What is a Cozy Mystery?

13 Sep

Wikipedia says, “Cozy mysteries, also referred to simply as “cozies,” are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. The term was first coined in the late 20th century when various writers produced work in an attempt to re-create the.Golden Age of Detective Fiction …emphasis on puzzle-solving over suspense, a small-town setting, and a focus on a hobby or occupation are all frequent elements of cozy mysteries.

I love a good mystery and I’ve always thought I’d like to write a cozy. I’ve imagined something like the Snoop Sisters (1970s television series), retired and snooping into some crime or another when no one suspects a couple of old broads to be any trouble. Their life experience helps solve the crime.  As a matter-of-fact, I’m growing older, so soon I may have some of my own experiences to write down on pages.

What could be finer, I think, than writing about a crime where the murder happens quickly and I don’t have to worry too much about the forensics of it all? I wonder if the book would be much easier to write without romance in the story. Yet, I imagine it is just as difficult to write without these elements, to create good material that focuses on puzzle solving.

For inside information, the sleuth could be married to a police officer, or medical examiner. Or, a good friend, neighbor, niece or nephew could be on the inner circle. Who wouldn’t share a tough work situation with someone who listens and cares and is trustworthy?

The sleuth most likely has a college degree. She is usually a woman and might be occupied as a homemaker, cook, librarian, teacher, retired, own a bookstore or flower shop, involved in a hobby, when not fighting crime. says, “I think that people who read Cozy Mysteries probably have their own unique ideas about what they think Cozy Mysteries should be…”

My contemporary books have a weave of mystery through them, but they identify with romance. I love reading and writing romance into a story, so how can I weave romance into a cozy? Maybe by throwing in a couple that’s important in the sleuth’s life. Yet, cozy mysteries are supposed to have a quick plot, not labored down with a relationship. After all, the cozy is foremost about the mystery. adds, “I have to admit that lately, authors of what are considered to be Cozy Mysteries are adding more graphic language and “adult situations” >>> I am not sure if this is because their publishers/editors want this or if it is because the public wants (buys) more “adult situation” Cozy Mysteries.”

I guess I’m not alone in wanting romance. Will readers and writers change the definition of a cozy mystery? I find it sad that they might. I want the old definition to stay the same, as sometimes there’s nothing like reading a good cozy mystery.

Do you have any favorite cozy mystery authors?


Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Blogs, Boise, books, Cozy Mysteries, readers, reading, writers, writing


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20 responses to “What is a Cozy Mystery?

  1. ramblingsfromtheleft

    September 13, 2012 at 6:09 AM

    Mary, a very thoughtful post … and I would say the term “cozy” is a bit fuzzy … often an umbrella for all amature sleuths … I don’t particularly love the silly ones. The label … like “chick lit” was and is a way to tell a story with happenstance, often funny investigative methods and to my annoyance … many began to label Agatha’s books cozy. I like Shelley Freydont’s cozy mystery series, in her theatre series and her new Celebratioln Bay series.

    There is a gaggle of foodie cozies … namely Diane Mott Davidson and dead bodies popping up at her catering gigs … Diane Viets and the dead-end job series and several where the mystery is solved by a house cat or a fox …

    Romance is sometimes incorporated but usually in an already established relationship where the bungling MC’s love interest is a local sheriff or detective. The category of romantic suspense becomes light-hearted or borders on cozy. Experiment with the genre … you might have great fun !!

    • maryvine

      September 13, 2012 at 2:02 PM

      Thanks for the name dropping. I’ll have to check these authors out. And again I say, I missed you when you were gone, Florence.

  2. Janis McCurry

    September 13, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    I think all subsets of genre fiction adapt and change, sometimes, IMO, not for the better. FREX, the old Love and Laughter series was one of my favorites, but it died because readers wanted something different or the editors or whoever. I still like humor in my romances and while there are some who do it wonderfully (SEP for one), many who have great humor seque into mainstream and women’s fiction. The length of the L&L’s made the books fun, fast, and satisfying.

    • maryvine

      September 13, 2012 at 2:04 PM

      I do like Susan Elizabeth Phillips humor, too, Janis.

  3. stephanieberget

    September 13, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    I love cozies, too. Ramblings named two of my favorites, Agatha Christie and Diane Mott Davidson. As for TV, I love Murder, She Wrote. I still watch it in ruruns. I hope they don’t change either.

