Saturday, February 13, 2010

I Heart a Good Cozy

What makes a great cozy mystery?

Is it an overstuffed chair set quietly by a fireplace with a spot of tea nearby? Hold that thought. Generally speaking cozy mysteries feature an intelligent female protagonist; she may have re-invented her life as the owner of a new business; she surrounds herself with equally strong and sometimes quirky friends; and she is always stumbling over dead bodies through no fault of her own. Indeed, she is a reluctant sleuth with which the local authorities are none too pleased.

A few of the Literary Gato's friends taking over the place

The beginnings of the cozy genre start with Agatha Christie’s novels. Dame Agatha has been quoted as saying “I specialize in murders of quiet, domestic interest.” Her two most familiar characters are Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple.

1940's cover

Cozies are usually part of a series and keeps us emotionally vested. Who doesn’t enjoy visiting with an old friend and catching up on the latest gossip and drama? Our heroine can be the owner of a tea shop such as Theodosia Brown in the Tea Shop Mysteries by Laura Childs or someone like Goldy Schultz who operates Colorado’s top catering business Goldilocks Catering “where everything is just right” by Diane Mott Davidson. Just when you think it’s only women characters that drive the genre there is Lilian Jackson Braun and The Cat Who series (so far 30 books in all) featuring James "Qwill" Qwilleran, a small town journalist and his Siamese cats Koko and Yum Yum.

The cozy mystery is lighter fare than the hard boiled variety and there is no graphic sex or violence other than the initial murder which usually happens off stage. More than likely these books take place in a small town or village, think Jessica Fletcher and Cabot Cove and you will be right on target. The latest trend in cozies is to provide recipes, scrapbooking tips, sudoku puzzles, knitting patterns, whatever may be related to the theme of the book.

Some authors offer different series within the cozy genre. Laura Childs has three starting with the Tea Shop Mysteries set in Charleston, South Carolina; the Scrap Book Mysteries featuring Carmela Bertrand, owner of Memory Mine, a scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter; and her latest series the Cackleberry Club Mysteries highlighting three 40-plus women who launch a café nestled a little town called Kindred.

Animals also play a part in this genre and offer a different perspective on the investigation. Case in point, Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy series whose heroine Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen is the former postmistress of a tiny town called Crozet in Virginia. Unbeknownst to Harry, she has a few junior detectives on the case and is ably assisted by Tee Tucker the Corgi, and the cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter. As the book jacket states, It Takes a Cat to Write the Purr-fect Mystery. Brown writes the best selling mysteries with her feline partner Sneaky Pie Brown.

Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

To summarize:

It was a dark and stormy night as I snuggled into my overstuffed chintz rocker, feet propped up on a matching ottoman. The cozy fireplace crackled as I poured myself a cup of chamomile tea from a classic Brown Betty teapot. I was just about to settle in for a good night’s read when there was a frantic knock at the door. The disturbance elicited a small bark from my sleepy Corgi, Penny. I opened the door to find, Miss Nestlebaum, our local Liberian, who besides being drenched in rain, was not looking all that well. In fact she stumbled through the doorway and fell face down on my aunt’s prized oriental rug. It was then I noticed the knife protruding from her shoulder blades and the pool of blood that stained her clothing. As I quickly dialed 911, I was positive Detective Simon was not going to enjoy another one of my phone calls.

Now that is the perfect setting and great beginnings of a terrific cozy mystery!

Cozy up with a good book!

A spot of tea anyone?


  1. love what you've started. can't wait to see what it becomes. have a great day!

  2. BONNIE! I am here! I took a nice nap after posting and I love your new blog. WOman, you have all the makings of a killer review site for great books. Bonnie, I have told you before, and I will tell you are a GREAT WRITER! I hope and pray that the path you have started to take with school will lead you to create new pages in your book of life, and to share them with others on a broad scale. Did I tell you about the wonderful writers' association that Ruben and I are going to join and that is only about 10 minutes away from our house in Dowtown? It is awesome. It is Minneapolis Book Arts Association and The Loft. I will tell you more about it, but I love this post. Thank you for coming to dance with me...I believe I saw Kitty with a tutu...

  3. Hi Bonnie! What a wonderful idea! This is just my cup of to speak! lol Kitty looks fabulous as your blog mascot! Love it! Happy weekend...hugs...Debbie

  4. Awesome description of a cozy. I LOVE cozies and you say it all in this post.

    I love your blog.

    I've become a follower and can't wait to read more!

  5. Just discovered this post thanks to your Blog Hop link back. My latest favourite cozies are the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke - have you read them? Hannah runs The Cookie Jar, her own cookie cafe, and her first adventure begins when she finds the local milk boy in his van, dead, surrounded by her famous choc chip cookies...

  6. excellent articles, useful for me. keep writing and happy blogging.

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