It's a Mystery 6/5/08

The Cozy Mystery (a.k.a. the traditional British mystery)


Among the many sub-genres of mysteries, one of the most popular is the cozy mystery.  The mystery website defines a cozy as a traditional style of mystery that usually includes an amateur sleuth or eccentric professional solving a crime in a country house or quiet neighborhood, with very little description of violence or sex.  There is a limited roster of suspects, all part of the victim's social circle, and a mildly romantic sub-plot.

Humorous author Polly Whitney provides these clues for identifying the cozy:

  • A cozy must include at least one cat.
  • Tea is served in cozies (double entendre intended.)
  • Nobody in cozies has ever seen blood before.
  • Poison is allowable as the agent of death, but only if death is instantaneous. Prolonged suffering (must less nausea and vomiting) is not permitted.  The ban on vomiting, I think, is in deference to the cat.
  • You can read a cozy in front of your mother.

Many debut cozies are published in paperback format.  Sometimes an entire series will be in paperback.  If the author becomes popular, the publisher usually switches to hardcover.  For example, the first "Tea Shop" mysteries by Laura Child are in paperback.  But the more recent ones are in hardcover because the series is doing so well.

One of the interesting things about the cozy is the occupation or hobby of the amateur sleuth.  Recently published cozies offer the following occupations/hobbies:  glass-blowing, candle-making, soap-making, scrapbooking, gardening, knitting, doll restorer, stain-buster (cleaning), funeral home director, clay potter, bookstore owner, wedding planner, rug dealer, coffeehouse owner, dancer, caterer, dog lover, cat-sitter, blacksmith, and veterinarian.

There is certainly an amateur of interest for every cozy reader.



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