.

And I agree about serial killers. They always seem like cartoon characters. They're not real. I think its more scary when the crimes are being done by a normal person. like you said, the villain is human. And that make sme more interested in the story.

Cozy Crime said...

I apologize for the typos. I hate these bifocals! lol

JennieB said...

These days, cozy has almost become synonymous with those cutesy, gimmicky hobby-mysteries that are everywhere. I write cutesy, gimmicky hobby-mysteries, so I'm not putting them down at all, but I think it bears pointing out that a traditional cozy/drawing room mystery isn't just the latest soap making/ice skating/poker playing/gourmet cooking/cheerleading paperback on the shelf. As a matter of fact, we had a discussion about this just last night, at my local SinC-meeting, and we decided that yesteryear's cozies, or traditional mysteries (Christie, Marsh, Sayers), had an intelligence that is missing from a lot of the cutesy cozies of today.

My $0.02, for what it's worth. Clea Simon wrote a wonderful post somewhere else recently, in defense of the cozy, BTW.

Cozy Crime said...

Thanks for commenting, Jennie!

I like some of the hobby mysteries, so i'm not knocking them either. But what I've found is that if you aren't interested in the hobby, it's hard to get into the story. So for me anyway, they're kinda limited. Not bad. But a little limited.

JennieB said...

Oh, I couldn't agree more, Cozy! Even when you're interested in the subject, though, it can tend to become too much information. I've always been taught to avoid anything that takes the reader out of the action - be it backstory, description, or just too much introspection - and a page and a half about the history of candle making, or various types of coffee, or knitting patterns, or - in my case - home renovation, certainly qualifies. I'm having to thread a very thin line between what the editor wants - IMO, too much - and what I'm willing to put in - too little, IHO. I'm aiming for a smooth flow, while she wants detailed descriptions of projects. In justice to us writers, it's not always our fault. I'm doing my best, but I'm getting paid to write, and the publisher's final word pretty much goes.

Picks By Pat said...

I think that's as good a definition of a cozy as I have read anywhere. Nice blog!

Clea Simon said...

Thank you, Jennie! Obviously this is a topic we all feel strongly about. I've actually got a really cool freelance assignment -- I'm going to be writing the introduction to the reissues of two Agatha Christies for Barnes and Noble, so I've been thinking a LOT about this!

Maybe I should update this -- but this is the "defense of the cozy" you referred to. (If this is too long and people want to read it, cut and paste the URL):
http://cleasimon.blogspot.com/2007/12/wow-here-i-am-on-lindas-website-and-it.html

Clea Simon said...

Maybe this will work. If not, apologies for hogging the comments section. - clea

Cozy Crime said...

Your comments are very welcome Clea. I'll have to read the link you sent.