    • Corina Mallory

      September 13, 2012 at 5:24 PM

      Aw, I love Murder, She Wrote! I’ve seen every episode many many times.

  4. maryvine

    September 13, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    I will definetly have to look for Diane Mott Davidson. Thanks, Steph.

  5. Corina Mallory

    September 13, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    I don’t read very many contemporary mysteries anymore, but I read lots of the golden age mysteries that spawned the Cozy genre and romantic subplots were quite common.

    Examples: The grand dame of Regency romance, Georgette Heyer, wrote some fine mysteries back in the 1930s-40s and most of them would qualify as Cozies given their confined setting and lack of gore. Many (most?) of them feature a romantic subplot. In fact, one of my favorites of hers is Behold, Here’s Poison which has the most insane and funny romance winding through it. A lot of Agatha Christie’s non-series mysteries (i.e. the ones with amateur detectives she used once and never again) feature a romantic subplot. The only one that’s coming to mind right now is And Then There Were None (stuck on an island in the middle of a ferocious storm – the setting doesn’t get much more confined than that.) I could go on and on. And on. And then probably on some more.

    I’ve always wanted to write a Cozy myself, but just the thought of the intricate plotting required leaves me rocking in a corner so I doubt I’ll ever get to it.

    • Corina Mallory

      September 13, 2012 at 5:36 PM

      Ok, how I MEANT to make that comment link into your post is that in the Golden Age, Cozy-type mysteries that had romantic subplots were very rarely also part of a series. They were generally standalones. I think it’s much easier to work in a romance in that type of book. The only golden age mystery series that also featured romance that I can think of were rarely of the Cozy, confined setting, type. (E.g. Tommy & Tuppence for Christie, Lord Peter and Harriet Vane in Dorothy Sayers, Campion and Whatshername in Margery Allingham.)

      But if you wanted to write a Cozy series that also had a romantic element, you wouldn’t be completely without precedent. Georgette Heyer had one professional (not amateur) detective that reappeared in several books. He didn’t have a romance himself, but there was generally a romance brewing among the suspects/relatives of the deceased. (Can’t remember the detective’s name, but one of the books that featured him was They Found Him Dead.) (And now I’ve officially rambled on way too long. Sorry. This is one of my pet subjects!)

      • maryvine

        September 13, 2012 at 6:30 PM

        Thanks for the added information. I may have read GH many years ago, but don’t remember much about it. Thanks for taking the time to make comments! I enjoyed reading them.

    • maryvine

      September 13, 2012 at 6:27 PM

      Love the term, “rocking in the corner”! I’m going to look up Behold Here’s Poison, by GH. Thanks.

    • maryvine

      September 13, 2012 at 6:44 PM

      Just ordered the Kindle version of Behold, Here’s Poison, for something like $3.83.

      • Corina Mallory

        September 13, 2012 at 6:52 PM

        Oh yay! I hope you like it as much as I do. Her mysteries are very sharp and her humor is acidic. She can be quite mean about her characters (she was a horrible snob) but I find them delightful. And if you ever do write a Cozy, I’ll be first in line to read it.

        • maryvine

          September 13, 2012 at 7:39 PM

          Thanks, Corina!

  6. Liz Fredericks

    September 14, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    I’m clueless about cozies, but as I read the posts realize that most of what I’ve enjoyed in the early last decade were cozies. And, if we can include TV, Murder She Wrote is my all time favorite. Thanks Mary!

    • maryvine

      September 14, 2012 at 8:55 AM

      Thank for commenting, Liz. So nice to have you around!

  7. Peggy Staggs

    September 14, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    I love writing cozies. I grew up reading them (Right hand raised–My name is Peggy and I have every single Agatha Christy and Mary Stewart ever published.) so it seemed only logical that I’d write them.

  8. maryvine

    September 14, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Good for you, Peggy. Keep at it.

  9. Clarissa Southwick

    September 17, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    Mary, I think this type of book is getting harder and harder to write, at least in a contemporary setting. Between forensics and the internet, it’s really hard to come up with a believable mystery. I would love to find one.

  10. Lynn Mapp

    September 17, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    Mary, I haven’t read a cozy mystery. I did however, watch Murder She Wrote. Does that qualify as a cozy mystery?


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