Whenever I tell people I write cozy mysteries, I get a slight variation of the same look. They nod their heads, squint their eyes, and open their mouths just a bit. The question on their lips is always the same: What is a cozy mystery?
For fans of the genre, the answer is simple. It’s a clean story based around a murder in a small town, like an Agatha Christie novel or an episode of Murder, She Wrote.
Here are some of the common characteristics of a cozy mystery:
Amateur sleuth. Often, the main character is a reporter, private eye, or ordinary citizen who gets caught up in an unusual situation. If the main character is in law enforcement, the story is usually categorized as a police procedural or crime novel rather than a cozy mystery.
Small town setting. More and more, authors are expanding their settings to include big cities like Los Angeles. However, more often than not, the main character’s world is still small and includes a small geographical area where people tend to know each other.
Clean Language. No curse words or swearing. Rate ‘G’ for language.
Non-violent. Yes, someone (at least one person) dies, but the death is ‘off screen’ and never described in a graphic way.
No steamy sex: In fact, most characters in cozies never get past first base.
Light tone. Rarely is a cozy going to be grim. Although the themes vary, most stories will contain some degree of humor.
Varying realism. When it comes to cozies, they can vary from realistic to paranormal to fantasy. It is not unusual to find ghosts, witches, and talking cats in these stories.
Puzzling. Interesting characters are essential to any good story. However, a puzzling plot full of clues and misdirection is the glue that holds a great cozy mystery together.
For readers who want an entertaining read without a lot of violence and cursing, try a cozy mystery. You just might find your next favorite series.