Friday, February 18, 2011

What is a Cozy?

When a writer has been writing a while, he forgets that everyone may not be familiar with the terminology, even if the reader has had contact with the material. Though there is a blurring between the lines in both sub-genres and genres in general, I thought I’d just pop in and give my take on the elements of the cozy mystery. At a later time, I may come back to discuss suspense and how that differs.

Think of a cozy as just that, warm and fuzzy, feel-good. The sleuth in the story is generally an amateur, though some are professionals, many of whom are retired or have changed professions. The setting of the cozy is usually in a small town or community. It can be set in a city but, if it is, it’s probably confined to a small area with a related group of people. The cozy generally relies on humor during the solving of the crime (murder or other), a crime that happens early in the book and usually not graphically described. It is common for the crime to take place “off-camera,” and the heroine (and/or hero) arrive shortly after. The heroine is involved with the crime on a personal level somehow and usually bungles along while trying to solve the puzzle. The cast of characters often includes some quirky idiosyncratic friends and neighbors who help or hinder the heroine or simply add the delight factor.

The reader should be integrally involved in solving the crime, and the writer must supply all clues necessary to the solution, including some false ones, red herrings as David Fingerman describes in the blog below.

I have a series of cozy novellas debuting in March from Turquoise Morning Press. The first in the series, Buried in Briny Bay, introduces the two main characters, Roxie Turner and her sister, Trixie Frye. These two ladies, aged 42 and 54, are thrown into solving their first crime when Georgia Collins, Roxie’s nemesis of more than twenty years is found dead and buried in the town’s landfill.

Since the beginning, Roxie has been telling everyone who would listen she planned to kill the woman, even listing methods to accomplish it. Now people are dying around her and all of their deaths seem to point back to her. Helping the sisters in their crime solving is Greg Norris, Private Investigator, who becomes Roxie’s love interest in the stories.

Here’s a short excerpt:
Trixie groaned as she flopped on her living room sofa. “I’d never have guessed our town’s detectives could be so downright unpleasant.”

“Make that shitty.” Roxie sat in a side chair and crossed her arms. “I can’t believe our own brother took us in. And you were just about as bad. Thanks for getting us dragged in for two hours.”

“Look.” Trixie waved her finger in the air. “I was dragged in with you. It’s no fun being related to a cold-blooded killer.”

“I am not a killer.” Roxie voice quivered on the last word.

“Sorry.” Trixie kicked off her shoes. “I told you the detectives surprised me with how good they are—at the end, they even had me convinced.”

Roxie sagged against the chair back. “Sure I’ve thought of ways to kill Georgia for nigh on twenty years, but I could have done a lot better than dumping her in the landfill. Even throwing her in the Pamlico Sound like I suggested once. That would have been better. There’ve been a lot of bodies they’ve never found out there. It’s just a matter of watching the tide and the moon phase. Then there’s that area, you know the one off the point with all the sharp jutting rocks and the deep drop-off…”

“Roxie, too much information. Remember, Georgia’s dead with a capital ‘D.’” Trixie rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Who else would the police think did it? You had cause, that’s for sure, and you’ve even told the mayor how you planned to kill her. Everyone thought you were joshing, but now that someone’s actually murdered her, well, thinking you did it is a natural conclusion.”

“So how do we convince them otherwise, Trix? I don’t look good in yellow or stripes.”


  1. Great blog post and I enjoyed the excerpt! (I love a good cozy!) :)

  2. An interesting discussion -- I was involved in a similar one on Goodread's Cozy Mysteries group. My book qualifies on most counts except that it takes place in a big city -- Atlanta -- and my protagonist cusses a lot. This upsets some cozy-cozy readers. But I tell you what, if I stumbled on a corpse, I would not say "oh my twinkies!" or whatever. I'd drop some serious bad words. Baaad words. And therefore, so does my heroine.

  3. I've heard the term, but didn't know exactly what a cozy mystery was. Thanks for explaining. Loved the excerpt, sounds like a fun read.

  4. Thanks to all. Tina, I'm with you on finding a corpse. Can we say long line of expletives, maybe even some I make up? Christina, so glad I could enlighten you. Rebecca and Caroline, I'm so pleased you like the excerpt.

  5. Great post, Bobbye. I don't know how many time I've had people ask me "what do you mean by cozy mystery?" Now I can just point them toward your blog post and same myself some time. LOL!