Article: What is a “cozy” Mystery? By Christine DeSmet
The “cozy” mystery features an amateur sleuth who is usually a woman. The sleuth is likeable, smart and earnest, and they go about life with a good sense of humor. She’s rarely a detective or police officer, but she knows somebody who is.
The mystery is set in a small town or village, though a neighborhood in a big city or a vacation spot somewhere in the world may also be a location. Readers often buy cozy mysteries to vicariously travel. Authors often mix in real locations with the fictional.
The main character is a busy professional or business owner of almost any ilk attempting to make a go of things. She may own a yoga studio or a wine shop, or as in my case, a fudge shop in a Wisconsin tourist area known in real life as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest”.
The murder in a cozy occurs off-stage. The protagonist–like my character of Ava Oosterling–might get a knock on the head, but that’s about as far as the personal violence goes. The sleuth may certainly come upon a bloody scene, though descriptions are not graphic.
There are no explicit sex scenes in the stories and sex also happens off-stage. A good kiss that tickles the toes is common in many of the books!
The sleuth is usually striving to improve herself or change something about her life. She wants to triumph in a changing world. She and the characters around often find wisdom that resonates with readers.
The sleuth always has a friend or two among the locals. Secondary characters are often favorites of readers because they represent the funny, kind, and other types of people found in any community. Locals often become suspects in the crime.
Readers of cozies learn interesting facts about the locale and its people. Authors often publish recipes. In my case, fudge and candy maker Ava Oosterling is a Belgian and thus readers learn the customs brought from Belgium to the United States–such as good chocolates, beer and booyah.
Cozy sleuths are smart about the solving of a crime and respect the knowledge of the local detective or police officer, though that doesn’t deter the sleuth from solving the crime in her own way.
The cozy is about solving a puzzle, and through the actions and smart deductions of the amateur sleuth, the reader gets the pleasure of solving the puzzle, too.
About the author
Christine DeSmet is the author of two cozy mystery series: Mischief in Moonstone novella series, and the Fudge Shop Mystery Series. Her novels are available from Writers Exchange Publishing. Christine is a distinguished faculty associate and teacher of fiction writing at University of Wisconsin-Madison where she also directs the annual summer Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
Her Writers Exchange Author page is: